Citizens for an Informed Yorktown

 

 

Town Board Work Session

September 23, 2013

 

Closed session

Advice of counsel and personnel

 

Open Session

 

1. Jefferson Valley Mall

Representatives of the development team repeated the presentation made at Monday’s Planning Board meeting.  Supervisor Grace asked the team to consider landscaping a portion of the center island along Lee Blvd coming from Route 6, pointing out that it would be to the applicant’s advantage to have a more attractive entryway into the mall.  The Board set a public hearing on the amended site plan for October 15.  To expedite the approval process, after the meeting with the Board, the Mall consultants met with ABACA.

 

2. Ethics Board

a. Training session. The Board agreed to the Ethics Board’s recommendation that a mandatory training session be set November 20. It was not clear who would be required to attend. In response to Councilman Bianco’s question of what would happen to the people who didn’t attend, Supervisor Grace said that the town would deal with that later. At the suggestion of an Ethics Board member, the presentation may be taped so that copies could be available to non-attenders.

 

b. Meeting with Town Board members. The Ethics Board requested that members of the Town Board attend its October 9 meeting to answer questions regarding two pending investigations and also to ask two Town Board members some additional questions regarding their disclosure form.  Due to what was called a “communications problem,” only one Town Board member responded to the Ethics Board’s earlier request to attend its September 11 meeting. Councilman Murphy said he wasn’t available on October 9 and the Ethics Board chairman asked him to give the group alternate dates when they could meet.

 

c. Disclosure Forms. The Ethics Board asked, and the Town Board agreed, that a reminder letter with a 30 day grace period should be sent by the town clerk to the people who haven’t submitted the annual disclosure forms that were due on May 15.

 

3. Offer to purchase town property

An abutting property owner to a six acre parcel of vacant land that town took title to in a foreclosure procedure has offered to buy the land. The parcel was formerly owned by the homeowners association. The Board directed the clerk to send a letter to all abutting property owners informing them of the offer in the event they also might be interested in purchasing the property. (Note: the dollar amount of the offer was not disclosed.)

 

4.  Building permit issues

a. Flood plain permit. The Board agreed with the recommendation of Building Inspector John Winter that when a property owner needs a flood plain permit in combination with other permits, such as a building permit or mechanical permit, that the fee for the flood plain permit be reduced to a simple $50 rather than the current full fee. The change can be made to the town’s Master Fee Schedule by resolution.

 

b. Fee for building permit renewal. The issue is that under Town Code, when the building department gets a request to renew an expired building permit, the permit fee is doubled. Approximately a year ago, the town passed a local law granting a one year grace period that set aside his provision. However, it appears that there are many “open permits” that have remained open for many years and these often do not come to light until there’s a title search. One resident at the meeting, accompanied by her realtor, said she was being charged about $10,000 for three open permits dating back to 1993 that she was not aware of.   The realtor said that in her experience this was the case with one in 10 Yorktown houses.   

 

Supervisor Grace explained that property owners often do not close out their building permits and get a CO (certificate of occupancy) because the improvement to their property would trigger an increase in their assessment. But, he added, in some cases the cost of closing out the building permit, even with the double fee, might be less than what the added assessment might have cost them over the years. However, Mr. Winter advised the Board that he is working closely with the assessor and that the latter is reassessing  property as the improvements proceed and even before a CO is granted, although it may only be a partial re assessment.,

 

Mr. Winter added that based on new procedures his department has adopted, open building permits should be less of a problem going forward as his staff now makes site visits before building permits are issued.

 

Supervisor Grace asked Mr.Winter and Town Attorney Koster to consider draftng legislation dealing with the issue, adding that the Town’s overriding goals were to see that the construction was inspected and done properly and also to see that the property’s assessed value reflected the improvements.

 

4. Buckhorn Street wetlands permit

There was a brief and mostly inaudible discussion with Chris Sciarra that appeared to be whether or not a property needed a town wetlands permit. It appeared that one was not needed.

 

5. Halloween Parade

In a repeat of last year’s discussion, Al Avitable explained that the police chief has denied a request for a Halloween Parade route from the Rexall Pharamacy (the business donates candy for the parade) to the Jack DeVito field on the grounds that it would incur overtime costs.  The Board, as it did last year, approved the overtime, noting that there was a separate line in the budget to cover the expense.

 

6. Water meters

Water Distribution Superintendent Rambo advised the Board that due to a defect during the manufacturing process, it was possible that the registers in all 2,000 of the newly installed water meters could be defective. He suggested, and the Board agreed, to one of four options for dealing with the problem. While the Board did not elaborate on the options, it appeared that the selected option involved the meter supplier paying to fix the problem. There was no need for the Board to take any action.

 

7. Fluoride

Water Distribution Superintendent Rambo advised the Board that there was an “issue” over the installation of new fluoride equipment and that he and Councilman Paganelli would be meeting on the issue. He did not elaborate on the problem.

 

8. Towing bid

On the recommendation of Councilman Paganelli, the Board voted to reject the two bids it received earlier this year and go out to bid again with rewritten bid specs.  There was no discussion.

 

9. State Land

After a brief discussion, and voting on a motion by Supervisor Grace, the Board set a public hearing for the rezoning application for October 15.  Noting that the Mall public hearing was scheduled for that date and that two hearings might be too much for one meeting, Councilman Bianco suggested a November 19 hearing date.

 

Representing the property owner, attorney Al Capellini reminded the Board that the application, and long form EAF (Environmental Assessment Form) of about 200 pages had been submitted over a year and a half ago and that it was time for a public hearing.  Supervisor Grace said there was no need to refer out the application as it had already been referred out last year.

 

Although the initial application was for a C-3 zone, Mr. Capellini said his client would accept a rezoning to C-1 if it included provisions that would allow for outdoor storage (permitted “as of right” in a C-3 zone but only with a special permit in a C-1 zone) for uses such as a garden center.  Planning Director Tegeder explained that a C-3 zone permitted some uses, such as gas stations, that the town might not want. Also the C-1 zone required larger lots.  Supervisor Grace asked about the applicability of rezoning the site to a CRC zone (regional shopping center) – the only zone that gives site plan approval to the Town Board.

 

The issue of the future alignment of the Bear Mountain Parkway was briefly discussed as the plan calls for relocating the right of way from the area abutting Route 202 further into the site and basically behind the proposed buildings. While Supervisor Grace said he thought that plan was ‘dead” as far as the DOT was concerned, Mr. Tegeder said the realignment was part of the 2004 Sustainable Study that included the Route 202 corridor.

 

Mr. Capellini said it was not possible for the property owner to interest a potential tenant in the property until the site was rezoned.

 

10. Creative Living/Navajo

As explained by attorney Al Capellini, the applicant was before the Board for a “compliance review”: the February, 2013 wetlands permit included a provision that the applicant return to the Board in June. The Town’s environmental consultant Bruce Barber explained the need for a new mitigation plan (see prior Planning Board meeting summaries) and the applicant advised the Board that it had a meeting with town staff scheduled for the following day. The Board voted to extend the compliance requirement until November. 

 

11. Donation of property

The Board referred an offer to donate property to the Conservation Board and the Advisory Committee on Open Space.  The property is on or near Underhill Ave. No details were discussed.

 

12. Outside counsel for tax certiorari work

The Board put off a discussion of reviewing RFP proposals

 

13. Foreclosures

The main thrust of the discussion was whether or not to schedule an auction to sell any of the properties on the 2008 foreclosure list that the town has taken title to. The list includes five houses and an unspecified number of vacant parcels.

 

While Councilman Bianco called for selling the properties now, and Councilman Paganelli expressed concern that the town would have to pay school taxes as long as it owned the properties, Supervisor Grace explained to his fellow Board members that properties taken “in rem” were either valueless or had lower values (he used both expressions) because the new owner could not get title insurance because the former owner could challenge the foreclosure proceeding. The town could, he suggested, decide to wait two years before selling the property when there was a presumption that the proceeding had been done property or five years after which time the previous owner could not challenge the foreclosure.  In either case, he said, the waiting would increase the value of the parcels.  He said that even minor errors in the proceeding, such as using the wrong initials for the property owner, could invalidate the proceeding.  He also said that there could be additional complications because the in rem procedure identified the properties by their tax map ID numbers which could be different from actual meets and bounds descriptions. 

 

In response to the Supervisor’s concerns, Councilman Bianco asked the town attorney how the town had handled this issue in 2010 when it sold several properties at auction. She did not respond, but did say that some of the properties did have value. Mr. Bianco also said he preferred to go out to auction now and take our chances on the value and Supervisor Grace said he’s rather get money for the parcels rather than give them away. The Supervisor added that of the money owed on these parcels, only about 48% represented actual tax amounts; the rest was interest and penalties which he said was “paper money.”  Councilman Paganelli asked Ms. Koster to provide him with information on the taxes owed by the properties.

 

Supervisor Grace said that several of the houses were in “knock down” condition but that the land could be worth $50,000-$60,000 as a building lot. At least one of the houses is currently occupied but the town is not charging any rent.   Regarding the vacant parcels, it was said that while individual councilmen have reviewed them, there has been no collective Board discussion on what to do with each parcel. It was agreed that decisions about each parcel should be made.

 

Although the bulk of the discussion dealt with properties on the 2008 foreclosure list, Ms. Koster said that she would come back to the Board in two weeks to discuss next steps on the occupied houses on the 2008 foreclosure list the town has not acted on yet, plus the 2009 and 2010 foreclosure lists.

 

14. Selected resolutionspassed unanimously without any explanation or discussion. (Note: on the agenda, it was noted that some resolutions were to be voted on that evening while others were to be voted on October 1.)  

a. Reappointed Heather O’Donnell as the lilbrary (position not noted)

b. Waived the YCCC rental fee for SPARC and Nor-West.

c. Changed counsel on an unidentified issue.

d. Transferred $40,000 from the fund balance to the budget line for paying taxes on town property.

e. Authorized the Supervisor to sign an agreement with the YAC  for a youth basketball program

f. Authorized the Supervisor to sign an agreement with WSP Sells for periodic structural inspections of Baptist Church Road.

g. Settled a tax certiorari suit for 3717 Crompond Road for 2011 and 2012.