Planning Board Minutes 07/27/04


A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, July 27, 2004 in the Municipal Building.

MEMBERS PRESENT:        Ann Gallelli, Chairman
Fran Allen
Ted Brumleve
Thomas Burniston
       ABSENT: Joel Klein

                 ALSO PRESENT:  Daniel O’Connor, P.E., Village Engineer

1.  Call to Order:

The meeting was called to order at 8:00 P.M. by Chairman Gallelli.


a)      Croton Housing Network, Inc. – 21 Mt. Airy Road (Sec. 67.20 Blk. 3 Lot 36) – Application for Amended Site Plan Approval for Mt. Airy Woods (Walk Extension/Patio Construction – Apartment 2A)

Nancy Shatzkin, President of the Croton Housing Network, and Stuart Markowitz of SMA Architecture Planning Interiors PC were present for this application.

Mr. Markowitz stated that one of the tenants at Mt. Airy Woods has become mobility-impaired and requires the use of a wheelchair.  The present walkway to the apartment is too steep to meet handicap accessibility requirements.  The purpose of this application would be to extend the concrete walkway in order to provide an accessible route to the apartment and to enlarge the entry landing to create an outdoor patio space for the tenant.  The patio construction would include a pergola and would allow for the option of a sun shade trellis.  Mr. Markowitz noted that this project would only affect a small area of the Mt. Airy Woods site.  The area in question is in the back of the building; it does not face the street.

Chairman Gallelli asked the Planning Board members if they had any comments on this application, to which there were none.

Chairman Gallelli asked if the changes being proposed would be called for in the other two apartment buildings of Mt. Airy Woods. Mr. Markowitz replied that there is presently a way for persons with disabilities to enter the other two buildings.  Ms. Shatzkin added that this particular unit in building #1 was the only unit that had steps.   

Chairman Gallelli stated that, in her view, this application is a straightforward application.  She suggested that the Planning Board could schedule a public hearing.  The public hearing could take place on Tuesday, August 24th.

Ms. Allen told the Applicant that she was pleased to be able to view a survey of the Mt. Airy Woods property, to which Mr. Markowitz noted that the subject survey is brand new.

The Planning Board scheduled the public hearing on this application for August 24th.

Chairman Gallelli asked Ms. Shatzkin when the Croton Housing Network’s “Symphony Knoll” application would be coming before the Planning Board. Ms. Shatzkin told Chairman Gallelli that it might be before the Board by the end of August. She noted that the environmental survey is almost complete.

b)      Referral from Village Board on Proposed Zoning Changes in Support of the Adopted Comprehensive Plan of 2003

Chairman Gallelli stated that there was a meeting held in early May among the various Village boards to discuss the Zoning Code Update Phase I Report.  This report is a compilation of many zoning changes recommended in the adopted (2003) Comprehensive Plan. At the May meeting, there were some changes suggested. The Planning Board members have received in their packets the (revised) version of the Phase I Report that incorporates these changes.   

Chairman Gallelli noted to the Board members the substantive updates to the code, which are being proposed.  They include:

Expanding the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals legislation to reflect New York State regulations
Adding architectural review authority to the Planning Board
Establishing a site plan review process for new residential construction and major residential renovations
Developing floor area ratio (FAR) standards for single-family and two-family residential districts

Chairman Gallelli stated that the Village Board has declared itself the Lead Agency for this project.  As part of the process, the Village Board is asking for a recommendation on the proposal from the Planning Board.

Chairman Gallelli noted to the other members that she is performing a dual role as Planning Board Chairman and Chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Committee.  She thought that it would be more appropriate for another member of the Planning Board to write the recommendation letter to the Village Board.  She asked Mr. Brumleve if he would write the letter, to which Mr. Brumleve said that he would.

Chairman Gallelli suggested that the Planning Board could accept the referral from the Village Board tonight and then begin its discussion next week.  She wanted to make sure that the Planning Board members would have the opportunity to thoroughly review the proposal before making its recommendation.      

Chairman Gallelli noted that this phase (Phase I) of the zoning revisions was deemed the most critical in bringing the Village Code up to date.  The Village’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals legislation was out of date in terms of the state legislation that governs these two boards. Chairman Gallelli noted that the Village’s recently adopted Comprehensive Plan suggests that the Planning Board should assume the function of architectural review.  Finally, a primary goal of the Village Board is to place some controls on individual residence sizes. The proposed updates would help the Village Board to meet this goal.  Chairman Gallelli stated that the next phase (Phase II) would be the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process for the proposed zoning change(s).  The last phase (Phase III) would include policy-oriented revisions to the Village Code.  

Ms. Allen wanted to know if there would be a forum for people with objections to express their views, to which Chairman Gallelli stated that the Village Board would be required to hold a public hearing on the proposed zoning changes.  

Mr. Brumleve referred to page 4 of the report and asked how the changes to the code which are now being proposed would affect the existing residential properties. Chairman Gallelli stated that existing properties would be “grandfathered” if they exceeded the proposed FAR for their zoning district.   

Chairman Gallelli noted that one of the substantive changes being proposed is the assigning of all special permit authority to the Village Board of Trustees. The two exceptions would be commercial signage and fill/excavation, which would stay with the Zoning Board of Appeals.  All of the special permits that were once the jurisdiction of the Planning Board would be assigned to the Village Board.
Mr. Brumleve wondered if the Planning Board should have a copy of the present Zoning Code to do a comparison study.  Chairman Gallelli thought that it might be useful for the Board members to have a copy of the Zoning Code.  The Village Engineer distributed copies of Chapter 230 to the Board members.  Ms. Allen said that she would also like to have a copy of the statute on excavation and fill.  The Village Engineer distributed to the Board copies of the excavation and fill chapter (Chapter 120).

Ms. Allen stated that, in her view, excavation and fill are part of the site plan process.  She did not think that a special permit for excavation and fill should go before the Zoning Board of Appeals.  It would be more appropriate for this application for a special permit to go before the Planning Board.  Mr. Burniston agreed and stated that this type of construction/site work is “part and parcel” of a site plan approval. Chairman Gallelli noted to the other members that not every excavation project that exceeds the limits of the law is part of a site plan.  Excavation and fill could be required for the construction of a retaining wall or patio.  In instances such as these, the project would not require site plan approval.  Mr. Burniston and Ms. Allen both thought that, if a special permit for excavation and fill were required, the application should come before the Planning Board rather than the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Chairman Gallelli suggested again that the discussion on the proposed zoning changes could be continued to the next meeting scheduled for August 3rd, to which the others agreed.


Discussion on Front Yard Fence Regulations, Continued
Chairman Gallelli stated that the Village Manager has asked that the Planning Board give an opinion about possible changes to the fence ordinance, particularly with respect to front yard fences.

Chairman Gallelli stated that, at the last meeting, the Planning Board had some thoughts on how to respond to the Village Manager’s request.  Perhaps, the Board members could expand on their ideas tonight.   

Chairman Gallelli noted that the current law does not specifically “call out” front yard fences.  

Mr. Brumleve noted that the current law states that a fence over six feet in height must be 25% transparent.  

Mr. Burniston thought that the main issue concerning front yard fences should be the safety issue.  A fence should not obstruct a person’s view when exiting from a driveway onto a main road.

Chairman Gallelli recalled from the last meeting that the Planning Board members thought that there might be two possible ways of approaching this discussion. The first would be to determine what constitutes a fence.  Could it be a hedgerow or a stone wall?  The second would be to decide what might be an acceptable (or permissible) reason to have a fence e.g., aesthetics, privacy, safety, etc.  

Chairman Gallelli stated that, at the last meeting, it was noted that the reasons for needing a fence might change with the owner of a piece of property.

Chairman Gallelli stated that Mr. Klein had previously commented that he felt that the Village’s concern for making a change in the ordinance was mostly an aesthetic concern.   

Ms. Allen asked if there would be a way of turning the question around so that instead of having a fence regulation that has to cover every possible circumstance or situation, the ordinance could (simply) address the line of sight issue.  For example, a fence would be considered illegal if it interferes with the line of sight.   Chairman Gallelli noted that the line of sight (sight distance) is already addressed in the code.

Mr. Brumleve noted that fences, which are not properly maintained, could become a hazard to people.  He gave as an example a fence in need of repair at the Croton-Harmon train station.  Mr. Brumleve thought that private property owners should be held responsible for the maintenance of their fences.

Chairman Gallelli suggested that a front yard fence could be defined in the ordinance as a fence, which runs parallel to the street line.  The code could then say that a property owner would need special permission to install a fence over four feet in height.  Mr. Brumleve suggested that the regulations could go one step further and say, “fences which run parallel to or are within fifty feet of the street right-of-way.”  

Mr. Burniston questioned why a new regulation on fences had to be created if the issues being raised by the Planning Board are covered in other parts of the code.

Chairman Gallelli said that she would not have a problem making it a requirement that the “good side” of a fence has to face a neighbor’s property.  

The Village Engineer referred the Board members to Sec. 230-40.E.1 of the fence regulations.  The way the code reads now, a person could install a chain-link fence, twelve feet in height, on a piece of property.  A solid wood fence of the same height would be illegal. The maximum height of a wood fence would be six feet. The reason for this “quirk” in the law is the “25% or less solid” requirement.  A twelve-foot high chain-link fence would meet the requirement but a wood fence would not. The Village Engineer expressed some concern over this ambiguity in the code.

Ms. Allen thought that perhaps some more consideration could be given in the code to the safety issue(s), to which Chairman Gallelli agreed.  

Mr. Brumleve suggested that the Planning Board’s letter to the Village Manager could say that the Planning Board discussed possible changes to the fence regulations at two board meetings.  The Planning Board members reviewed other town ordinances on fences and surveyed fences on some of the properties in the Village.  Besides the issue relating to public safety, the Planning Board does not find any need to change the ordinance.  

Chairman Gallelli suggested that the letter could also state that the Planning Board discussed the definition of “fence” i.e, what constitutes a fence and what constitutes a front yard fence.  

Chairman Gallelli noted that the present ordinance does not have any regulation about which side of the fence has to be facing the public.  She thought that the ordinance could be amended to say that front yard fences should be (installed) “as viewed from the public side of the yard.”

Chairman Gallelli asked how a fence in the front yard, which is perpendicular rather than parallel to the road, should be considered. Mr. Brumleve thought that such a fence should be considered a front yard fence.

Chairman Gallelli expressed concern that changes to the present ordinance might create “exceptional situations,” which would in turn create enforcement problems for the Village Engineer’s office.  

Ms. Allen did not see any need to change the ordinance except for the matter concerning the line of sight.  A fence that would affect a person’s line of sight should not be permitted.  

Mr. Burniston stated that it is his understanding that the only ambiguity in the ordinance is the matter concerning the “25% solid” requirement that the Village Engineer spoke of before.  He thought that perhaps the requirement should be removed from the ordinance.  Chairman Gallelli thought that whether or not a fence is 25% solid, a “six feet maximum” height would be a reasonable height requirement.

The Village Engineer noted to the Board members that a fence, which is more than six feet in height and more than 25% solid, would be considered an  “accessory structure,” and such a structure could not be put in a front yard.  

Ms. Allen wanted to know how many complaints the Village has received about fences.  

Chairman Gallelli wondered if it would be worth addressing the issue of whether or not a retaining wall constitutes a portion of a fence.  The Village Engineer suggested that the Board could raise the issue of how a height restriction would apply to fence/retaining wall combinations.

Mr. Burniston stated that he does not see any issues to be raised about fences except the three that were raised tonight i.e., the sight distance issue; the ambiguity in the law pertaining to the “25% solid” requirement; and the issue concerning the height of a fence/retaining wall combination.

Chairman Gallelli suggested that she could write a letter to the Village Manager, which would incorporate the Planning Board’s comments/ideas brought forth tonight.  The Planning Board could then review, and make changes to, this letter and the next meeting.


a)   The Village Engineer stated that, as part of the approval of the Hudson National Golf Course,   the Village required Hudson National to post a $250,000 bond to guarantee the completion of the plantings at the golf course.  The golf club is now asking for a bond reduction.  The Village Engineer stated that he asked the Village’s environmental consultant, Bruce Donohue, to look into this matter.  

The Village Engineer stated that Mr. Donohue responded to his request in a memorandum dated July 20, 2004.  According to Mr. Donohue, the outstanding plants are equal to 23% of all the plantings that were specified.  Mr. Donohue calculated the cost of the outstanding plantings to be $436,000.    

Chairman Gallelli recalled that in 2003, the Planning Board went on a site visit with Gregg Stanley to look at the overall vegetation plan.  There were areas where the plants had grown in.  The Planning Board asked Mr. Donohue to work out a plan that would take into consideration these areas of plant growth.  The objective was to see how, or if, the current planting plan could be modified to satisfy both the Village’s and the golf club’s objectives.  Chairman Gallelli stated that, to her knowledge, this modified planting plan has not been prepared.

Chairman Gallelli thought that, over the course of the last several years, the golf club has proceeded with the planting plan in good faith.  She suggested that the Village could reduce the bond amount.

The Village Engineer referred to the Planning Board’s resolution of approval for the golf course and noted that the resolution states that the Village will retain the amount of $50,000 plus interest to ensure that all the required replacement plantings have been completed.   

Mr. Burniston suggested that perhaps the golf club could have a copy of Mr. Donohue’s aforementioned memorandum and, based on Mr. Donohue’s calculations concerning the outstanding plantings, come up with a proposal for the bond reduction.  The Village Engineer told the Board members that he has already asked Mr. Donohue to try to calculate what the amount should be.  Chairman Gallelli thought that the reduction in the bond should be based on Mr. Donohue’s assessment(s) of the current status of the plantings.

Chairman Gallelli noted to the others that she and some members of the Village Staff met with representatives of the golf club last Thursday to discuss other issues including the golf club’s ‘practice hole’ proposal.  The two members of the golf club who are now “in charge” would like to come before the Planning Board regarding this proposal. These members expressed concern about Bruce Donohue’s suggestion to shift even further the location of the ‘practice hole.’  They sent Mr. Donohue’s proposal to Tom Fazio, the designer of the golf course, and Mr. Fazio told the golf club that he would object to this change.  The golf club would like to discuss this matter with the Planning Board.  Ms. Allen suggested that Mr. Donohue should attend the meeting.  She noted that his reason for shifting the ‘practice hole’ even further than what the Planning Board had requested had to do with reducing the height of the retaining wall.  She thought that it would be useful to have him present.  Chairman Gallelli noted that the golf club’s consultant, Brad Saunders, would also attend the meeting.

b)     The Village Engineer told the Board members that he has received a memorandum from Ralph Mastromonaco, P.E., P.C., dated July 27, 2004. Mr. Mastromonaco is representing Dan Maguire of 17 High Street in Mr. Maguire’s attempt to deal with his downstream drainage problems.   Mr. Mastromonaco raised issues in his letter regarding the Feit property. He does not believe that the retention basin being proposed on the Feit property would be sufficient. Also, Mr. Mastromonaco claims that there was an old pipe, which affected the downstream flow.  The Village Engineer stated that, according to Mr. Mastromonaco, the Feit property is in a natural flood plain, which is a controlled area under the Village’s wetlands ordinance.  Also, the soils on the site are shown on the SCS soils map to be Raynham soils, which are regulated under the Village’s wetlands ordinance.  The Village Engineer stated that he has already asked Ms. Feit’s engineering firm, Cronin Engineering, P.E., P.C., to look into the matter of the flood plain and soils.  He would pursue the matter of the drainage with the Village’s drainage consultants. Finally, he would call the Department of Public Works about the existence of the pipe.


The minutes of the Tuesday, June 22, 2004 Planning Board meeting were approved on a motion by Mr. Burniston, seconded by Ms. Allen and carried by a vote of 4 to 0.

The minutes of the Tuesday, July 6, 2004 Planning Board meeting were approved, as amended, on a motion by Ms. Allen, seconded by Mr. Brumleve and carried by a vote of 4 to 0.


There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was duly adjourned at 11:07 P.M.


Sylvia Mills,