Town Board Meeting
September 16, 2014
1. Courtesy of the Floor
Granite Knolls fields. Susan Siegel (the person writing this summary) and Jonathan Hyman, representing the Kopple family, asked for an update on the town’s response to the engineering report Mr. Hyman had submitted at the September 2 meeting (see below) that highlighted safety issues with the driveway access to the fields, as well as other issues related to the use of the fields. Mr. Hyman noted that he had not heard back from either Supervisor Grace or Diana Quast, chairman of the Recreation Commission, regarding the report. He also said he had been told that the Yorktown Athletic Club (YAC) had had a meeting to discuss the use of the fields and decided to continue using them.
In response, Supervisor Grace said that he was working with Phoenix House on a solution to the access problem and hoped that the safety issues would be solved. He said it was nonsense that the town didn’t need more fields, adding that the town’s existing fields needed to be rested. He said that the Recreation Commission had developed an incredible plan for the site and that the Spectra plan would enable the fields to be built for nothing. The entire Town Board, he noted, had voted to go ahead with the SEQRA study for the plan.
When Supervisor Grace asked Mr. Hyman if he wanted the fields shut down, Mr. Hyman said, "Yes."
Bob Kohl and Matt Talbert of the YAC thanked the board for getting the fields ready. Mr. Talbert who is in charge of the group’s football program, said that the club is staggering practice hours in order to mitigate the traffic issue. He also contradicted Mr. Hyman’s statement that the YAC had met to discuss the traffic issue. Both he and Mr. Kohl stressed that the town needed more fields, especially a 90’ baseball field.
Councilman Bianco said that when the Granite Knolls property was purchased by a 3-2 vote, it was for open space and both active and passive recreation. He said the existing fields were a great place for the sports teams to practice. He said the only complaint he had ever received from Phoenix House about the use of its driveway dealt with buses for people using the trails, a use that had been stopped.
Several people spoke in opposition to the Spectra pipeline plan. Rosanne Brackett questioned why, with the exception of Councilman Patel, no other Town Board members had attended the press conference along with town officials from other communities prior to the FERC meeting to ask for a withdrawal of the DEIS on the grounds that it was incomplete. She questioned whether Councilman Murphy and Supervisor Grace were working for Yorktown or someone else. In response, Supervisor Grace said he couldn’t attend the meeting because he had a prior commitment, followed by a family emergency. When Ms. Brackett commented that Councilman Murphy, who attended a portion of the hearing, was seen talking to a Spectra PR staff member and had not said anything at the hearing, Mr. Murphy responded that he had submitted comments to FERC. “Check before you speak,” he told her.
On the issue of the pigging station, when Ms. Brackett pressed Supervisor Grace to explain why he says the facility is going to be moved away from Granite Knolls when Spectra still shows the Granite Knolls location in the DEIS. In response, Supervisor Grace said, “I don’t know.” He also reminded the pipeline opponents that the Town Board had unanimously voted twice to alienate the land for the pigging station.
Referring to the board’s September 2 resolution that asked FERC to require Spectra to undertake more health and safety related studies but which eliminated the reference to parkland alienation, eminent domain and the construction of any new maintenance facilities in Yorktown, Paul Moskowitz and Lisa Mackay asked the board to pass a new resolution that put back into the resolution the omitted provisions. Mr. Moskowitz pointed out that if Spectra proceeds with the Atlantic Bridge project that would expand the pipeline from Stoney Street to the town’s eastern border, it would use the Granite Knolls construction site and the existing practice fields would be lost for even more years. He also pointed out that the pipeline goes through Legacy Fields and that those fields would be taken off line if the Atlantic Bridge project proceeds.
On the issue of eminent domain, Supervisor Grace repeated his previous statement that the federal government had the right to take land by eminent domain and that local governments were powerless to stop the action and shouldn’t stop the use of eminent domain for political reasons. However, several residents pointed out that the law of eminent domain as it related to municipal parkland was a gray area in the law, which was why they wanted the board to take a position against the use of eminent domain in the resolution to FERC.
Ms. Mackay also took the board to task for not doing anything to notify people about the September 29 meeting Spectra is holding for homeowners who would be impacted by the Atlantic Bridge project.
Supervisor Grace repeated comments he made at the September 2 meeting regarding the need for local officials to look at a broader range of issues beyond Yorktown, such as national security and the need to roepalcde a 50+ year old pipeline. He said that from day one, the town hadn’t compromised any health and safety issues.
The supervisor added that in the event FERC did issue the Certificate that would allow Spectra to proceed with the project, he wanted conditions added to the Certificate that would give Yorktown jurisdiction over any issue that would require local permits, such as wetlands and tree cutting permits. In general, he said it was better to work with FERC than just say no.
In response to a question regarding the work Spectra was doing on Quinlan Street, Supervisor Grace explained that there had been some erosion that had exposed the existing pipeline and that a portion of the pipeline needed to be reburied. He said there was no gas leak.
A resident urged the board to do something about the deteriorating condition of Birdsall Drive which he said was an accident waiting to happen. In response, Highway Superintendent Dave Paganelli advised the board that there was some room in the right of way to “open up” the road.
2. Special election law
Councilman Bianco said that while he preferred the “shall” version, he could go along with the “may” version, adding that the “may” version could be changed at a future date.
When Councilman Patel made a motion to adopt the “shall” version, Councilman Bianco seconded it, but the motion died when Councilman Murphy and Supervisor Grace voted against it.
When Councilman Bianco then made a motion to adopt the “may” version, the motion passed with three votes. Councilman Patel voted against it.
The law will now be put on the November ballot as a referendum question.
3. Wetlands permit request public hearing
The board opened and closed a hearing on a wetlands permit request from a Barry Court homeowner who wants to construct an in-ground pool that is 45 feet from a wetland. The mitigation plan included in the permit includes planting a combination of 97 trees, shrubs and other perennial plants. The only person who spoke at the hearing was a neighbor who wanted to be assured that the construction would not cause runoff onto her property.
While Bruce Barber, the town’s environmental consultant, suggested that the board delay voting on the permit until a resolution had been drafted that incorporated comments from the Conservation Board and the town engineer, Supervisor Grace said that wasn’t necessary, and after a short review of some of the Conservation Board’s recommendation, the board voted unanimously to approve the permit.
4. Amendments to Wetlands law, public hearing
When it was pointed out that the hearing had been advertised before the text of the law had actually been drafted, the board opened and adjourned the hearing until October 7.
5. Change in meeting location
The October 7 meeting, originally scheduled for the John C. Hart Library, will be held in Town Hall.
6. Sober House public hearing
The board voted to advertise the reconvening of the public hearing for October 7.
7. Resignation of Councilman Bianco
Councilman Bianco announced his intention to resign from his councilman position effective October 1. He has worked for the town, in different capacities for 29 years, 19 of which were as a councilman.
8. Miscellaneous resolutions passed unanimously
Webcasting agreement. The board approved a three year agreement with Granicuis, Inc. to provide broadcasting services for town meetings. The initial payment for 18 months will be $11,700, and $7,200 annually after that. Supervisor Grace explained that the new services should eliminate some of the problems the town has experienced uploading videos of town meetings to the town website.