Winery at St. George

See also: Legislation/TCO

Town Board, 1-14-2020

The Winery wants to erect a sign. Because the site is in a transitional zone, the zoning regulations regarding signs does not apply but the applicant needs Town Board permission to change anything regarding the approved site plan. Michael Grace, the applicant’s attorney, said that a public hearing to amend the 2012 site plan approval wasn’t needed.  The board agreed with Mr. Grace that there was only one logical location for the sign. On Mr. Tegeder’s suggestion, the application was referred to ABACA for review and Supervisor Slater asked Mr. Tegder to review the town code as to whether a hearing was needed.

Town Board, 6-6-2017

Authorized support for state legislation that would advance the parkland alienation bills that would implement the 2015 land swap that was part of the winery’s site plan approval.

Town Board, 2-7-2017

The board voted to request approval from the state legislature for the alienation of the parkland parcel that was part of a  land swap approved in June, 2015.

Town Board, 12-20-2016

 Ms. Siegel asked about the status of the alienation request that was part of the Winery’s site plan and wetlands permit in 2015. In response Supervisor Grace said that the town had missed the deadline for requesting the needed state legislation during the 2016 legislative session.

Town Board, 11-22-2016

In an item not on the agenda, Mr. McDermott advised the board that he is working on parkland alienation legislation.

Town Board, 6-19-2015

Following up on the 3-2 vote after the June 6 public hearing, the board voted 3-2 to approve the following documents.  As we did on June 6, Councilman Patel and I voted no.

·         A SEQRA negative declaration

·         A resolution granting the Winery a wetlands/stormwater/tree removal permit. (The Winery will also have to get an administrative flood plain permit from the building inspector.)

·         A license giving the Winery permission to crease additional parking on town parkland.


All three documents make reference the Winery and the town proceeding with the land swap through the alienation process.   Between the June 6 public hearing and the vote, the amount of town parkland involved in the license and eventual swap increased to 6,226 SF from an original 4.025. No explanation for the increase was given.


Councilman Patel and I voted against the three documents because we believe that granting a license for the commercial use of town parkland is not legal. Instead, we supported the land swap and proceeding directly,

and as quickly as possible, with the alienation process.  Explaining my vote, I noted that the license agreement was for an indeterminate period of time, did not compensate the town for the use of town land,and had no guarantees that the alienation swap would ever proceed.


I also disagreed with Supervisor Grace’s statement that alienation would require the vote of two consecutive state legislatures or that alienation legislation could only be passed in June. I also added that much of the delay associated with the Winery was due to the owner’s actions (or inactions) and not the town.  (For a nine year history of the Winery project, visit


The board also voted, 3-2, to have the supervisor proceed to draw up contracts for the land swap. I asked that copies of the documents be made available to the board prior to their being signed.

Town Board, 6-2-2015

After Supervisor Grace explained  the history of the site and the proposed land swap, about a dozen  people spoke, mostly in support of the Winery in general, and some more specifically in support of the swap. Environmental Consultant Bruce Barber spoke about the benefits of being able to control the outlet to Lake Mohegan and Ann Kutter, a former Planning Board member, spoke about the safer traffic flow. Moving forward on the swap would be an alienation of parkland and would require the approval of the state legislature.


Explaining that the Winery had waited over two years for permission to use the town parcel and that the alienation process would take time, Supervisor Grace proposed that the town grant the Winery a revocable license, without a time frame and without any monetary compensation,  to use town parcel right away while the alienation process went forward. He acknowledged, though, that the license could continue indefinitely and the town would not have to follow through on the alienation.


My position was that while I totally supported the swap/alienation plan, I opposed the interim license as not necessary. Responding to Mr. DeChiaro’s impatience to move the plan forward, I noted that he could have submitted the swap plan two years ago but that he chose to wait until now to come forward with it. Supervisor Grace called the two years delay, “sinful.” He said that the license agreement could include bonding and insurance conditions and that the board would be able to control what is done on the premises since the license would be revocable.


When Supervisor Grace suggested a modification to the plan to the plan that could create three additional spaces, Mr. Barber advised him that changing the plan now would complicate issues; he advised that the notation be made on the current plan for “future parking” and that the site plan to amended after the


The board voted unanimously to close to the public hearing, followed by a 3-2 vote with Councilman Patel and me voting no, to direct the town attorney to draw up the following papers: SEQRA findings,  wetlands permit resolution, license agreement, contracts for the transfer of the two parcels giving the two parties contract vendee status, and a home rule message to begin the alienation process. The documents will be voted on either at the June 9 or June 16 meeting.

Town Board, 4-28-2015

Supervisor Grace explained that in 2012 when the Town Board approved the transitional zoning for the site, the site plan included parking in the wetland buffer on adjoining town property and it was understood at the time that the applicant would be applying for a wetlands permit. However, the following year, in a 3-2 vote, the board declined to hold the required public hearing for the permit. The result was that no changes to the wetland  buffer were made and technically the Winery is in violation of its approved site plan.


The applicant is returning to the board with the same wetlands permit application (an expired  DEC wetlands permit has been reissued) but without the earlier plan for a wetlands park (see 2013 discussion below).  The applicant also offered to make a land swap with the town: in exchange for the town’s approximately 4,000 sq. ft. parcel which is littered with debris and would be cleaned up by the applicant. In exchange,  the applicant would give the town a more important and valuable wetland area of about the same size on the west side of its property that contained the outlet to Mohegan Lake.


In connection with the potential land swap, Supervisor Grace asked if the applicant would contact the abutting property owner (DeVito) and permit the construction of a bridge over the wetland that would enable the town to link the shopping center with the Winery and possibly continue the sidewalk. According to the Winery’s engineer, while the property owner wasn’t interested in the arrangement in the past, now that the Winery is up and running, his interest may have changed.


The wetlands application was referred out and a public hearing set for June 2. In the meantime, the town attorney will research the legal issues associated with the land swap and whether a swap would require following the formal alienation of parkland process.

Planning Board, 12-23-2013

In response to request for a Certificate of Occupancy (CO), the Planning Department advised the Building Department not to issue the CO until additional site work was addressed, including curbing, installation of gravel and landscaping improvements on the DOT lot, the installation of a “no left turn” sign on the DOT lot, and the placement of wine barrels on the front lawn.

Town Board, 11-19-2013

The Board open and closed a public hearing on the amended site plan. After Supervisor Grace explained the reason for the amended plan, the only other person who spoke was Jeff Econom, the applicant’s engineer.


After closing the hearing, the Board voted unanimously to approve the plan which will pave the way for the applicant to get a Certificate of Occupancy. Mr. Econom advised the Board that the conditions in last year’s approval resolution relating to work that needed to be done on the site have been addressed and that all outstanding issues have been resolved. The approval allows the church to be used for a restaurant or for other similar uses as shown on the approved site plan.


In a related matter, and at Mr. Econom’s request, the Board will send a letter to the state DOT indicating that it has no objection to the state selling the parcel of land along Route 6 to the Winery. The letter is being requested by the DOT.

Town Board, 10-8-2013

The the Board unanimously approved a 180 day extension to the temporary certificate of occupancy while the applicant works out final details of a revised site plan.

Plannnig Board, 10-7-2013

On a referral from the Town Board, the Planning Board reviewed a revised site plan that eliminates parking on town owned land. The new plan closely follows the site plan that was approved in 2012 as part of the applicant’s special use permit. The applicant cannot get a CO until the Town Board approves the amended site plan.


Jeff Econom, the applicant’s engineer, advised the Board that that his client is still trying to finalize the purchase of the DOT parcel; the parties have agreed to a price.  It was anticipated that as part of the sale, the DOT would put conditions on the future use of the site; the DOT already told the applicant that it will not allow boulders at the edge of the parcel abutting Route 6 and it was anticipated that the DOT would not permit a drainage swale.  Also the viability of plantings abutting Route 6 was questioned.


The applicant will confer again with Con Edison about the possibility of relocating a utility pole that makes for a narrower access to Route 6.  Also, the applicant will remove from the plan a sliver of town owned land that might be accessed.   There was also some discussion of the traffic flow on the site and whether the two access points to Route 6 should be designated “in” and “out.”


Town Board, 9-17-2013

In an item not on the agenda, Jeff Econom, the engineer for the Winery, submitted plans for an amended site plan that was approved after last year’s transitional rezoning vote .  The plan is the same as the one approved by the Planning Board and Zoning Board in 2011 as part of the Winery’s special permit application. (Because the site plan approved by the Town Board as part of the transitional rezoning included the town-owned property and that property is no longer available, the site plan needs to be amended.)


Mr. Econom also advised the Board that the state DOT has agreed to sell the sliver of land abutting Route 6 to Mr. DeChiaro.  He said that all the site work based on the previous plan was already done and the Winery was ready to request a CO.


The Board was ready to advertise a date for a public hearing on the revised site plan when Deputy Town Clerk Quast advised the Board that a formal application has not yet been filed.  The Supervisor then instructed her to advertise for a public hearing at the earliest possible date as soon as the application had been field. 


(Note: It was not clear if the new plan would be referred out to the town's advisory boards for review as some Board members felt that the amended plan had already been reviewed.)

Town Board, 7-16-2013

Aaron Bock, joined by Tony Grasso, read an open letter to the Board from the Chamber of Commerce criticizing the May 7 vote not to advertise a public hearing on the wetlands permit. The Chamber was not criticizing the outcome of the hearing, he said, just what it called the inappropriate procedure that denied people the right to voice their opinions on the issue.  In response, Supervisor Grace said he agreed with the letter and said that both he and Councilman Murphy had voted against the resolution.

In a separate comment, Stewart Glass commended the three councilmen who voted not to hold the hearing. He also raised questions about the ownership of some of the property that the Winery appeared to be in the process of upgrading.

Town Board, 6-18-2013

Chris Sciaria again called on the three board members who voted on May 7 not to advertise a public hearing for a wetlands permit on town land to explain the reason for their votes. He said he was concerned about pushing things along to facilitate businesses. During the second Courtesy session, he repeated his question and also noted that the town owned wetland was in need of being cleaned up and that a private party was willing to do it.


In response, Councilman Bianco said that his vote, which he said he had stated before, was based on reports from the Conservation Board and the Advisory Committee on Open Space which saw no need for an additional educational program in the town owned wetland. Also, even if the town had neglected to clean up the wetland, he said there was no guarantee that someone else would do it. Councilman Murphy, who supported advertising the public hearing, disagreed with Mr. Bianco and said that the Conservation Board memo only said that it disagreed with the educational aspect, not the easement itself. He also said that the site plan that included that included a portion of the town owned land improved the safety of the site when cars had to egress onto Route 6.  Supervisor Grace pointed out that the approved site plan also called for stormwater improvements along Route 6 where none currently existed.  All of Route 6 is in the buffer area, he noted, although Councilman Bianco said that only a portion of the road was in a buffer. The public should have been given an opportunity to be heard on the issue, he said.

Town Board, 6-4-2013

In response to comments made during Courtesy of the Floor, Supervisor Grace said he anticipated a future vote on an amended site plan that would be submitted and which did not include the town owned parcel. He repeated his position that the Board should have allowed the public hearing process to go forward so that both sides of the issue had an opportunity to be heard.  He regretted that the issue had become a political football.

Town Board, 5-21-2013

Ann Kutter, speaking as a resident and not as a member of the Planning Board, was critical of the Town Board’s May 7 vote not to advertise a public hearing for a wetlands permit on the town-owned land. She said the site plan approved by the Planning Board that utilized the town parcel provided for a safer traffic pattern and also included important stormwater measures that would benefit the wetlands where no stormwater measures currently existed.  She said the negotiated plan to use the town wetlands was in the best interests of both the town and the Winery and that by refusing to hold a hearing on the permit application, the Board had denied the property owner due process and was also sending a bad signal to other applicants involved in site plan negotiations with the town.

Chris Scicara, the Winery’s project manager, called the May 7 vote “appalling,” noting that Mr. DeChairo had already spent $2,000 to clean up the town-owned wetlands as well as money making revisions to his site plan.

Town Board, 5-7-2013

In a separate 3-2 vote, with Supervisor Grace and Councilman Murphy voting no, the Board declined to advertise a public hearing on an application from the Winery for a wetlands permit.  (Note: the permit was to permit work in the wetlands buffer on both the Winery’s parcel and the abutting town-owned parcel.  It had previously been decided that the two actions could be consolidated into one permit and that Mr. DeChiaro would be responsible for obtaining the permit.) Explaining his vote, Councilmen Bianco said that the Board had the right to decide what it wanted to do with the town owned parcel. Both he and Councilman Paganelli based their decision not to allow the Winery to use the town-owned land for parking on advisory opinions from the Conservation Board and the Advisory Committee on Open Space. Both groups opposed the plan.  Mr. DeChiaro could apply for a wetlands permit for his parcel.

Supervisor Grace said that the Board couldn’t deny a citizen the right to a public hearing and Town Attorney Koster said she would research the issue and get back to the Board next week. When she said she would give her advice in a closed session, the Board said it wanted the information in an open session. Supervisor Grace said that he had no problem with a Board member voting against issuing the permit, and he agreed that the Board had the right to decide what to do about a town-owned property,  but he felt that any decision not to issue a wetlands permit for the town owned parcel should be done in the context of a public hearing and not by preventing the public hearing from taking place.  By denying the applicant a public hearing, he said the Town was opening itself to legal action.  Councilman Murphy also felt that the Board should listen to what constituents had to say on the issue.


At a later point in the agenda, the Board voted to refund the wetlands application fee to Mr. DeChiaro. Although some Board members did not verbally indicate either a yea or nay vote, it appeared that the resolution may have been carried unanimously.


During the first Courtesy of the Floor, and before the vote, Walt Daniels, speaking for both the Conservation Baord and the Advisory Committee on Open Space, said that as the Winery had not complied with a 16 item punch list from the June 5, 2012 rezoning resolution, the approval process should start over again. In response, Supervisor Grace said that the only hold up in meeting the conditions of the approval resolution was the town’s wetlands permit and that without the permit, Mr. DeChiaro was in a catch-22. Councilman Bianco said that it was up to the Town to decide if it wanted him to give him the permit.


During the second Courtesy of the Floor, Brendan Tully, co-chairman of the Democratic Town Committee, thanked the Board for its vote and asked that Supervisor Grace recuse himself from future votes dealing with the Winery in order to prevent “potential conflicts” stemming from certain “unique circumstances” which included the Supervisor being endorsedby Mr. DeChairo, having held fundraisers at the Winery and having received campaign contributions from Mr. DeChiaro or his PAC (this comment was not completely clear). In response, Supervisor Grace denied that he had ever received even a nickel contribution from Mr. DeChiaro.

Planning Board, 4-22-2013

On a referral from the Town Board, the Planning Board expressed frustration that the required site plan improvements had not yet been made. Dan Ciarcia, the applicant’s engineer, explained that the work could not be done until the applicant obtained a town wetlands permit (the applicant already has a DEC wetlands permit), something that should have been done last October with the Town Board approved the rezoning.  Noting that the Winery’s Temporary Certificate of Occupancy will expire in June, Mr. Fon noted that there wasn’t much time for the applicant to complete the work although he thought it could be “banged out” quickly.


Town Board, 4-16-2013

The discussion took place during the Board's pre-session meeting.

Town Clerk Roker advised the Board that she couldn’t refer out the Winery wetlands application because Mr. DeChiaro still owed the Town $1,500. (It was not clear what this was owed for.) She said that Mr. DeChiaro had been advised of this last week.   Councilman Bianco said that the Town needed to check on the status of the Winery wetlands issue with Bruce Barber and suggested that the tentatively schedule public hearing on May  be postponed.   (Note: After the meeting,  CIY checked with the Engineering Department and learned that Mr. DeChiaro had applied for a wetlands permit on January 15, 2013 and, at the time, made a partial application fee payment of $300. The permit was not issued because he still owed $1,500.) 

Town Board, 4-9-2013

Tom DeChiaro and his engineer, Dan Ciarcia, were before the Board to discuss the need for a wetlands permit for the portion of his previously approved site plan that will utilize a portion of the town owned wetland.  (References were made to the fact that this should have been done at the time of the rezoning but wasn’t.)  In response to questions from Councilman Bianco, it was determined that the permit required a public hearing and that as the land was owned by the Town, the Town should be applying for the permit.  It was not clear how the delay in getting the wetlands permit would impact the completion of other work that is required to be done elsewhere on the site.


Town Board, 12-3-2012

The Board approved a six month temporary certificate of occupancy for the Winery.Supervisor Grace said that the TCO could be extended if the work isn’t finished in 6 months.

Planning Board, 11-19-2012

On a referral from the Town Board, the Planning Board discussed issuing a new Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) to the Winery. There was some confusion over when the previous TCO expired and whether the Board was looking to extend the previous TCO of issue a new one. There is no currently valid TCO.


There was some skepticism among Board members as to what the owner, who was not at the meeting, had done since the first TCO was issued and they expressed concern about the need to made the site safe and efficient. Planning Director Tegeder asked what incentive the owner had to make the changes as he is already using the site.There appeared to be a consensus on the Board to have the Planning Department send a memo to the Town Board recommending that the TCO be limited to six months instead of one year.

Town Board, 10-23-2012

The 90-day temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO) that the Winery received in February, 2012 has expired and Tom DeChiaro was before the Board to request a new TCO under the terms of the amended TCO law that was approved by the Board after he received his initial TCO. The new law provides for 180-day TCOs, but gives the Town the ability to extend the TCO.


When Councilman Paganelli noted that Mr. DeChiaro had done nothing since February to comply with the requirements of his earlier approval, Mr. DeChiaro said that it didn’t make sense for him to do the work piecemeal and that he was waiting for the needed DEC wetlands permit which he had received just two weeks ago. He now had to get a town wetlands permit. When he asked who should apply for the permit, the Winery or the Town (the wetlands is on town property), he was told that he should file for the permit.

Mr. DeChiaro said he wants the new TCO to run until December, 2013 and that he’ll start the work next fall.


The Town Board will schedule a public hearing on the TCO request.

Town Board, 6/5/2012

Supervisor Grace reconvened the hearing by reading a letter from the Recreation Commission in support of the plan to create a wetlands park on the town-owned land for all to enjo, as well as other correspondence supporting the rezoning. He also clarified the following points:The Town will remain the owner of the entire 14 acre parcel, the proposed plan will provide access to town-owned property, allowing a business to use the parking lot was not an alienation of parkland, and the parking area for the 12 spaces will be gravel, not blacktop. He also again rejected the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Open Space (ACOS) to seek a legal opinion on the alienation issue from the state Attorney General’s office and the Park & Historic Preservation Office.


Supervisor Grace also explained that the Town’s wetlands law regulates activities in a wetland or a wetland buffer pursuant to a permit; it does not prohibit building in a wetland or wetland buffer.


ACOS member and a retired 33 year Parks Department employee, John Schroeder said that while it would be nice to see the parcel become a wetlands park, he felt that the Recreation Commission’s has always been focused on active recreation.


After closing the hearing, the board reviewed and approved, in a 5-0 vote, a lengthy approval resolution with a list of conditions, including that the Winery will be responsible for maintaining the parking lot and that final landscape plans will have to be approved by the Town Board with input from the Conservation Board and ABACA.The Winery will also have to obtain a Town wetlands permit and agree to any additional conditions associated with that permit.


Regarding the plantings, the Winery’s engineer, Jeff Econom,stated that the plantings recommended by the Conservation Boardfor the Route 6 swale (see earlier notes) were not suitable because of road salt. He said the plantings for the rear of the parcel will be detailed on the site plan.


After the vote, Councilman Bianco said that the Town was not giving away town land and he stressed that the Town would continue to own the parcel. He gave the example of a business improving the road in front of its store. The improvements benefit the business, but also the public, he said.

Town Board, 5/29/2012

Members of the Conservation Board (CB) and Advisory Committee on Open Space (ACOS) met with the board to discuss two issues relating to the Winery’s proposed use of a portion of town-owned parkland for 12 additional parking spaces. While the Conservation Board was concerned about the proposed mitigation measures in the wetland buffer, the ACOS members were concerned about using town parkland for a commercial purpose.


Wetlandbuffer. The key issue was the CB’s request for more details about the plantings in the proposed swale (depression) along Route 6 that would capture, retain and treat stormwater.Whereas the latest version of the site plan said that an appropriate “seed mix” would be used in the swale, CB members Phyllis Bock and Diane Drier said that more detail was needed on the exact plants and shrubs to be planted.Grass will die, they said, adding that the swale was planned as a permanent mitigation feature. When Winery owner Tom DeChiaro and his engineer Jeff Econom said, “tell us what we have to plant,” Ms. Drier told them that as a volunteer advisory board, the CB could give them suggestions but that they would have to hire a landscape architect to work out the actual plan.Mr. Econom added that since the swale would be on DOT property, the agency would have to okay any proposed plantings. He also suggested that the selection would be influenced by the road salt and other debris likely to impact on any plantings.


The upshot of the discussion was that Ms. Drier will email a list of suggested plantings and the applicant will follow up with the DOT.


Use of Parkland: John Schroeder, speaking on behalf of the ACOS, reiterated the group’s opposition to the use of parkland for the use of a commercial property. Calling the use an “alienation” of parkland, he reiterated the group’s suggestion that the state Parks Department be asked for an advisory option on whether or not the proposed used did in fact constitute “alienation.”He also reiterated the need for a plan for the 14 acre parkland site, noting that the best use of some parkland is that it be left alone. A study might show, he added, that the site should not be accessible to the public.


In response tocomments that there were eagle scouts ready to buildtrails into the wetland as part of the site’s “educational use,” Ms. Bock said that a similar project at Teatown Reservation had failed and had to be rebuilt and Mr. Schroeder said that many proposed scout projects never materialized.


Reading from an email from a concerned resident, Councilman Paganelli asked the following questions.

1. who would plow the lot in the winter when it wasn’t being used for educational purposes. The response was the Town.

2. who would have liability if someone had an accident in the lot, or in the Winery’s lot that was the access to the town-owned lot. Answer. The Town would be liable for the town-owned land and the Winery, for accidents that happened on its property.


In response to the many comments, Supervisor Grace said he totally rejected the “alienation” argument, noted that only about 800 square feet of the 14 acre site was going to be used for parking, and that it was a benefit to the town to have the buffer area, that he categorized as a “dump,” cleaned up. He said that allowing a business to operate benefited the quality of life for all Yorktowners.

Councilman Paganelli, saying that it was time to “cut to the chase,” said that for him the bottom line was that it was better to see the wetland buffer cleaned up.


Councilman Bianco said that everyone had made some good points. He suggested that the use of the town land be separated from the rezoning request, adding that the rezoning request parcel could proceed while an application for a wetlands permit was filed for the town owned land. Commenting on the procedural issues, Planning Director John Tegeder said that the board could proceed with the planned June 5th vote on the rezoning as long as the approving resolution included conditions relating to the plantings in the swale and the granting of the required wetlands permit. He will work with the town attorney on the approving resolution.


The applicant will also amend its previously submittedEnvironmental Assessment Form (EAF) which he ACOS said did not address the latest plan.

Town Board, 5/15/2012

Public hearing: Winery rezoning.

Supervisor Grace opened the hearing, attended by a standing room only crowd, by explaining the origins of the transitional zone which was designed to customize the site plan requirements for properties that were between residential and commercial zones.Jeff Econom, the project engineer, described the site plan and how it would improve traffic circulation on the site, clean up the existing wetland, and provide stormwater treatment for the site as well as Route 6. He explained that by using the Town’s property (aka the Ardizzone site) for 12 spaces (note that later in the hearing, board members said it would be 9 spaces)at night, the Town would be able to use the site during the day to educate school children and the public about wetlands.

While the purpose of the hearing was the rezoning to a transitional zone, the discussion focused on the site plan which would have permitted the Winery to use town owned land for its parking and whether there was a benefit to the town of a private/public partnership that resulted in cleaning up the wetland. Supervisor Grace clearly saw the benefits of the proposed project.


Responding to earlier discussions about whether or not the Ardizzone parcel was “parkland,” Supervisor reviewed the history of how the Town had acquired the site and said that the board was going on the assumption that it was parkland. That opened up the issue of whether Town parkland always had to have public access and be used for a public recreational or educational purpose, or whether parkland could just exist for environmental reasons. There is no current access to the site.


Those opposed to allowing the Winery to use the town-owned parcel , including the Advisory Committee on Open Space and the Yorktown Land Trust questioned the legality of such a use and suggested that the Town get a legal opinion from the state before approving the rezoning and plan. Speaking for the Trust, John Schroedersaid it was a “slippery slope” to let parkland be used for non-park purposes, especially as the Winery proposal would only affect a small portion of the Ardizzone site and was being considered without the benefit of a master plan for the entire parcel. The Town Attorney said she did not see any legal obstacles to the Winery’s use of the site.


Councilman Bianco raised several questions about the site plan and wanted more details about the wetland mitigation plan and suggested that the board follow a two-step process: first approve the rezoning and then approve the site plan. Phyllis Bock, chairman of the Conservation Board said her board hadn’t seen the latest revised plan and suggested to the applicant that he attend the Conservation Board meeting the following evening. In general, Councilman Bianco supported the concept behind the plan.

Several people spoke in support of the project and were critical of more delay, citing “the paralysis of analysis.” When one supporter suggested that an elephant can be eaten one bite at a time, an opponent cautioned that one bite could be harmful.


The board adjourned the hearing to tie up some loose ends, including SEQRA. Supervisor Grace said he anticipated that the hearing would be reconvened on June 5th.


(To see a video tape of the entire discussion, visit

Town Board, 5/1/2012

Walt Daniels of the Advisory Committee on Open Space, commented on the email he had sent to Board memberswhich included information about the use of the town owned Ardizzone property and the issue of parkland use.

The Board voted to advertise a public hearing on the rezoning request for May 15th.

Planning Board, 4/23/2012

Jeff Econom, engineer for the project, showed the Planning Board a revised site plan which moved the parking on the east side of the property further from the wetlands. Sand filters will be installed to treat water flowing from the parking lot into the wetland, the debris will be removed and plantings will be installed. Conservation Board liaisons, Diane Dreier and Patrick Francois, reported their board approved of the new site plan because it allowed better mitigation of impacts on the wetland. They suggested the sand filter be extended the entire width of the parking lot and that a bioswale be installed along Route 6. A bioswale is a swale containing rocks and planted with perennials and grasses. It would provide additional wetland protection by filtering water running off Route 6 onto the Old St. George property and into the wetland. It would also offer a pleasing entry-way into the Mohegan Lake business district. Mr. DeChiaro, the applicant, said this would only be possible if he was able to buy the area along Route 6 from the State. The Conservation Board representatives strongly urged that all mitigation measures agreed upon by the applicant be specifically detailed in writing on the site plan.

There was a discussion of where the project review will go from here. The next step is a determination of whether the eastern parking area is parkland or not. If it is parkland, is parking allowed? According to Mr. Tegeder, parking is allowed in order to use the park, i.e. visit the wetland in this case. The area could be licensed to Mr. DeChiaro to use as parking for his business. If the area is not parkland, then there are the options of a sale to Mr. DeChiaro or a land swap.

If the site is rezoned to a transitional zone, the site plan will be referred to the Planning Board again for comments, but not for site plan approval. The Town Board does site plan approval in transitional zones.


The Planning Department will prepare a memo to the Town Board indicating that the Planning Board

·  recommends rezoning to transitional zone

·  approves of the revised site plan

·  recommends extension of the sidewalk along Route 6, if possible

·  supports the Conservation Board recommendations concerning wetland mitigation

·  requests to be referred the final plans

Town Board, 4/17/2012

Supervisor Grace said the reason for the work session was to “move the project along.”One of the key issues was whether the rezoning should be to the C-2 zone or the transitional zone. He noted thatCouncilman Bianco favored the transitional zone because under a C-2 zoning, the property owner could demolish the church. Also, under a transitional zone, the Town Board would have site plan approval.Mr. DeChiaro said he had no problem with the transitional zone.


Once the appropriate zone was agreed to, the discussion focused on two issues: whether the property had been designated parkland by a previous Town Board and the proposed site plan and the extent to which it would encroach into the wetland buffer.


Jeff Econom, engineer for the project, showed the Board a sketch of a revised site plan that realigned the parking lot on the “Ardizzone” parcel and the adjoining state property abutting Route 6. The new plan eliminates five parking spaces and moves the parking lot further away from the wetlands.


Tony Grasso objected to the abruptly scheduled work session discussion as well as the plan to allow parking on the “Ardizonne” parcel. The latter objection was based on his belief that the site was always intended to be parkland and also to the fact that there should be no additional incursion into the wetland buffer. While he acknowledged that there were other developments in the area that were in the wetland buffer, he said “why make it worse by adding more.” He was concerned that runoff from oil and gasoline would make its way into the Peekskill water supply.


Parkland issue: Picking up from the earlier discussion during Courtesy of the Floor, Councilman Paganelli noted that there hasn’t been a determination yet whether the town-owned “Ardizzone” parcel was parkland.Deputy TownClerk Quast said that Town Clerk Roker had determined that it wasn’t. Supervisor Grace said that town designated parklands had to be registered with the state, adding that he didn’t think this was ever done and that the Town assumed that resolutions were sufficient. Town Attorney Koster said she would have to research this issue.(Supervisor Grace said that Shallow Creek had also not been properly designated parkland.) If the land is not parkland, she said, the Town could license it to Mr. DeChairo. Alternately, someone suggested that the site could be sold to Mr. DeChiaro.Supervisor Grace said the Town could create a Town parking lot on it. Supervisor Grace said he did not favorthe previously discussed “swap” option as it didn’t make sense for the Town to take the vacant land on the west side of the property as this would require the Town to maintain an existing culvert on the property.


Wetland buffer issue: Supervisor Grace said that the most recent memo from the Conservation Board that questioned the incursion into the buffer area lacked specifics and was “useless. “ Planning Board member Ann Kutter who previously served on the Conservation Board said that the CB didn’t have any updated information about the plan and therefore could not comment on it.In response, Mr. DeChiaro said that he would attend the next CB meeting, scheduled for the following evening, and provide the group with updated information about the proposed mitigation plan, including what Mr. Econom described as several filters where none currently existed, in addition to cleaning up the degraded wetlands

Site plan. Ms. Kutter said that the revised site plan appeared to address some of the safety concerns the Planning Board had with the original site plan.


In the end, Supervisor Grace said that the incursion into the buffer area was nominal and that by permitting the additional parking, it made the site viable. He also noted that Mr. DeChiaro would be cleaning up the wetlands, something that everyone agreed needed to be done. Councilman Paganelli pointed out, however, that the wetlands could be cleaned up anytime by the Highway Department so that the issue really boiled down to making the site viable.


Ms. Kutter said she saw no reason why both objectives couldn’t be realized, adding that the planned filters would be an improvement that could possibly address Mr. Grasso’s concerns.

Because the Town Board will want feedback from the Planning Board on the revised site plan before voting on the rezoning,


Supervisor Grace advised Mr. DeChiaro to meet with the Planning Board, in addition to the Conservation Board, before the rezoning application is advertised for a public hearing.

Planning Board, 3/26/2012

On a referral from the Town Board, applicant Tom DeChiaro presented plans to rezone the Winery site to either C-2 or to a transitional zone. The plan involves a land swap with the Town as discussed below and which could be accomplished, he said, by a lot line adjustment.Although the immediate discussion dealt with the rezoning request, the discussion expanded into site plan issues that could be before the board again, dependingon the outcome of the rezoning request.


Mr. DeChiaro advised the board that since the proposed rezoning and new site plan did not involve any changes to the parking lot on the west side of the church, he was going to proceed with the required improvements to that portion of the site while the rezoning issue and site plan changes for the eastern portion of the parking lot were being reviewed. He also said that he would clean up the existing wetland area, even though, as part of the proposed land swap, the wetland would become town-owned property.


On the rezoning issue, the board clearly favored the transitional zone which would give the Town Board more control over how the site is developed and which would tie the rezoning to the continued existence of the church building.As pointed out by Mr. Kincart, if the property is zoned C-2, there would be a list of permitted “as of right uses,” including a car dealership, in the event that the Winery was no longer profitable and the property owner wanted to demolish the church and construct a new building on the site. The C-2 zone, he said, could lead to a “free for all.” The other difference between the two zones is that the Planning Board would be the approval authority for the site plan in a C-2 zone, but the Town Board would be the approval authority if the site was rezoned transitional and it would be up to the Town Board whether or not to refer the site plan to the Planning Board for review. The Planning Board will send its recommendation to the Town Board. Mr. DeChiaro said he was okay with the transitional zone.


On site plan issues , the board said that clarification was needed on the legal issue of whether the town-owned parcel involved in the swap had been designated parkland. Mr. DeChiaro said that according to Town Clerk Alice Roker it has not been so designated but others weren’t sure and said that this issue needed to be clarified.


The board was also concerned about the configuration of the proposed new parking on the town-owned site and how the spaces would work with the abutting DOT land fronting on Route 6 that Mr. De Chiaro said he was trying to purchase.The concerns included the flow of traffic on the site and the ingress/egress onto Route 6. One suggestion the board asked Mr. DeChiaro to explore with his engineer was a trade off that would involve improving the safety of the site but increase the encroachment into the wetland by acquiring an additional piece of town-owned land towards East Main Street. He was also asked if he could live with fewer parking spaces.


Ms. Kutter suggested that the original EAF (Environmental Assessment Form) completed by the applicant as part of the original site plan should be modified to reflect any changes that will be made to the wetland buffer if the land swap goes forward.


Diane Drier, the Conservation Board liaison to the Planning Board, said that the board was basically okay with the concept of the new plan but that more information about the mitigation plan was needed before the advisory board could comment on the new site plan.


Chris Sciarra, Mr. DeChiaro’s project manager, raised the concern that the board was making the issue more complicated and suggested that the board simply go back and look at the notes when it considered the previous “Palmieto plan.” The consensus of board members, however, was that the new site plan only needed some “tweaking” and not a whole new design.As Mr. Flynn noted earlier in the discussion, the board has historically been willing to compromise on the wetlands issue in order to save the church.

Town  Board, 2/28/2012

Tom DeChiaro presented plans to rezone the Winery property fromits current residential zone to either a C2 or transitional zone.His plan also included a land swap with the town: in exchange for his giving a portion of his site (a wetlands to the west and rear of the building) to the town, the town would give him a portion of town-owned property that is a wetlands buffer to the east of the church. Mr. DeChiaro would then use the newly acquired property as a parking lot for 22 cars. Initially, it would be a gravel lot with plans to pave the lot within three years.The lot would be available to the public during the daytime and, if a boardwalk like structure was built in the rear of the property, it could provide public access to Mohegan Lake.


Supervisor Grace said that an alternative to the land swap could be giving Mr. DeChiaro a license to use the property, similar to what the town did recently for Underhill Apartments. (See See also: Underhill Apartments)


While Mr. DeChiaro said he preferred the C2 zone, Planning Director John Tegeder advised the board that a transitional zone would be more appropriate. Supervisor Grace said that while the C2 zone would give Mr. DeChiaro greater flexibility in the event that the church is demolished, the town could consider a rezoning that was tied to the continued presence of the structure.


The board voted to refer to rezoning application to the appropriate town advisory boards and departments.

Planning Board, 2/13/2012

Having received a 90 day temporary CO with regard to the interior of the building, the owner Tom DeChiaro and construction manager Chris Sciarra are before the Planning Board to discuss amending the site plan for the outside of the building.Specifically, Mr. DeChiaro will be applying to rezone the site to either C2 or to a transitional zone and is looking for the Planning Board’s opinion of a property exchange with the Town.

Mr. DeChiaro proposes exchanging the junk-strewn, degraded, town-owned area to the east of the building for a piece of the wetland he owns behind the building.Mr. DeChiaro would clean-up the eastern parcel and convert it to parking, although the winery already has sufficient parking.It could also be an access point for the educational and recreational use of the large town-owned wetlands behind the winery building.The Planning Board is generally receptive to the proposed exchange.Mr. Fon strongly recommends that the applicant meet with the Planning Department, Building Inspector, Town Engineer and a representative of the Planning Board, altogether in the same room, in order to save time and insure that all relevant parties are familiar with all the issues.

With respect to the proposed rezoning,Mr. Tegeder, director of planning, recommends the transitional zone which will better protect the historical building in the event ownership and usage changes in the future.Mr. DeChiaro says the building already protected by aNational Historic Landmark designation which is less restrictive to the owner.The Planning Board decides not to write a memo going on record as approving the granting of a 90 day temporary CO and chooses not to discuss whether the Board would approve an extension of the TCO if no site improvements are done in the 90 days, preferring to assess the situation at that time.The Planning Board will get a referral from the Town Board on the rezoning proposal and then the Planning Board will look at the technical aspects of the site plan for the proposed zoning.John Schroeder of the Open Space Committee asked if the rezoning could be referred to that committee and was told that was up to the Town Board.

Town Board, 2/7/2012

In a 4-0 vote, the board approved a temporary 90 day CO for the Winery that was conditioned on the Building Inspector certifying that all building code issues had been addressed. The exterior site plan issues still need to be addressed.

Winery owner Tom DeChiaro told the board that all 66 items on the Building Department’s punch list had been addressed and that he expected a final inspection by the building inspector the following day. He thanked the building department for its cooperation.

Supervisor Grace explained that due to a communications mishap, Mr. DeChiaro had not appeared at the most recent Planning Board meeting but that he would attend next week’s meeting to discuss his plan to revise his site plan. Instead of proceeding with the parking plan that was approved last year, he now wants to use a plan reviewed several years earlier when a former owner was contemplating a restaurant on the site. The earlier plan includes using a portion of a town owned property that’s in a wetland buffer and would involve a land swap with the Winery. Mr. Grace called this new plan, which he said was being initiated by the town, would improve the existing wetland area and was a better plan.  We want to  “do it right,” he said and fast track the review for this revised plan which will need a wetlands permit.  In response to a suggestion from Susan Siegel that the board hold off voting on the CO until next week when it would have the benefit of the Planning Board’s comments, as well as comments she suggested the board get from the Mohegan Fire Department, Supervisor Grace said that the temporary CO was needed in order not to hold up the Winery’s opening. If the plan and work can’t be completed within 90 days, he said, the town can extend the temporary CO.


Both Mr. Grace and Paganelli cited the value of the Winery hosting community fund raising events and its role in job creation.

Planning Board, 1/23/2012

Town Board, 1/17/2012

Susan Siegel, the person writing these notes, asked why the Winery needed a temporary certificate of occupancy as it has been open for business for the past two years. She also asked when the property, currently assessed as a single family residence, could be reassessed as a commercial property. In response, Supervisor Grace said that the temporary CO was needed and that it was the town that had taken five months to issue the property owner a building permit. Chris Sciarra, project manager for the Winery, said that granting the temporary CO would be a positive step in getting the job done and that the town was now moving in the right direction.

Town Board, 1/10/2012

Request for temporary certificate of occupancy


While no action on the request was required by the Town Board as the town code permits the building inspector to issue a temporary CO for up to 90 days, Supervisor Grace said that he wanted to advise the board of what was happening. He said the current system “front loaded” the expenses of getting a business up and running and that this could bankrupt the business before it was able to open and collect revenue. This could kill a project before it starts, he said. He told the board that it was his intention to have legislation drafted that would permit two 90-day extensions of temporary COs.


Mr. Grace asked Chris Sciarra, project manager for the Winery, if the Winery had done all it needed for final approval. Mr. Sciarra replied, “We’re working on it.”


Councilman Bianco expressed concern about trees having been cut on the site and Mr. Sciarra said that the cutting conformed to the wetlands permit. Mr. Grace added, “It’s all been resolved. There was a lack of communication.” Mr. Bianco added that he did not want to see a repeat of the temporary CO issued to BJs years ago. It suggested that Mr. Grace look at the law.


Councilman Paganelli expressed concern that the unfinished items not constitute a safety issue.  If it’s a bush that’s missing, he said, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to open.


The board referred the issue to the Building Inspector and Planning Department for review.