September 3, 2013
Absent: Councilman Bianco
1. Announcements: Star Program
At the October 15 Town Board meeting, a representative of the state Office of Real Property will answer questions about the STAR program. Residents currently receiving the basic Star will be getting re-registration forms in the mail between September 27 and October 4.
2. Audit presentation
The Town’s outside auditor repeated the presentation he gave to the Town Board on August 13.
After the presentation, Supervisor Grace said that given the healthy fund balances in the General Fund and the special districts, he anticipates a tax reduction for 2014, the second year in a row. He also complimented town staff for the hard work they have done to control town expenses, singling out the highway superintendent for his work at Granite Knolls and Holland Sporting Club and the new comptroller who has eliminated the backlog of unpaid bills.
In response to Councilman Patel’s question about how the special districts should be charged, the auditor said that the charges should be based on the time town staff spent providing services to the districts. During Courtesy of the Floor at the end of the meeting, Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, returned to the auditor’s comments and asked the Board if the special district charge in the Supervisor’s Tentative Budget would be based on documentation that the auditors said should be gathered. In response, Supervisor Grace said that the districts should be charged for keeping staff “on call” in the event that their services were needed.
a. Assessor. Kim Penner, the current assessor, was reappointed for a new 6-year term.
b. A new laborer was hired in the Water Department
c. A clerk in the Tax Office was made Deputy Tax Receiver while the Tax Receiver is out of the office. Dduring that time, she will receive a weekly stipend of $400.
4. Jefferson Valley Mall
The Board okayed a request for a permit to demolish a portion of the building and also referred the amended site plan application to various boards for review. It also declared itself lead agency for SEQRA review purposes. (There was no discussion of the details of the plan.)
5. Cablevision Settlement
The Board approved a settlement with Cablevision over disputed franchise fees that dates back the Peters’ administration. As part of settlement, which involved a consortium of towns, Yorktown will receive $275,000. Councilman Paganelli credited Supervisor Grace with negotiating the settlement.
6. Award Bids/Advertising
a. Library: Bids were awarded for temporary library relocation services and for reupholstering the furniture in the Children’s Room at the library. Because no bids were received for the actual room renovation, the Board voted to re-advertise the bid.
b. Award bid for street light maintenance and traffic light maintenance
c. Awarded bid for a portable generator for the sewer plant
7. Sanctuary Golf Club
Approved the amended special permit subject to the conditions in the August 28 Planning Board memo.
Dog Park Public Hearing
(see August 6, 2013 for comments at first part of the hearing.)
After voting to close a lengthy public hearing with about 19 speakers, the Board voted 3-0 with 1 abstention to approve the wetlands permit needed to establish the dog park at Sylvan Glen.
Voting for the permit were Supervisor Grace and Councilmen Murphy and Paganelli. Councilman Patel abstained, saying that while he supported the concept of a dog park, he felt that the Board should postpone voting for two weeks so that it could review more written information. He speculated whether the rush to approve the permit might be related to the September primary.
What follows is a synopsis of some of the issues.
1. Town Board’s role. Supervisor Grace made it very clear that the decision to have a dog park at Sylvan Glen was strictly the prerogative of the Recreation Commission and the only action the Town Board needed to take was granting the wetlands permit.
2. Nature of wetlands permit. While supervisor Grace stated the permit was only about erecting a fence in the wetland buffer, those opposed to siting the park in Sylvan Glen pointed out that encroachment into and impact on the buffer would be greater than just a fence. The issue mitigation was brought up but no specific mitigation plans were discussed. At issue was whose responsibility it was to come up with mitigation suggestions.
3. Impact on animal habit. The Supervisor cited a report that there were no turtles on the site, but another naturalist said there were. The Supervisor said that even if there weren’t any turtles, the town should do something to provide a nesting area for turtles. There was disagreement over the impact the park would have on birds.
4. Process. Many members of advisory boards, including Conservation and Open Space, cited the deficiencies in the process, the failure to involve them early in the planning process, and the incomplete information they were sent once the Rec Commission decided on Sylvan Glen. They asked for more time to consider other sites based on an accepted criteria that could be used for all possible locations. Councilman Paganelli agreed that there had been a breakdown in communications that should be addressed.
5. Neighbors. While the vice chairman of the Rec Commission stated that the closest neighbors supported the park, two of the closest homeowners said that five of the six neighbors were against the park. A homeowner from another nearby street supported the project.
6.Type of park. Speakers disagreed over whether a dog park was active or passive. Supporters commented on the positive aspects of other dog parks, including, in Rockland County, a dog park in a nature preserve. It was noted that dogs are currently using Sylvan Glen, although it wasn’t clear whether they were on leashes.
7. Delay. Many supporters of the dog park cited the 9-10 years the issue has been under discussion and the need to act.
Explaining that the wetlands permit will be good for one year only, Supervisor Grace said that if problems developed, the park could be relocated. The approving resolution, with conditions, was read after the vote was taken.
(Note: Members of the Town Board and Planning Board and residents conducted a site visit in late August.)
9. Courtesy of the Floor
a. Senior issues: Gil Kaufmann, chairman of the Senior Advisory Committee asked the Supervisor if he had followed up on the group’s June request for more security at the YCCC. In response the Supervisor said it was on his “to do” list.
b. Museum: Gregory Krasov repeated an offer he made last year to raise funds for the museum to offset the museum’s cost to the taxpayers. He said he had given his proposal to Bruce Apar but no one on the Board acknowledged having received it. Supervisor Grace advised him to make a copy available and he would look at it. Councilman Paganelli said he was willing to listen to any proposal that could make the museum self-sufficient but made it clear that he was not necessarily endorsing Mr. Krasov’s proposal.
Depot Square. Bill Kellner voiced his support for the Depot Square concept, adding that the devil was in the details which still had to be worked out. Supervisor said that he has received new estimates totaling about $400,000 for the new highway garage and parks department garage. Councilman Paganelli noted that Eastchester is considering a new 26,000 square foot butler building garage but that the cost estimate for the fully outfitted building was $3 million.
d. Water Department. Howard Frank said he had been assured by Water Superintendent Rambo that the meters for Cortlandt were working. Councilman Paganelli also stated that the meters are working. Mr. Frank suggested that the annual water quality report continue to be mailed to residents and he praised the quality of Yorktown’s water. (See August 6, 2013)