Town Board, 4-1-2014
Lou D’Amico, a resident at Trump Park and speaking on behalf of other condo owners, asked the town to stop interfering in the issue, adding that whatever issues there are, they are between the condo owners , the contractors and the condo board. (It was noted that there was a 4-1 vote by the condo board but it was not explained what the vote was for.) Calling the actions of the developer “deceptive,” he said that it appeared that the developer’s goal was to continue litigating the issue with the Westchester Land Trust and that the condo owners would “get stuck” with the bill. Kathy Quinn, a homeowner in the nearby subdivision, also supported the demolition, calling the issue one of trust and faith.
In response, Supervisor Grace said that while the Westchester Land Trust and the Yorktown Land Trust each had easements to the underlying land, both easements were subservient to a Town of Yorktown recreation easement and that he thought that a municipal use, such as an arts center, would be consistent with a recreation easement. Adding that it was his duty to do what was best for the entire town, he said that the building was an asset that should be shared by the entire community.
Councilman Bianco, the only current board member who was on the Town Board when the development was approved, said the town’s word would mean nothing if future boards changed the conditions of an approval. If we renege on our word, then our word means nothing, he said, adding that “this should end the subject.”
Planning Board member John Flynn stated that when the Planning Board approved the development, with the easements and plans for a gazebo and walking trail, it was considering the whole town.
Town Board, 3-18-2014
In response to questions from Ed Ciffone during courtesy of the floor, Supervisor Grace said that several arts groups, including one in the Town of Cortlandt and the Westchester Arts Council had expressed interest in the 8,000 sq. ft. building which he said should not be demolished. Calling the building an asset to the community, he said the town should look at how the building could be used. He said that because conditions have changed since the site plan was approved 10 years, the conservation easement issue should be reconsidered.
Responding to the supervisor’s comments, Councilman Bianco said that Cortlandt had rescinded its request and he questioned what would happen in the future if conditions associated with site plan approvals could be changed by future boards.
Planning Board, 3-10-2014
George Brink repeated comments he made at last week’s Town Board meeting and wanted to know what, if any, enforcement authority the Planning Board had to force compliance with site plan and easement conditions. Mr. Fon responded that the building inspector was the board’s enforcement arm and that the matter had previously been referred to that official.
Town Board, 3-4-2014
George Brink advised the board that the Westchester Land Trust has initiated a lawsuit against the developer to enforce the conditions of the development’s site plan approval that required the eventual removal of the sales building that was erected as a temporary measure on a conservation easement and the construction of a walking trail and gazebo. Calling on the town to enforce the conditions of the site plan and the easement, he asked the town to protect the integrity of the site plan process and not bail out a developer. He said that when the Town of Cortlandt was informed about the lawsuit, it withdrew its request to use the building.
Town Board, 3-12-2013
Three residents at Trump Park joined John Schroder and Aaron Bock of the Yorktown Land Trust to discuss the future of the sales building.
Calling the building a “real amenity,” Supervisor Grace said that the building could be used to house the Town’s Parks & Recreation Department which could also offer programs in the building. The building would also have meeting space for Town groups. He said there is a need for Town facilities in the northern end of town.As for the existing conservation easement, he said “nothing is reversible” and that legally there were all sorts of “ways out” of the easement.
The Trump residents opposed any Town use of the building and site and reminded the Board that:
1) the sales prospectus states that the 40 acres is to be a conservation easement with a gazebo and walking trail and that they bought their units because of the commitment to retaining the open space
2) the state attorney general would have to approve any change in the prospectus
3) the condo owners own the land and 100% of the owners would have to approve keeping the building
The owners also expressed concern that Yorktown Realty was likely to be going out of business, and once that happened, it would pit the condo owners against the town in any future court action. They said that “time was of the essence” in resolving the issue.
Members of the Yorktown Land Trust, which jointly holds the conservation easement with the Westcheser Land Trust, advised the Board that the Westchester Land Trust was recently successful in court in upholding a conservation easement in Lewisboro. They also talked about the integrity of the Town living up to past agreements.
There was also a discussion of whether the building could be moved; one of the potential sites cited was Shallow Creek Park.While Building Inspector Winter said it was not feasible to move a building on a slab, Planning Director Tegeder said it was feasible. He added, though, that any relocation would also have to consider: the cost of the move, the cost of alterations to the building, the cost of constructing a foundation, and the cost of operating and maintaining the building. One potential problem in moving the building would be how to get it under the Taconic Parkway.No other location for the building was noted.It was also noted that it might be more costly to move the building than tear it down.
Councilman Bianco opposed any change to the existing site plan conditions, noting that “a deal is a deal.” Councilman Paganelli said the Town needed to stand behind its agreements that that it should explore the feasibility of moving the building. Councilman Murphy appeared to be in favor of finding a use for the building and Councilman Patel appearedto support demolishing the building.
Supervisor Grace said he would meet with the condo owners to see if there could be any mutually agreeable plan going forward.
Planning Board, 3-11-2013
The Board went into closed session for a discussion with its attorney. Once back in open session, Chairman Fon said that the development was not in compliance with its original site plan and that because this was an “enforcement issue” over which the Board had no authority, the Board was referring the issue to the town engineer and the building inspector for their review. As there was no plan and no application before the Planning Board, there was no action for the Board to take at this time.The Board did not entertain comments from the public.
Planning Board, 2-25-2013
On behalf of Yorktown Realty Associates, owner of Trump Park off Barger Street, Joe Apicella asked the Board to reconsider the requirement of the development’s 2003 approvalthat the temporary sales office building be demolished at a future date. He asked the Board be “think out of the box,” adding that the Town could “do better” than leveling a building that he valued at $4 million. He suggested that the Town would be better served using the building as a senior center or for some other community use rather than having a walking trail and gazebo .
John Schroeder, representing the Yorktown Land Trust and the Westchester Land Trust reminded the Board that the building was located on a 40 acre parcel that had both a conservation easement and a recreation easement and that it was always clearly understood that the building was to be temporary. The two land trusts and the Town are holders of the easement. When Mr. Flynn, who was on the Planning Board when the original approval was granted, reminded Mr. Apicella that the Board made it clear in 2003 that it wasn’t interested in accepting the building as a future donation and asked why the issue was being raised again, Mr. Apicella said that the” reality has changed.”
Mr. Schroder also advised the B\oard that other conditions of the original approval have still not been met.
Before proceeding, the Board agreed to have its attorney review the conservation and recreation easements, have Bruce Barber, the Town’s environmental consultant inspect the site for compliance with the conditions of its site plan approval, and also check with the Town assessor as to how many units have been sold, a calculation that triggers when the temporary building is supposed to be demolished.The Board may also do a site visit to the building.
Planning Board, 1-28-2013
Planning Director Tegeder will ask the owner to attend the next meeting to discuss the removal of the temporary sales office.
Planning Board, 1-14-2013
In an item not on the agenda, John Schroeder, speaking on behalf of the Yorktown Land Trust and the Westchester Land Trust, reminded the Board that pursuant to the development’s original approval, the “temporary” sales office that currently sits on a conservation and recreation easement was supposed to be dismantled when 50% of the 141 condo units were sold. He advised the Board that he has been told that 73 units are now sold. The rest is in the Board’s hands, he said.
Chairman Fon asked the Planning Department to send a memo to the assessorasking her to confirm the number of sold units.
The notes below cover the same issue during 2008-2009.
(Citizens for an Informed Yorktown did not cover the Planning Board meetings for the period 2010-2011)
Planning Board, January 28, 2008 work session
While the discussion focused on the conservation easement for Yorktown Realty Associates (the Capelli development at Route 6 and Barger St, Shurb Oak) the discussion had broader implilcations for other properties.
Present were Yorktown Land Trust Representatives: John Schroeder, President, Aaron Bock, Barbara Wilkins, Vice President, and Westchester Land Trust Director of Conservation Outreach, Eileen Goren
These Land Trust representatives addressed the Planning Board about the delay in removing the sales building and signage from the conservation easements on the Yorktown Realty property at the corner of Route 6 and Barger St. in Shrub Oak. As stewards of the conservation areas, the Land Trust representatives asked for action in getting this area into an acceptable condition. The presence of structures in the conservation easement impedes its functioning as a natural area and use for passive recreation. The Planning Board agreed to ask Mr. Capelli, the developer, to meet with the Board in order to ask him his intentions and plans for meeting the 2/15/08 deadline for dismantling the sales building and the completion of a pathway around the pond. The Planning Board has previously granted a one year extension of the deadline for the building removal, but put off deciding on an additional extension until hearing from Mr. Capelli.
The Land Trust Representatives also informed the Planning Board that the NYSDOT had incorrectly installed a chainlink fence on the Yorktown Realty property which blocked the proposed pathway encircling the pond. The Board said that it would be up to Mr. Capelli to deal with the NYSDOT about moving the fence since the pathway was a condition of site plan approval and therefore his responsibility.
The Board asked the Land Trust representatives to write a summary of their concerns about the conservation easements on the Yorktown Realty site.
Mr. Bock said that since Land Trusts are stake holders of conservation easements, he wanted the Yorktown Land Trust to be party to any negotiations with Mr. Capelli. The Planning Board rejected this, pointing out that the Board is the approval authority and suggested Mr. Bock research the legal position of Land Trusts in these circumstances.
Additionally, mention was made of the possibility that Yorktown Realty via Mr. Capelli might request the age requirements for homeownership in this age-oriented development be lowered. Lowering the age requirements has the potential to bring school-aged children into the Lakeland School District. However, the lack of impact on the school system was an important consideration in the original rezoning of the property for an age-oriented community. So such a request, if it is made, would not be viewed very favorably.
The Land Trust representatives pointed out some difficulties with conservation easements and the planning process, in general. Usually the Yorktown Land Trust enters into discussion about conservation easements with developers late in the planning process. This can affect the procurement of a conservation easement in the following ways:
1. If a developer donates a conservation easement on a buildable lot, he gets a tax deduction, which is an incentive to do this. However, once a conservation easement becomes a condition of approval, the area is no longer buildable, and the tax deduction goes away. The further into the planning process, the more likely it is that lots are deemed unbuildable, removing the tax deduction incentive to put them in a conservation easement. To address this, the Land Trust Representatives asked that they be consulted early in the planning process.
2. When a land trust takes stewardship of a conservation easement, it is required to show it has the means to protect and maintain the property. Indeed, this is an IRS requirement for tax deductible donations to land trusts. Toward this end, land trusts require that developers pay a stewardship fee when donating conservation easements. Often by the time the Yorktown Land Trust gets involved in the planning process, the developer has already invested a large amount of money in application fees, engineering and other studies. They tend to lump the Land Trust into the same category as the Planning Board and are very reluctant to pay yet another fee. This makes it more difficult for the Land Trust to negotiate a donation. In order prevent developers being blind-sided by yet another fee, the Planning Board instructed the Planning Department to include advance notice of a possible conservation easement stewardship fee in the fee schedule given to applicants at the beginning of the process.
Planning Board February 25, 2008 Work Session
Continued discussion of the temporary sales office approved for 18 months by Planning Board Resolution #05- 9 dated August 15, 2005.
Planning Board Members Present: David Klaus, Daniela Crispi, Robert Giordano
Planning Staff Present: John Tegeder, Lorraine DiSisto
Joe Apicella, Capelli Enterprises
John Schroeder and Aaron Bock were present to represent the Yorktown Land Trust.
Following up on the previous work session, the Yorktown Land Trust had sent the Planning Board a letter summarizing their concerns about the continued presence of the temporary sales building on this site after the February 12, 2008 deadline for its removal. The letter also listed five other site conditions that impact the site and its status as an area protected by a conservation easement. These include the chain link fence constructed by the NYSDOT that intrudes on the east side of the pond and prevents some of the required improvements, debris which is supposed to be removed, required signage and ATV and motorcycle trespass on the site. It is the owner's responsibility to make these corrections. Additionally the Yorktown and Westchester Land Trusts would like to review and comment on plans for the restoration of areas disturbed by a former owner.
Joe Apicella, representing Yorktown Realty Associates, requested that the Planning Board extend the deadline for the removal of the temporary sales building. Citing the slow real estate market, he said that the units have not sold as quickly as expected and that the sales building is a very necessary marketing tool in which he's already invested a large amount of money for decorating and furnishing. He pointed out that the Town certainly wouldn't want the development to become a “white elephant” of unsold units. Mr. Tegeder asked why one of the finished units couldn't be used as a sales model. Mr. Apicella said that the finished units would need to be furnished and decorated at additional cost and the owners of nearby units would object to sales traffic near their homes.
Mr. Apicella emphasized that the developers fully intend to comply with all requirements and said he would immediately get started with the other improvements and corrections listed in the Land Trust's letter.
The Planning Board agreed to extend the deadline for demolition of the sales building six months or until 50% of the units are sold, whichever comes first. Then at the end of six months there will be the option for another six month extension if requested by the developers. Additionally, the extension is tied to the completion of the listed improvements in an unspecified way. This resolution will be on the agenda of the next regular Planning Board meeting.
In the context of the Yorktown Realty site, there was discussion of the growing problem of ATVs and motorcycles using the Town's designated trail system, causing environmental damage and conflicting with use as hiking trails. This problem is growing as the Town's trail system is increasing more interconnected. Mr. Schroeder emphasized that the Town and its agencies and commissions need to brainstorm ways to address this issue. Mr. Apicella said he recognized his liability if these vehicles use his property and would direct his security to crack down on the trespassers. The Planning Board will refer the question to Parks and Rec for its input.
There was also discussion of the long term fate of the temporary sales structure on the Yorktown Realty site. Mr. Schroeder emphasized that it cannot remain on the site and if the Town wants to move it somewhere for use as a senior citizens' center or whatever, it needs to make that decision quickly, before the next deadline for demolition. He pointed out that the longer the building remained on the site, the more the Town and the public would become “enamored” of the idea that it should remain there. Mr. Apicella repeated his offer to donate the building and its furnishings to the Town on the condition that the Town move it. Mr. Apicella doesn't want it permanently on the site either, because of liability concerns and also because the new homeowners bought on the assumption that the building would be gone. The Land trusts absolutely require the building to be removed because it is incompatible with a conservation area. The Planning Board will notify the Town Board of the building's imminent demolition and the need for a timely decision about moving it.
March 10, 2008
The board unanimously approved a one year extension for the temporary sales office (beginning February 12, 2008), subject to a review of sales in six months. If more than 50% of the units have been sold by then, the building will have to be removed. Mr. Giordando suggested that the Town Board be notified of the extension and review time so that it can begin to plan whether it wants to relocate the building elsewhere. A construction sign on the site can remain for a year, regardless of how many units have been sold.
June 23, 2008, work session
During the Courtesy of the Floor portion of the meeting, Mr. Giordano said that the North County News had reported that the age qualification for purchasing a condo unit in Trump Park on Route 6 and Barger St. had been lowered to 45 from 55. He asked that the Planning Board refer the question of the legality of this change to its attorney. He said that he voted for approval of the project based on the age restrictions and the implications that had for the number of school age children etc. and wondered how/if the developers could change the age restrictions unilaterally.
August 18, 2008 work session
At the 6/23/08 work session, Mr. Giordano brought up some ads in the North County News in which Trump Park seemed to be lowering the minimum age for home ownership in this age-oriented community in Shrub Oak and asked the Planning Board Attorney Wagner for an opinion. She reported that this was not legal and violated the site plan restrictions. Then the question was raised about a possible North County News typo in the ad.
October 6, 2008, work session
John Schroeder, representing the Yorktown Land Trust, also participated in the discussion. One issue is the presence of a NYSDOT fence which encroaches 10 ft onto the Yorktown Realty Associates property and prevents the completion of conservation easement amenities and mitigation required by the site plan. The applicant said that the DOT agreed to move the fence, but did not agree to a specific time frame. The applicant reiterated that the work would be completed as soon as the fence was taken down and machinery could get into the area, and that State Senator Liebell's office would be contacted for help in getting NYSDOT to move its fence in a timely fashion. Mr. Schroeder asked the applicant for remediation plans for the site, specifically with respect to debris in the eastern pond area and erosion caused by off-road vehicles. The applicant agreed to provide this plan to the Land Trust and Planning Board, and the Land Trust will quickly submit its comments to the Planning Board. Since it is not known when NYSDOT will actually remove the fence, it is impossible to specify a time frame within which the applicant will complete the site's amenities.
The second issue is the continued presence of the purportedly temporary sales office in what is supposed to be a building-less conservation easement. The applicant maintained that it still needs the sales office since it is the best marketing tool in a poor real estate market. The last sale in the development was in March 2008. A previous resolution required the sales office to be dismantled when 50% of the project's units had been sold. This threshold has not been met. Mr. Tegeder asked at what point does it make sense to move the sales office out of the temporary building and into one of the units so that the site can be completed and the interests of the Town of Yorktown be protected. The applicant again cited the slow real estate market, the need for the temporary building as a sales tool and the large amount of money invested in its interior decoration.
The Planning Board agreed to take another look at the issue of site remediation in 6 months and the issue of the sales office removal in one year or when 50% of the units had been sold, whichever comes first. Mr. Schroeder asked the Planning Board for assurance that the sales office would not become permanent, citing conservation easement language which says no buildings will be allowed in the conservation easement. Mr. Klaus said that the Planning Board had entertained no proposal that called for making the building permanent. The applicant pointed out that the conservation could be changed only by judicial action or by mutual consent of the parties.
May 11, 2009
During Courtesy of the Floor, prior to the start of the regular Planning Board meeting, John Schroeder, representing the Yorktown Land Trust and the Westchester Land Trust, cited a memo from the Town Engineer asking for the release of the bond for the Capelli property at Route 6 and Barger St. (aka Trump Park, aka Yorktown Realty). The two Land Trusts are concerned that nothing seems to have been done about removing the sales office and fulfilling the requirements specified in the site plan for the conservation easement, recreation easement, hiking paths and plantings. A fence which was incorrectly located on this property by the NYDOT prevents some of the work from being done. Mr. Schroeder wanted to emphasize to the Planning Board that there are several open issues on this site that have to be resolved before any bond can be released. The Planning Board will send a letter to the Town Board summarizing these unresolved issues. The Planning Department will send another request to the NYSDOT for the removal of the misplaced fence.
September 14, 2009
In a pre-meeting discussion, John Schroeder, speaking on behalf of the Yorktown Land Trust, asked the Planning Board to write a letter to the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) asking them to remove a chain link fence that separates the Taconic Parkway from the Trump Park site – but which is actually on the Trump site. Because the fence is in the way, the Trump people cannot complete a wood chip walking trail through the recreation area as planned. Mr. Schroeder said that this issue has been going on for 18 months but that the DOT keeps “blowing off” the town.
The board agreed to send the letter and also have Mr. Schroeder appear before the board on the regular agenda.