Planning Board Minutes 08/03/04


A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, August 3, 2004 in the Municipal Building.

MEMBERS PRESENT:        Ann Gallelli, Chairman
Fran Allen
Ted Brumleve
Thomas Burniston
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.


American Building Technologies (Galena Feit) – Prospect Place and Old Post Road North (Sec. 67.20 Blk. 4 Lot 19) – Application for Preliminary Subdivision Approval for Hudson View Subdivision

Ronald Wegner of Cronin Engineering P.E., P.C., and Galena Feit, owner of the property, were present.

Chairman Gallelli stated that, since the last meeting, the Planning Board has received a copy of the Phase IB survey conducted by the Applicant’s consultant, Hartgen Archeological Associates, Inc.  Mr. Klein has been very helpful in reviewing this survey.  Also, the Planning Board has received a letter from Ralph Mastromonaco, P.E., P.C., in support of his client, Dan Maguire, who lives on 17 High Street.  Mr. Mastromonaco has raised issues in his letter about the flood plain on Ms. Feit’s property and about regulated soils on the property, which are addressed in the Village’s Wetlands Ordinance.  

The Village Engineer noted to the Board that he has not yet forwarded the Applicant’s archeological report to the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP).  He was waiting to hear Mr. Klein’s comments on the report.  

Mr. Klein referred to the Hartgen report and stated that, it seems clear to him, based on this report, that there are no archeological concerns on the property. However, the report itself should be revised.  There is some missing information, and there are numerous editorial problems.  He suggested that a revised report should be submitted as a condition of the Planning Board’s approval of this application.  Mr. Klein stated that if the Planning Board receives additional comments from the state, then these comments should also be incorporated in the conditions of the approval.  The Village Engineer asked Mr. Klein if the Hartgen report should, therefore, be sent to the state for review, to which Mr. Klein said that it should be.   

Mr. Wegner stated that there was an issue in Mr. Mastromonaco’s letter regarding the soils on the site.  In order to respond to Mr. Mastromonaco’s comments, the Applicant, Ms. Feit, asked her wetlands consultant to prepare a report addressing the soils. Mr. Wegner distributed to the Planning Board a letter from Stephen Gross of Hudson Highlands Environmental Consulting to Galena Feit dated July 30, 2004.  

Chairman Gallelli noted that Mr. Gross states in his letter that the wetlands delineation depicted on the current project plans is an accurate representation of the wetlands that he (Mr. Gross) flagged in the field in May 2002.  Chairman Gallelli asked if Mr. Gross’s letter addresses the conditions of the particular category of soils (Raynham soils) referred to in Mr. Mastromonaco’s letter. Mr. Wegner replied that Mr. Gross’s survey concludes that Raynham soils are only found within the delineated wetlands area(s). The remainder of the site consists of Charlton and Chatfield soils. Mr. Gross also states that the County soil survey is based on limited field investigation. He has conducted an on-site soil investigation, which supercedes the results of the County sample survey.  Furthermore, his soil tests confirm that the soils on the level portions of the property are deep and well drained.  

The Village Engineer asked Mr. Wegner if Mr. Gross had more information on the areas that were tested.  He wanted to know the specific locations of the test holes outside the wetlands buffer area(s).  Mr. Wegner stated that he would contact Mr. Gross to find out the exact location of the test holes.     

Ms. Allen wanted to know if the archeological shovel test results are consistent with the soil tests by Mr. Gross, to which Mr. Klein replied that the results are, generally, not inconsistent. The Munsell colors noted in the archeological report are all within 1 or 2 values of the Munsell numbers noted in the soil tests. Mr. Klein expressed some concern about the Munsell soil color identification.  It had been raining when the soil tests were performed, and Munsell testing should not be performed when the ground is wet.  He stated further that, although this could raise questions about the accuracy of the soil color recording,, he did not think there was any reason for concern.

Chairman Gallelli told the Applicant that the information on the test holes should be provided to the Village Engineer. The Village Engineer stated that he would like to see the SCS soil interpretation sheets; then, he would schedule a time to go out and observe the soil tests.

Stanislaw Kotowski of 55A High Street asked if it would be possible to shift the proposed house on Lot #3 an additional seven feet (further back) from his property.  He was pleased to see that the Applicant had shifted the house farther away than what was originally proposed, but he would appreciate it if the Board would consider shifting it an additional seven feet.  It would provide him and his wife with a better view from their window.  Chairman Gallelli stated that, at a previous meeting, the Planning Board considered Mr. Kotowski’s comments on the house location and, after some discussion, the Board felt that there were reasons not to shift the house back any further.  The Board decided that leaving the house where it was would protect the property even more.  Mr. Wegner noted that the driveway was also moved, which would protect the trees in this area.

Chairman Gallelli asked Mr. Wegner if there were issues that he would want to address or speak to with regard to Mr. Mastromonaco’s comments on the natural flood plain.  Mr. Wegner referred the Planning Board to the paragraph in the letter, in which Mr. Mastromonaco states that he has traced the recent flooding downstream to a change in the upland drainage system, which was initiated by the Village’s Highway Department.  The change involved a new catch basin that redirected storm water downstream.  The Village Engineer noted that Mr. Mastromonaco also mentions an old pipe along Old Post Road North that the DPW blocked or took away.  The Village Engineer stated that he has tried to find evidence of this old pipe but, so far, he has not found any evidence that such a pipe ever existed. The DPW did do work on a catch basin in this location.  The DPW replaced an old structure that was there.

Mr. Burniston expressed dismay that Mr. Mastromonaco, who is a professional engineer and an “expert in the field,” would make a claim about the existence of a pipe without the evidence to support his claim.  Mr. Klein thought that any evidence that he might have should be provided to the Planning Board in writing. Chairman Gallelli suggested that Mr. Mastromonaco should either explicitly uphold his position or back off from it altogether. If he upholds his position, he would have to provide the Planning Board with the evidence.

The Village Engineer noted that Mr. Mastromonaco’s contention is that that the natural flood plain on the Feit property is important in capturing and controlling potential floodwaters.  

Mr. Klein noted that, before the Planning Board could approve this subdivision proposal, the Planning Board would want to know how much the drainage downstream would be affected by the changes that would take place on the Feit property.

Mr. Wegner referred to the paragraph in Mr. Mastromonaco’s letter, which stated that the flood plain on the Feit property is particularly important in capturing and controlling storm water.  Mr. Wegner stated that the word “capturing” implies holding or detaining the water, however, according to Mr. Wegner, this would not be the case. For the most part, the excess water coming through the property would not be captured.  Mr. Wegner noted that there would be some infiltration.  He gave an example, which was based on the storm water modeling used in the Dvirka & Bartilucci study.  

Ms. Allen asked what Mr. Mastromonaco’s point was about ponding in that area of the Feit property, to which Mr. Wegner replied that Mr. Mastromonaco thinks that this “natural flood plain” area is important for capturing rain.   The whole area would act as a detention pond on this side of the property. Chairman Gallelli stated that, according to Mr. Mastromonaco, the detention pond being proposed is not sufficient to handle the water captured by the existing flood plain. Mr. Klein added that Mr. Mastromonaco is critical of the Dvirka & Bartilucci report because he believes they do not take the existing flood plain into account.    

Mr. Wegner explained that the Dvirka & Bartilucci study breaks the Village up into a number of drainage areas.  The Feit property is in one of these drainage basins.  Mr. Wegner stated that he thinks that this flood plain area is taken into account in Dvirka & Bartilucci’s computer analyses of the existing conditions.     

Chairman Gallelli suggested that the Planning Board should ask Mr. Mastromonaco to substantiate in writing the claims that he makes in his letter.  

The Village Engineer told the Board members that he has contacted Dvirka & Bartilucci regarding the flood plain issue.

Mr. Klein noted that Mr. Mastromonaco’s letter contradicts in part the storm water drainage study prepared by the Village’s consultants, Dvirka & Bartilucci.  This letter should therefore be sent to Dvirka & Bartilucci for their response.  

Mr. Burniston stated that he does not think the Planning Board should delay this application based on a letter that is unsubstantiated.  He suggested that the Planning Board should move ahead tonight with this application.  Chairman Gallelli noted that Mr. Mastromonaco would have to prove the claims he makes in his letter, or he would have to refute them. Either way, the Planning Board needs something in writing.

The Village Engineer stated that, in order to move forward, the Planning Board would need to know how Dvirka & Bartilucci modeled the detention pond area. He noted that Mr. Wegner made a point earlier in the meeting that the flat area (flood plain area) may be included in their modeling.  This would have to be confirmed. Chairman Gallelli expressed concern about the cost involved for Dvirka & Bartilucci to respond. The Village Engineer pointed out that no new modeling would be involved.  Dvirka & Bartilucci would just have to answer the question based on their previous analyses.  

The Village Engineer told the Board members that he would ask Mr. Mastromonaco to write a letter to the Planning Board, which would either substantiate or refute the claims he has made.

Chairman Gallelli noted that tonight’s meeting is a continuation of the public hearing on this application. The Planning Board is going to have to wait for the response from Dvirka & Bartilucci on the flood plain issue.  Chairman Gallelli noted that there is nothing outstanding on this application from the Water Control Commission.

Chairman Gallelli said that the Planning Board could either close the public hearing tonight or wait for Dvirka & Bartilucci’s response.  It was the consensus of the Planning Board to close the public hearing tonight.  Chairman Gallelli entertained a motion to close the public hearing.  The motion was made by Mr. Burniston, seconded by Mr. Brumleve and carried by a vote of 5 to 0.  

Chairman Gallelli stated that she would prepare a draft resolution for the Planning Board to review at the next meeting.  In the meantime, the Village Engineer would be in touch with Ralph Mastromonaco and Dvirka & Bartilucci on the drainage issue(s).  Mr. Klein noted that the archeological question should also be answered by that point.

Ms. Allen asked for an update on the situation involving an easement for access to the proposed detention pond.   The Village Engineer stated that the Village still needs permission from Mr. DeSantis to use his existing driveway. The Village would make a connection to the drainage structure on his property.  Ms. Allen noted that it would save the clearing of many trees on the Feit property, if Mr. DeSantis’ driveway could be used. She would hope that an agreement among all parties could be reached.  Chairman Gallelli noted that such an agreement could be mutually beneficial.      

The Planning Board scheduled the next meeting on this application for Tuesday, August 24th.


a)      Velardo Update by Chairman Gallelli (Non-agenda Item)

Chairman Gallelli stated that, before the Planning Board begins its discussion on the proposed zoning changes, she wanted to briefly discuss the Velardo Subdivision – Lot #3 application. The Planning Board has received the arborist’s report on the proposed mitigation plantings. Chairman Gallelli noted that Ms. Allen has sent her comments on the report to the Village’s environmental consultant, Bruce Donohue. One of Ms. Allen’s comments is that the significant trees being proposed should be diversified.  There are too many chestnut oak trees. Chairman Gallelli wanted to know if the other Planning Board members had any comments, to which there were none.  She noted that the Applicant for the Velardo Subdivision – Lot #3 would be appearing before the Water Control Commission on September 1st.  The Applicant would also be coming back before the Planning Board.

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

Chairman Gallelli referred the Board members to the zoning changes being proposed.  She stated that, as agreed upon at the last meeting, Mr. Brumleve would write the letter of recommendation to the Village Board.  

Chairman Gallelli summarized the substantive updates to the Village’s zoning code.  The Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals articles would be expanded and revised to comply with state regulations.  Architectural review authority would be delegated to the Planning Board.  A minor site plan review process would be established for new residential construction and major residential renovations.  Floor area ratio (FAR) standards would be implemented.  The FAR’s would vary by zoning district.  Chairman Gallelli noted that the FAR’s that are being proposed would allow most housing in these zoning districts to remain in conformance.  Chairman Gallelli stated that, in determining the FAR’s, the Comprehensive Plan committee members took into consideration the houses that people live in today (e.g., two bathrooms, great rooms, etc.).  Mr. Brumleve stated that he personally finds the proposed FAR’s to be generous.  

Chairman Gallelli suggested that the Planning Board could review the new regulations at tonight’s meeting and again on the meeting of the 24th.  A draft letter of recommendation could be prepared for review at the first Planning Board meeting in September.       

Mr. Brumleve stated that on page 4 in the Introduction,  “Board of Appeals” should be changed to “Zoning Board of Appeals.”  

Chairman Gallelli referred to the “existing small lots” section on page 40.  She stated that the missing information for the RB district should be filled in.  Also, the column on the far left should read, “For two-family residence in RB.”

The Village Engineer noted to the Board members that he is writing a letter to the Village Attorney regarding the small lot section of the code.  He thinks that rather than saying under the “lot width” column, “At least or more than,” the code should be modified to say “less than or equal to.”  He told the Board that this change would reduce the number of applications that would be required to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals.  Mr. Brumleve asked if the Village Engineer thought that these applications would be granted by the Zoning Board anyway and if so, that it would seem like a fair modification.  Mr. Klein said that he too would want to know, for a fact, that these applications would be granted.  He thought that, with respect to a change in the language of the law, the Zoning Board of Appeals should also have an opportunity to express their view.  The Village Engineer noted that the small lots provision affects the smaller (RA-5) lots the most. The proposed expansion/addition to the house is usually in the back yard, which is the only area big enough to handle it.      

Chairman Gallelli noted that major renovations would be subject to minor site plan review.  For example, if a homeowner wants to build an addition to a small house in the RA-5 district, and the completed structure amounts to 80% of FAR, then a site plan application would be required. Chairman Gallelli pointed out that the Village is putting controls (on residential construction) in place by requiring a minor site plan review in such circumstances. Mr. Klein wondered how the new FAR regulation(s) would affect people who want to move to Croton-on-Hudson.  He expressed concern about the affordability of houses in the Village.  The Village Engineer stated that the FAR’s could always be changed at a later date. Chairman Gallelli added that the object now is to have something in place in the code.

Mr. Brumleve reiterated that, in his view, the FAR’s being proposed are generous.

Chairman Gallelli thought that, in terms of the way space is used on a property, people today are less interested in having lawns and more interested in having larger houses.

Chairman Gallelli referred the Planning Board members to page 55 of the regulations entitled “Article XI: Site Plan Approval.”  The section on the requirement for minor site plan approval is brand new.  Chairman Gallelli suggested that the Planning Board should take a close look at this section.    

Ms. Allen referred to the “topographic data” section under “required submissions” (page 56).  She noted that the topographic data, which must be submitted, includes [the location of] single trees with a diameter of eight inches or more.  Ms. Allen noted that the “excavation and fill” chapter of the code refers to trees six inches in diameter.  She thought that, in order to be consistent throughout the code, the “topographic data” section should be changed from “eight inches” to “six inches.”  The other Board members agreed.

Mr. Brumleve thought that a steep slopes diagram should be required under “topographic data,” to which the others agreed.

Ms. Allen referred to the list of special permits on page 84 and stated that, in her view, a special permit application for excavation and fill should go before the Planning Board rather than the Zoning Board of Appeals.  The Village Engineer suggested that perhaps this matter could be raised separately as part of an environmental code update. At this point in time, the Planning Board is looking at the proposed changes to the zoning code.  He noted that the aforementioned environmental codes include excavation & fill, trees, the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regulations, steep slopes and wetlands & watercourse laws, etc.

Chairman Gallelli noted that all of the special permit applications, with the exception of two, have been granted (given) to the Village Board.  The two exceptions – commercial signage and excavation and fill – would remain under the jurisdiction of the Zoning Board of Appeals.  

Mr. Brumleve thought that the Planning Board should pay close attention to the section of Article XI, which discusses the Planning Board’s role in the architectural review process. Mr. Klein asked if it would be possible to incorporate some historic preservation requirements into this section. Mr. Brumleve thought that it would be possible. This section is to provide for the character and/or the enhancement of character of residential properties.  The Village Engineer asked Mr. Klein how the process would work, to which Mr. Klein thought that perhaps there could be an age requirement for houses.  Mr. Klein suggested that the historic houses in the Village should be more closely scrutinized with an emphasis on maintaining a continuity of materials, replacement in kind, etc.         
Mr. Brumleve asked what the VEB’s role would be in the minor site plan review process. Chairman Gallelli stated that the VEB would probably not be involved in a site plan review of residential properties.

Ms. Allen stated that, in recent years, she has been concerned with the height of houses in the Village and the fact that these houses are blocking the view(s) of the Hudson River.  She thinks that the code is not clear on how the height of a house is measured.  Ms. Allen referred to item C on page 13 under the definition of the term “height.” She pointed out that the term, “existing grade,” referred to in item C, is something that could change over time. It is not a set entity. She thought that this language should be more specific.  

Ms. Allen stated that, on page 11, the definition of the term “basement” is also unclear to her.  The Village Engineer explained to Ms. Allen that if more than half of the basement is out of the ground in the front of the house, then it is considered a “story.”  If it is more than 50% below grade (ground), then it is considered a “cellar.”  Mr. Brumleve noted that this definition of the term “basement” has been in the code since 1974.   Chairman Gallelli stated that the Comprehensive Plan Committee spent a great deal of time discussing cellars and basements and tried to come up with a better definition.  They were unsuccessful.  She noted that when the Village Engineer receives an application for a building permit, he determines whether the basement should be considered a “cellar” or a “story.”  

Mr. Brumleve referred to the definition of the term “height” on page 13.  He and Ms. Allen both thought that the word “existing” should be removed from the definition. It could be replaced by the word “native” or “original.”  The Village Engineer suggested that the Planning Board could ask the Village Attorney to look into this matter.  Ms. Allen noted that what mostly concerns her is that someone could change the point from which the height of the house is measured simply by adding fill and changing the grade.   Mr. Klein thought that maybe the height regulation(s) should refer to the existing surface of the lot.  He also suggested that a date could be chosen and a base line could be set to determine the existing grade.  Chairman Gallelli reiterated that it was extremely difficult for the Comprehensive Plan Committee to come up with a better definition for the term “height.”  She agreed wholeheartedly that the height issue is an important one.  

Ms. Allen referred to the definition of the term “frontage” on page 13.  She wanted to know what was meant by an “approved street,” to which Chairman Gallelli replied that an “approved street” is one which has been identified and approved by the Village Board.  If a street is not approved and the homeowner does not have 20 feet of frontage, then the homeowner has to seek a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.                 

Ms. Allen stated that, in the chapter on excavation and fill, there is no protection for significant trees.  A person could put in a maximum of four feet of fill on his/her property, and there would be no protection for the trees. Mr. Klein thought that this was a problem that should be rectified. The law should be changed.  The Village Engineer reiterated to the Board members that there has to be a coordinated review of all of the environmental chapters in the code.  These chapters need to “mesh” better than they do now. They are all interrelated.  Chairman Gallelli stated that the Village Engineer is going to write a letter to the Village Board suggesting that the Village’s environmental laws should be reviewed by a professional environmental consultant.  

Chairman Gallelli stated that the Planning Board would continue its discussion of the proposed zoning changes at the August 24th meeting.


There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was duly adjourned at 9:50 P.M.


Sylvia Mills,