Citizens for an Informed Yorktown

 

 

Town Board Work Session

September 27, 2016

 

Closed Executive Session

To discuss “Personnel and negotiations”

 

Open Session

 

1. Leak Detection Program

Citing a 25% water loss (water the town purchases from the Northern Westchester Joint Water Works but doesn’t bill customers for) Water Superintendent Ken Rundle explained the value of the town’s yearly leak detection program. In addition to having an annual contract with an outside vendor for $20,000 who does a yearly leak detection survey, the department recently bought its own leak detection equipment. Mr. Rundle said he wanted to spend an additional $6,000 this year that would pay overtime to town staff to use its own equipment in the evening hours to do additional leak tests.  Eventually, he said, it may not be necessary to continue the services of the outside vendor and the cost would pay for itself.  He added that there would always be a certain amount of water loss but that the leak detection equipment was another tool the department could use to reduce the loss. The board gave him the okay to proceed.

 

2. Front Street development

In a change from an earlier plan that showed two buildings, Mr. Roberta showed a new plan for a single building, saying that the change was based on a conversation with Town Engineer Quinn that would have moved the building out of the wetland.  M. Quinn said he never suggested that. Mr. Tegeder said he had not seen this new plan but that in general the mass of one larger building was not so pleasant. Supervisor Grace said that he was more concerned about the aesthetics of the building than whether there were one or two buildings.  He discounted the presence of wetlands on the site, calling the water a “puddle.”

 

Mr. MdDermott said the ownership of the paper road has not been determined although even in the absence of any documentation, he believes the town may own the road. Mr. Grace said the town could condemn the land.  (Note: It was not clear whether the latest plan included the Labriola parcels as discussed at the last meeting.)

 

The supervisor will visit the site with Mr. Tegeder and Mr. Roberta so that the town can give Mr. Roberta a sense of direction that can then be incorporated into a customized plan for a transitional zone. (Note: it was not clear whether a rezoning application has been filed.)

 

3. Lake Osceola Beach property

Mr. Roberta showed a new plan that was only briefly discussed. (Note: it was not clear to the CIY observer exactly what was in the new plan, although Mr. Roberta said something about a miniature golf course, restaurant and bar.)

 

All agreed that the parcel was a critical one for the future revitalization of Jefferson Valley but that it was a difficult piece to develop.  Mr. Tegeder said he would like to see the buildings broken up and some buildings moved closer to the street to create a streetscape. Chris Sciarra, a member of Mr. Roberta’s team, was critical of Mr. Tegeder for not coming up with a plan for the site, adding that Mr. Roberta was tired of not getting anywhere on the project “so we gave up.”.

 

Supervisor Grace told Mr. Roberta that if what the town wants is more expensive to build, the town would have to give Mr. Roberta something to make the project economically feasible.  It is envisioned that once a plan is agreed to, the site will be custom zoned.

 

Mr. Roberta will do a site visit with Mr. Roberta and Mr. Tegeder.  Mr. Sciarra implied that for the time being, Mr. Roberta would focus on his Front Street project.

 

4. Hilltop Service Station

Joe Riina of Site Design Consultants showed a landscape plan that included a combination of barberry shrubs and sections of a picket fence along Route 6 that would provide some screening but still allow visibility of the used cars for sale. The plan also calls for a “Welcome to Shrub Oak “ sign but it was not clear to the CIY observer exactly where the sign would be placed. Additional landscaping would be along East Main Street. The plan includes a canopy over the pumps that will match the coping on the building and several signs; there was a brief discussion about the aesthetics of the use of the Gulf corporate colors on the building and signs. 

 

Mr. Riina said that the station owner has agreed that there would be no signs on the cars or banners. There was a brief discussion, but no firm plans, about the possibility of doing something in the drainage swale along Route 6; the owner is moving the grass but the invasives keep growing.

 

As soon as the owner files a formal application for transitional zoning, the town clerk will refer out the plan to appropriate town advisory boards. A public hearing was set for November 1st; Councilman Bernard said that if the reports from the advisory groups aren’t back by then, the hearing could be kept open.

 

5. Restore NY grant application public hearing (Highway garage/Depot Square)

Mr. Tegeder explained that the $500,000 grant was to demolish the existing highway garage so that the property could be declared “surplus” and then repurposed for other uses that would rehabilitate downtown.   The grant requires a 10% for the total project cost of $2 million.

 

In a lengthy statement, Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, accused the town of a lack of transparency in scheduling the public hearing on short notice and at a non-televised meeting even though the town knew in July when it submitted a “letter of intent” to file a formal grant application that a public hearing was required. She said the town was disingenuous in saying that the grant was just for the demolition of the highway garage when the letter of intent talked about building a new highway garage, a mixed used commercial building and other town amenities. She also said that based on the program guidelines, she did not think the town’s application was competitive and that, like last year’s CFA grant applications, this application was a waste of time. Many of her comments were repeated or amplified by Ed Ciffone.

 

Jay Kopstein and Ken Belfer spoke in favor of the grant saying that the town should go after any money that was available, although Mr, Befrer said he had an open mind to the underlying project. Dan Strauss said it was a good thing to go after $500,000 but he was concerned that he had no clue what the project would cost and what it might cost taxpayers.  Tony Grasso, speaking for the Chamber, supported the highway garage relocation/Depot Square project, adding: Let’s get the project going.

 

Supervisor Grace said that he submitted the July Letter of Intent on his own and did not need the Town Board’s authorization. (It was not clear whether the other councilmen knew about the July letter.) He said after the Letter was submitted he heard back from the granting agency encouraging the town to apply for the grant by the October 3rd deadline.  If they didn’t think we qualified, he said, they would have tossed out the application in a pre- screening process. He said that getting the money would make the project more feasible, adding that the town has preliminary approval for an MS4 stormwater project although he didn’t explain how that was related to the Depot Square project. 

 

The supervisor said that the cost for the new highway/parks garage was still being explored as it would/could involve a combination of buildings (cold storage for trucks, pre fabs for offices, and a butler type building for mechanical use) and that each building type had a different square foot cost, with a range of $5/sq. ft to $100/sq. ft.

 

The supervisor said that there are people interested in buying the site but they don’t want to get bogged down in the approval process; hence his plan to have the town get approval for a building on the site and sell an approved plan with the purchaser being selected using an RFP process who would design the actual building and use of the site.

 

Councilman Patel raised the issue underground contamination at the site and said the land should be sold as is.  Citing the previous environmental studies, the rest of the board challenged his statement about the possible contamination.

 

The board voted 5-0 to submit the application.

 

6. 2464 Hunterbrook Road/Wetlands permit

The homeowner is planning to add a second floor onto the existing house and make other alterations.  A wetlands permit is needed because all the property is within the wetland boundary.  The town engineer has completed a technical review and a public hearing is scheduled for October 18.

 

7. Morris Lane,  Excavation permit

(See Town Board, April 26, 2016.) Working together, the property owner’s engineer and the town engineer have agreed to a plan that addresses the latter’s concern about the slope of the driveway and the wetlands. Based on the town engineer’s technical memo that included conditions the property owner has agreed to it, the board approved the plan which will require a SWPPP. A public hearing was not necessary.

 

8. Getty Station, 3700 Barger Street

The owner wants to replace the existing underground gasoline tanks, install other updated equipment and install new signage. While initially, the item was listed on the agenda for a wetlands permit, both the town attorney and town engineer said that although the gas station use is a non-conforming use, given the extent of the proposed changes, a special permit for gas station use will be required.

 

Both Supervisor Grace and Councilman Bernard spoke about the “mess” on the site, including the abutting state right of way.  Citing the meeting’s earlier discussion about Hilltop Service Station, the board wanted to use this opportunity to clean up the site which was one of the “bookends’ for the Shrub Oak hamlet.  While the applicant’s representative, Andrew Stuart of High Point Engineering, wanted  permission to go ahead with the tank replacement while other site issues were being worked on, the Town Board did not want to lose what it saw an opportunity to make the desired changes.

 

Mr. Stuart explained that while the site is owned by Getty, it is leased to another company and that different operators work out of different structures on the site, e.g., the repair operation is separate from the gasoline dispensing operation.

 

Supervisor Grace will make a site visit.

 

9. Engineering/Town wide GIS program

Town Engineer Quinn presented the board with a plan he developed with Assessor Kim Penner to upgrade the town’s GIS software and create a town wide GIS program that all appropriate departments could use. (Note: for several years, there has been talk of consolidating the different GIS systems in use by various departments. Supervisor Grace referred to this effort as a “three year pregnancy.”)  The two staffers have identified a company that will cost the town $61,000 over two years. The company will transfer existing tax map information to an updated version of the software that offers more features, train staff, and provide updating services, some of which are currently being done by a part time consultant in engineering whose services will no longer be needed. Mr. Quinn said that eventually, town staff should be able to do all the updating. The following departments use GIS software: Assessor, Planning and Water. Highway does not have a GIS system but needs one.

 

Mr. Quinn said the money will come from the Engineering Department budget but the supervisor said the cost should be pro-rated across the various departments that will use the system.

 

Some technical issues need to be worked out, such as whether the departments have the appropriate computers, and how to make the system available in different town buildings on different servers.  The town will opt to have the data on the town’s servers as opposed to the cloud.

 

A resolution authorizing the purchase will be voted on at the next board meeting.

 

10. Proposed amendment to Section 300-14D of the zoning code regulating accessory uses.

The current section states that in residential zones, the combined square footage of all accessory buildings cannot exceed 80% of the footprint of the main building.  This could, depending on the size of the lot and the main building, theoretically limit the ability to build a third structure on the site.  It was explained that the provision was enacted as a result of a series of lawsuits involving the construction of a large accessory building on a particular site. The proposed amendment would have applied the 80% limit to each individual accessory building and not the combined square footage of all accessory buildings.  

 

Supervisor Grace decided to table the amendment which he said would “bring out the lunatics” who would misconstrue the amendment and that it wasn’t worth the aggravation.

 

11. Proposed amendment of Appendix A of Zoning Code regulating front yard setbacks

The current code has a provision establishing setbacks in relation to the road width and right of way. Mr. Tegeder explained that the rationale for the provision was to leave space for any future road widening.  The issue surfaced during the site plan review for the Faith Bible Church. While Mr. Tegeder said he didn’t anticipate any future road widenings, there were older, narrow roads in Yorktown.

 

The board decided to table the issue.

 

12. Proposed New Affordable Housing Law

The board reviewed a proposed new section to the Zoning Code that would establish a density bonus option for creating “below market rate housing units (BMRHUs),” aka affordable housing, in lieu of the current Affordable Housing Law (Chapter 102) that requires affordable units to be built under certain circumstances.  In conjunction with the new density bonus provisions, the existing Chapter 102 would be amended to become the administrative end of the density bonus program and a section added to Chapter 10 that would formally create the Community Housing Board that has existed in practice for more than two decades.

 

The density bonus, would be optional for the developer, and would have to be approved by the Town Board. It would grant at least a 10% density bonus (Example: If the parcel was entitled to 20 units, there could be 2 BMRHUs for a total of 22 units) but the Town Board could approve higher bonuses that would allow the developer 1.5 additional market rate units for each BMRHU rounded up to the nearest whole number.  The subdivision or site plan for multi family housing would be processed under either the town’s cluster or flexibility provisions.

 

The town attorney will provide a clean version of the new laws at the next board meeting at which time the board will refer out the draft and advertise a public hearing for Nov. 1

 

13. Fees

Escrow fees: Town Engineer Quinn proposed changes to several existing fees, especially those fees that have two components: a basic fee and an escrow fee that went to the town’s environmental consultant who reviewed permit applications. Mr. Quinn said that as more reviews were being done in house, the escrow section should be eliminated and the entire amount, that would remain unchanged, would become the basic fee. For major projects where the services of the environmental consultant would be needed, a special escrow fee could be established.

 

Supervisor Grace said he wanted to end other escrow fees that he said were problematic. He noted that some unused escrow money had been returned to applicants but that some applicants forgot to ask for their money back.

 

Sewer connection fee: The fee is currently set at $50 and it was said that the fee probably had not been changed since it was first enacted into law.  Mr. Quinn suggested a $350 fee.

 

Open ended permits: Mr. Quinn advised the board that permits should not be valid forever but should be limited to one year and that a fee should be assessed when the permit has to be renewed, especially if it required a fresh review and possibly a new site visit. He suggested $150-$200. 

 

Master fee schedule:  Supervisor Grace said the separate Master Fee Schedule should be eliminated and that all fees should be included in the appropriate local laws.

 

Inspection fees. Supervisor Grace said that the town needed a fee to capture the cost of environmental inspections when the cost of the  inspections were not already covered by another fee. More work had to be done to identify these possibilities.  The supervisor said he thought the 8% fee associated with the inspection of infrastructure improvements in new developments, e.g,., for roads, water lines, etc. was excessive.

 

Attorney fees:  The supervisor said there should be flat fees for work done by the town attorney for issues such as reviewing conservation easements and deeds.

 

In general, the supervisor said he was looking at all possible revenue sources. The town attorney will draft legislation in response to the discussion.

 

14. Hallocks Mill Sewer District/East of Hudson Funding

In an item not on the agenda, the board approved a resolution (the text of which was not written) to spend $15,000 for GHD, the town’s sewer consultant, to lobby the DEP for more money for sewers for the unsewered homeowners. The town wants the DEP to give Yorktown some of the East of Hudson money that has been earmarked for other northern Westchester towns in the belief that the money would be better spent in Yorktown.  (In the mid 2000s, $10 million was earmarked for 5 towns.  One town has used its money and two more have projects pending. The release of the money has to be approved by the other northern Westchester towns, the county legislature and the DEP.) Supervisor Grace said that if the DEP makes more money available to supplement Yorktown’s $10 million share, the town would be able to provide sewers at no cost of about 450 residents.  The town was expected to meet with a representative of the DEP tomorrow.

 

15. Hallocks Mill Pump Station bid

The bid specs for the two pump station projects totals 750 pages. Although the town had listed the bids on the Empire State Bid system and interested contractors can download the documents, the town needs to have hard copies in town hall.  GHD, the sewer consultant will prepare a copy at $100 a piece. For starters the board authorized having GHD produced 10 sets.

 

16. Sludge and Grease Removal and Disposal bid extension, Hallocks Mill

The board extended the existing contract for a second year.

 

As an aside, Mr. Quinn advised the board that since the town started using the online Empire State bid system, it has had dozens of vendors downloading the specs for the sludge and grease removal bid and he is hoping that the added visibility will lead to lower prices.

 

17. Use of town board meeting room

Town Attorney McDermott advised the board that he was concerned about what he called the “unfettered access” to the entire building when the board room was being used by community groups and there was no town staff on the premises. He said he was concerned about both security and liability.  He will talk to the town’s insurance agent about the issue and the supervisor said he would circulate the issue.

 

18. Penalty refund/Sunrise Carpentry, 1075 East Main Street

The business was requesting a refund on a $1600 penalty it paid for beginning work on its structure before the building permit was issued.  While Supervisor Grace suggested splitting the amount in half, Councilman Bernard favored giving the full refund stating that the company was a reputable one and that the value of what it did when improving the building far exceeded the penalty.  In a 4-1 vote with Councilman Patel voting no, the board approved the full refund.

 

19. Miscellaneous resolutions

YCCC room fee waivers: the board approved waiving the $268 room rental fee of the Teen Center and the $3,838 fee for SPARC.

 

Water Department overtime: the board approved a $25,000 budget transfer to cover additional overtime for the remainder of the year.

 

Closed Executive Session

To discuss personnel in the Engineering Department