VILLAGE OF CROTON ON HUDSON, NEW YORK
PLANNING BOARD MEETING MINUTES – TUESDAY, JANUARY 7, 2003:
A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, January 7, 2003 in the Municipal Building.
MEMBERS PRESENT: Ann Gallelli, Chair
ABSENT: Fran Allen
ALSO PRESENT: Daniel O’Connor, P.E., Village Engineer
Ken Pojman, Chair, VEB
Valerie Leis, Secretary, VEB
Douglas Wehrle, Member VEB
Kevin McManus, Member VEB
Joe Sperber, Assistant Building Inspector and
Liaison to the VEB
1. Call to Order:
The meeting was called to order at 8:00 P.M. by Chairman Gallelli who noted that several members of the Advisory Board on the Visual Environment (VEB) were also present at the meeting.
PUBLIC HEARING, CONTINUED:
Malom Development Corp. (Kieran Murray) – Croton Point Avenue (Sec. 79.13 Blk. 2 Lots 18, 19 & 20) – Application for Site Plan Approval
Chairman Gallelli stated that the Planning Board has received the Applicant’s letter dated January 2, 2003. In this letter, the Applicant, Kieran Murray, put forth to the Planning Board members his considerations for his proposal to move forward. Chairman Gallelli stated that the first issue that the Applicant needs to have resolved is the bonding issue. She noted that the bond required by the Village Board in its resolution of approval was for the following two stages: (1) construction and stabilization of the steep slopes and (2) completion of the outside of the building. Chairman Gallelli did not believe that two separate bonds would be required for these two stages.
Mr. Murray asked if he could draw up a hypothetical number of $300,000 for the cost of construction. The first $100,000 would be for the foundation and walls; the second $100,000 would be for the building stage (modular building); and the third and final $100,000 would be for the finished work. Mr. Murray stated that, given these numbers, he would imagine that the bond amount for the first $100,000 would be returned to him after completion of the first stage of construction, i.e., the excavation and slope stabilization.
Mr. Murray wanted to know which department/board in the Village approves a reduction in the bond amount, to which Chairman Gallelli stated that the Planning Board has to approve the bond reduction. Mr. Murray expressed concern about putting up the money for a bond. He would want to make sure that, after each stage of construction is completed, the reduction in the bond amount is approved in a timely fashion. He would need the capital to continue the project. Chairman Gallelli suggested that, in order to expedite the process, the Applicant could notify the Village Engineer one or two weeks prior to completion that the work for this stage is almost complete. The Village Engineer could begin the review process and report his findings to the Planning Board. If the Village Engineer is
satisfied with the work, the Planning Board could give the Village Engineer permission to reduce the amount of the bond.
Mr. Murray stated that he has been in contact with some bonding companies, and there does not seem to be much interest in writing up this bond.
Chairman Gallelli stated that she does not know if the Village is necessarily talking about a cash bond in this instance.
Mr. Murray expressed his concern again about his money being tied up. He stated that, if, during the construction project an unforeseen problem arises, he would want to have some contingency money.
Chairman Gallelli stated that the reason for asking for the bond is to ensure that the stages of construction are completed in a satisfactory manner. She added that it is ultimately up to the Village Engineer’s Office to say that a step/stage is satisfactorily completed. Once the Village Engineer gives a positive recommendation, she did not foresee any problem in approving the bond reduction.
Mr. Klein suggested that if, at some point, the Applicant is ready for the bond to be released and it is three or four days prior to a Planning Board meeting, perhaps, the Village Engineer and the Applicant could have a discussion with the Board members in advance of the meeting.
Mr. Brumleve suggested that, once the Village Engineer is satisfied with the work, he could e-mail the Board members. He stated that the fundamental issue is that this is an important site, and there is a history of problems with the slopes in this area. The Planning Board will want this project to move forward because this is a gateway area to the Village.
Chairman Gallelli told the Applicant that he and the Village Engineer need to write up the specifications of the bond.
Mr. Murray stated that the first stage is the excavation and slope stabilization. The second stage is the delivery of the modular building. He told the Planning Board members that the banks do not regard the exterior finish of the building as “any major milestone at all.”
Mr. Murray wanted to discuss further with the Planning Board the phases (stages) of construction. He reiterated that the second phase/stage is the delivery of the modular building.
Mr. Brumleve stated that, at the end of the second phase, the structure should be weather-tight and the utilities should be operable. Mr. Brumleve stated that the Planning Board will want the project to show continuous progress. The Planning Board will not want this project to remain incomplete for a long period of time.
Mr. Klein stated that the bond should be consistent with what it would take to complete the project. Mr. Murray thought that the excavation phase and the next phase of putting the modular in would represent more than two-thirds of the cost.
Mr. Murray reiterated that he could not find anyone interested in writing up the bond.
Chairman Gallelli stated that, with respect to this particular project, the Village’s interest is more in the aesthetics of the project than almost anything else. The area in question is a gateway area. The Village would want to have some assurance that the construction cost(s) would be covered, should, for whatever reason, the Applicant walk away from the project. Mr. Murray told the Planning Board that he understands the rationale behind the Village’s bonding requirement. He stated that, if the bonding process works the way it is being described tonight, then, he thinks he can “live with it.”
Chairman Gallelli told the Applicant that he needs to come back to the Planning Board with details of what is to be completed in each of the three stages. The Planning Board wants “definable ends” to each stage. She asked the Applicant to develop and put in writing the details of the bonding. The Planning Board will review the bonding document. Mr. Murray asked if the Planning Board could have the Village Attorney review the document, to which Chairman Gallelli stated that this could (would) be done.
Chairman Gallelli stated that the next issue relates to the construction notes on the plan and to the discussion that took place between the Village Engineer and the Applicant’s engineer, Ralph Mastromonaco. This discussion was the basis for the revised plan submitted for tonight’s meeting.
Mr. Murray referred to the Village Engineer’s latest memorandum to the Planning Board and stated that he is “shocked” to see so many remaining items. The Village Engineer assured Mr. Murray that some of the items in his memorandum are (simply) omissions. He stated that he thinks the Planning Board needs to discuss further his last item on page 1 pertaining to construction sequence notes.
Chairman Gallelli noted that she does not think that anything in the Village Engineer’s memorandum will affect the Applicant’s proposed landscaping plan.
Mr. Murray told the Planning Board that he intends to submit the Village Engineer’s latest memorandum to his engineer.
The Village Engineer reiterated that the Applicant’s construction sequencing needs to be further detailed.
The Village Engineer noted to the Planning Board that if the retaining wall(s) to the side of the building were drawn to scale, the parking spaces shown on the Applicant’s plan would be decreased.
Chairman Gallelli told the Applicant that the Planning Board will be looking for a revised version of the plan(s) based on the Village Engineer’s comments.
The Village Engineer stated that the Planning Board may want to see a fence on top of the wall. A fence is not shown on the Applicant’s plan(s).
Chairman Gallelli stated that the next item for discussion is the material for the façade. The Applicant has brought in samples.
Douglas Wehrle of the Advisory Board for the Visual Environment (VEB) was present. Mr. Wehrle asked if the Planning Board had had an opportunity to see the finish for the retaining wall, to which Mr. Murray stated that he has not yet hired a structural engineer to design the walls. He said that he will be in a better position to document these details for the walls after the engineer is hired.
Chairman Gallelli invited the VEB members present to come forward to look at Mr. Murray’s samples of materials for the façade. Mr. Murray showed the Planning Board and the VEB members examples of the vinyl siding being proposed. He noted that “these are not your standard vinyl strips of siding.” The mold is actually made from real cedar shakes. Mr. Murray stated that scalloping could be placed in some of the eaves. He showed everyone the shutter samples and stated that they come in two types, louvered or paneled. Mr. Murray showed the Planning Board and the VEB members a book of millwork.
Valerie Leis from the VEB wondered if it would be possible to do the detail work in wood, especially at ground level. Mr. Murray pointed out that wood is not only an expensive material but also a maintenance problem. Mr. Brumleve thought that Ms. Leis’ point about using wood for the detail work is a good one. He thought that it would be important in places that would be seen by the non-residential public. Mr. Brumleve further suggested that the jams could be made of wood to go with the vinyl siding, and there could be headers.
Mr. Murray said that he wants to obtain a general approval of the type of materials for the façade before he engages an architect to prepare the drawings.
Chairman Gallelli stated that, when the discussions on the façade first took place, the Planning Board talked about (insisted on) using only natural materials. The Applicant told the Board members that, if this were the case, he would have to eliminate for cost reasons the detail work (cutouts and shadows) of the building façade. Chairman Gallelli noted that what is now being proposed is a trade-off. The Planning Board feels that these architectural details for the facade are important overall.
Ms. Leis reiterated that one way to soften the “plastic feel” of the vinyl would be to use natural materials for the detail work. She thought that, perhaps, it would not cost that much more money and would make a big difference to the looks of the building.
Mr. Murray pointed to the millwork samples that he brought in and stated that, on the commercial space, he could do something over the windows with some of this millwork. He told those present that the major exterior material would be vinyl, but he could use something else for the windows and doors.
Chairman Gallelli noted that the Planning Board had concluded at a previous meeting that shutters would add to the overall look of the façade.
Mr. Murray stated that he does not have a preference of the color(s) to be used. He suggested that the Planning Board could specify the colors.
Chairman Gallelli asked if there would be windows on the side of the building, to which Mr. Murray stated that there would be.
Mr. Murray stated that there may be a chimney on one or both sides of the building. The chimneys would come out from the second story and go up.
The Village Engineer asked the Applicant if all of the materials being selected will be specified on the plans. Mr. Brumleve added that the Planning Board still needs a full architectural set of drawings with all these materials specified.
Chairman Gallelli suggested that the Applicant work with his architect on the colors to be used.
Chairman Gallelli referred to the Applicant’s landscaping plan and stated that, at a previous meeting, there was a discussion about putting in a berm. There is no berm being shown. The Village Engineer pointed out that a berm is indicated on the Applicant’s site plan.
Mr. Brumleve noted that, with respect to the fence to be installed on top of the retaining wall, the Applicant is going to have to break up the wall to allow the fence to be placed on the top in a logical fashion. Chairman Gallelli stated that the Applicant should make a note about specifying the type of fencing.
Ms. Leis noted to those present that, when this application was discussed at the VEB meeting, there was some talk about putting in landscaping in the front of the building. Mr. Murray told Ms. Leis that he spoke with his landscape architect about putting landscaping in the front. The landscape architect felt that, with the foot traffic in this area and the salting of the roads in the wintertime, nothing would grow there. Ms. Leis wondered if planters could be installed instead. She said about the planters that, “When you drive through the Village and see parking directly up to the buildings, it looks bad; but, if you have plants in planters, it’s a different feel.”
Mr. Klein wanted to know if it would be possible to reduce the height of the berm without lessening the parking area. Mr. Brumleve pointed to a 24’ area of the plan and stated that there could be 1?’ for landscaping in this area without losing any parking. Mr. Wehrle wondered what type of plants could be put there. Mr. Murray stated that he would ask his landscape architect. Mr. Wehrle suggested a yew hedgerow.
Mr. Brumleve stated that, in his view, the landscaping that has been chosen for the site is acceptable. He noted that there seems to be a seasonal theme in the plant materials. Mr. Wehrle stated that he did some research on red maple trees. A red maple has problems if used as a sidewalk tree; however, in these conditions it should not be a problem.
Ms. Leis noted that, at the VEB meeting, there was also a discussion about the possibility of putting in plantings along the retaining wall on the Exxon side of the property.
Mr. Wehrle expressed concern about the height of the retaining wall. The wall is proposed to be 16’ tall. He said that he wants the Applicant to think of ways to soften the look of the wall, i.e., perhaps, installing some type of hanging plant(s). The facing of the wall should also be taken into consideration. Mr. Murray stated that he will be hiring a structural engineer to look into these matters. Perhaps, his engineer can create two 8’ walls rather than one 16’ wall. The walls would be stepped. The Planning Board and VEB members all thought that this was a good idea.
Chairman Gallelli reminded Mr. Murray that he still needs to come before the Planning Board for final subdivision approval. He was granted a preliminary subdivision approval early on in the project. Chairman Gallelli stated that Mr. Murray will have to write a letter to the Planning Board requesting a time extension to complete his application for final subdivision approval.
Mr. Murray told the Board members that he would be in touch with the Planning Board Secretary to be placed on an upcoming meeting agenda once his revised set of plans has been completed.
Additional discussion was held regarding the potential of reducing the height of the westerly retaining wall by grading on the adjacent parcel. Mr. Murray was to check into this with his engineer and report back.
JOINT-DISCUSSION VEB/PLANNING BOARD:
The following members of the VEB were present: Ken Pojman, Chair; Valerie Leis, Secretary; Douglas Wehrle and Kevin McManus. Joe Sperber, liaison to the VEB from the Village Engineer’s Office, was also present.
Ms. Leis stated that one of the goals/expectations of the VEB is to be better aligned with the Planning Board. The VEB wants to make sure that “wires don’t get crossed” and that the two boards are moving in the same direction. Mr. Wehrle thought that the joint-participation between the two boards at this meeting tonight was a good first step.
Mr. Wehrle stated that the VEB is an advisory board and provides its advice/recommendations through written minutes. One of the questions that the VEB has is whether or not this communication is working. The VEB would like to know if the Planning Board is getting the information in a timely fashion and if the comments being provided make sense. Mr. Wehrle stated that he hopes the two boards can develop a better working relationship.
Mr. Klein stated that he oftentimes agrees with the comments being made in the VEB minutes. For example, the VEB’s comments on the Croton Autopark application paralleled his own feelings. The problem is that there is no way for the Planning Board to know what is behind the VEB’s recommendations. There is no overlap between the two boards; so, the Planning Board does not know the background behind the VEB’s discussions. Chairman Gallelli agreed and stated that there is a problem with sequencing that seriously interferes with the ability for the two boards to make meaningful comments to each other. Chairman Gallelli cited as an example of a sequencing problem the Kieran Murray site plan application. The plan that was presented by Mr. Murray in the beginning bears little
resemblance to that which is being presented now. Chairman Gallelli stated that she thinks it is unrealistic to ask the VEB to provide comments early on when the Applicant’s plan is still evolving. The question is when is it the right time for the VEB to become involved. Ms. Leis stated that she understands Chairman Gallelli’s point; however, there may be, in the early stages of the process, some suggestions that the VEB could (would) make.
Mr. Klein noted that the way the law is written the VEB’s functions are not well defined. He stated that, when he read the last set of VEB minutes, it almost sounded like a parallel Planning Board process.
Chairman Gallelli stated that she thinks it is somewhat confusing to the Applicant to go before both boards. The Applicant does not know which board he is answering to.
Mr. Wehrle stated that, to some extent, if the Applicant comes to the VEB “late in the game,” the Applicant can say to the VEB that he/she has already worked through this issue with the Planning Board. Mr. Wehrle noted that one of the items that was a “fait accompli” in the Kieran Murray application was the issue of ingress/egress. Another item was the matter about the edge of the retaining wall on the eastern property line. The VEB felt uncomfortable discussing these two items with the Applicant because the application was too far along.
Mr. Brumleve stated that, several months ago, he offered to act as a liaison between the two boards; but the meetings fall on the same night.
Mr. Brumleve stated that the two boards need to have a sequencing that is understandable so that the Applicant does not “get bounced around.”
Ms. Leis stated that, several months ago, the VEB reviewed the sign application for the veterinary clinic. The VEB suggested that the Applicant install foundation plantings in the area of the new sign. To date, nothing has been done. Mr. Brumleve stated that, in a case such as this, the VEB needs to have “some clear place for traction for (its) suggestions.” He stated that, if the VEB’s advisory capacity is to the Planning Board, the VEB needs to provide its comments in the form of a memorandum to the Planning Board.
Mr. Wehrle told the Planning Board that the VEB thinks that reviewing sign applications is an important part of the VEB’s responsibilities. The VEB is trying to come to terms with what its role is. Mr. Wehrle stated that the VEB thinks there should be additional attention paid to signage and sidewalks in the Village gateway districts.
Mr. Wehrle told the Planning Board members that the VEB looks at an application “from the public edge.” Ms. Leis added that the perspective of the VEB members is “what it (something) looks like.”
Chairman Gallelli stated that she would like to come to a plan that would achieve a better communication between the two boards on a basis that would be helpful to the Applicant.
Mr. Wehrle asked if the VEB should change the date of its meetings. Mr. Brumleve stated that, if the VEB were to change its meeting night, he would be able to act as a liaison. He added that he thought this could be a way of getting a dialogue working. Chairman Gallelli suggested that, in the same vein, a member of the VEB could attend the Planning Board meetings.
Mr. Wehrle stated that Joe Sperber’s presence at the VEB meetings is valuable. Mr. Sperber provides a connection with the Village Engineer’s Office, which is responsible for approving sign permits. Trustee Wiegman provides the connection with the Village Board of Trustees.
Chairman Gallelli stated that it might prove to be more difficult to change the Planning Board meeting dates. The meetings are locked in to the first and fourth Tuesdays of each month.
Mr. Brumleve pointed out to the VEB members that the Planning Board may see an Applicant’s plan a half a dozen times before the Applicant submits a formal application. He thought that it might be a good idea for an Applicant to go before the VEB sometime in the very early stages of the process. Mr. Klein stated that, once a formal site plan application is submitted, there could still be dialogue between the VEB and the Applicant; however, any recommendations at that early stage should go to the Planning Board.
Mr. Brumleve stated that, in a project of some magnitude where there are signs being proposed, it would be good for one of the VEB members to attend the Planning Board meeting(s) to hear the dialogue being spoken. This VEB member could report back to the VEB what he heard. Mr. Wehrle agreed that it would be a good idea to have an exchange going back and forth.
Mr. Wehrle suggested that the VEB could meet on the third week of the month, right between the two Planning Board meetings. Mr. Brumleve told the VEB members present that he thought he would be able to attend VEB meetings on the third Wednesday of each month.
Chairman Gallelli suggested that the VEB could go to the Village Board with a proposal to develop design guidelines for signage. Chairman Gallelli referred to the Planning Board’s letter to the Village Board in which the Planning Board specifically called upon the Village Board to support the VEB in developing such guidelines. A book of design guidelines for signs would be very useful to both the Planning Board and the VEB. Chairman Gallelli noted to the VEB members that these guidelines would be a benefit to the Village and would also establish a connection for the VEB with the Village Board of Trustees.
Ms. Leis stated that the VEB has discussed the possibility of developing these guidelines; however, it would be difficult, time-wise, for a board of volunteers to tackle such a project. Chairman Gallelli recalled that the Planning Board’s letter to the Village Board recommended that the Village Board provide financial support to the VEB for the development of these guidelines. This basically means that the VEB would use the monies available to hire a consultant. Ms. Leis stated that should such a book of guidelines be developed, it might mean alterations to the current signage law, to which Chairman Gallelli responded to Ms. Leis that the law would, then, have to be changed.
Mr. Wehrle asked if the VEB Chair has to make a request to be on the Village Board meeting agenda. Chairman Gallelli suggested that the VEB could look at the wording of the law (signage law). In the meantime, she would review the Planning Board’s letter to the Village Board on the subject of the VEB’s role in developing the design guidelines. She thought that the VEB should put forth their proposal in the form of a letter to the Village Board. The letter should say that the VEB is ready to move forward with this project and would like to know if the Village Board is willing to help by funding a consultant.
Ms. Leis had a question for the Planning Board about the signage law as it pertains to window signs. She said that storeowners in the Village are putting up neon signs in windows. She wondered if this is in compliance with the current signage law. Chairman Gallelli thought that putting up these signs in windows is in compliance with the law. She recalled that the law states that storeowners are allowed to use a maximum of 25% of their window space for signage. Mr. Klein suggested that, if the VEB has an issue with this aspect of the signage law, the VEB could present its case to the Village Board. The VEB could figure out what it thinks the change(s) in the law should be and, then, present its case. Chairman Gallelli stated that, perhaps, the VEB could come up with a way to address this
issue without closing all other options for storeowners.
Mr. Wehrle stated that he thinks the two boards have accomplished what they needed to accomplish tonight.
Chairman Gallelli thanked the VEB members for attending the joint-meeting and for suggesting that the two boards should meet.
The VEB made tentative plans to hold a meeting on Wednesday, January 15th. Mr. Brumleve said that he could attend the meeting on the 15th. Ms. Leis stated that she would contact Marianne Bosshart-Littman, the VEB member who was unable to attend tonight’s meeting, to see if she would be available for next Wednesday.
Chairman Gallelli stated that she attended a meeting recently with representatives of the Croton Medical Center. The Medical Center intends to make changes to its current plan, presently before the Planning Board, for the replacement of a retaining wall. The new plan will show only a few additional parking spaces.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
Approval of the minutes of November 12, 2002, November 26, 2002 and December 3, 2002, respectively, was deferred until the next Planning Board meeting.
There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was duly adjourned at 10:30 P.M.