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Planning Board Minutes 2006 01-24


A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 in the Municipal Building.

MEMBERS PRESENT:        Ann Gallelli, Chairman
                                Fran Allen
Vincent Andrews
Chris Kehoe
Robert Luntz
                ALSO PRESENT:   Vita Rhodes, WCC Member
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.


*    Arthur’s Home Improvement, Inc. (Ujlaki-Nagy, Arthur & Eva) – North Riverside Avenue (Sec. 67.19 Blk. 2 Lot 20.01) – Application for a Minor Site Plan Approval for a New One-Family Dwelling

Peter Helmes, Architect, and Arthur & Eva Nagy, owners of the property, were present.

Chairman Gallelli stated that the only topic before the Planning Board tonight is an application for a minor site plan approval for a one-family dwelling on North Riverside Avenue.  

Chairman Gallelli noted that this Applicant has also applied to the Water Control Commission (WCC) for a wetlands activity permit.  The standard procedure would normally be that an applicant would wait until the wetlands permit was granted before coming to the Planning Board.  In this case, it was thought that it would be a good idea to come before both boards simultaneously.  Chairman Gallelli explained the reason for coming before both boards.  There has been some overlapping of issues; it is difficult at times to separate the issues and to know “what belongs where.” Chairman Gallelli suggested to the Applicant that, tonight, they could go through their plans with the Planning Board in an attempt to clarify the issues.  Chairman Gallelli noted that Vita Rhodes from the WCC is present at the meeting tonight and will report back to the WCC the outcome of tonight’s discussion.

Chairman Gallelli noted to the Applicant that the Planning Board would not be making a decision tonight.  Before a decision can be made, the WCC has to approve the Nagy’s application for a wetlands activity permit.

Mr. Helmes stated that he has been retained by Arthur & Eva Nagy to design a single-family residence on a parcel of land on North Riverside Avenue.  The proposed house would be 3,000 square feet in size.  Mr. Helmes stated that, early on in the process, he suggested to the Nagy’s that they contact the NYSDOT with regard to the DOT drainage easement on the property.  The Nagy’s had to know what the parameters would be for building their new house with respect to this easement. The DOT responded to the Nagy’s that a house could not be built on the area of the property that contained the drainage easement.  The location for the house was, therefore, limited to the lower south section.  

Mr. Helmes pointed to the Applicant’s proposed site plan and stated that the red line on the plan designates the front yard setback.  

Mr. Helmes stated that the Village Engineer mailed him a copy of the DOT drainage easement, which was issued in 1978.  The easement is entitled “Permanent Easement for a Berm and Drainage Ditch.”  Mr. Helmes noted that the reason a wetlands permit is required is because the drainage ditch has water flowing in it throughout the year, which would mean that the 120-foot wetlands buffer would apply in this case.    

Mr. Helmes explained to the Planning Board the latest revisions to the Applicant’s plans.  Plan S-1 now shows the 120-foot wetlands control area.  Mr. Kehoe asked Mr. Helmes if, on the revised plan, the house has been relocated at all, to which Mr. Helmes replied that it has not been relocated.  Mr. Helmes told the Board members that the second revision, as shown on Plan S-2, indicates two additional drywells. The original plan showed two drywells for stormwater runoff; now, there are four.  Mr. Helmes stated that the original plan was based on a five-year storm event. At the WCC meeting, a member asked if the drywells conform to the Village Code requirements.  After further research, it was discovered that the Village uses a ten-year storm event for the basis of its design.  As a result, the drainage calculations had to be redone, and two drywells had to be added.  Mr. Helmes stated that another revision to the plan(s) is the inclusion of a small retaining wall at the parking court area.  The retaining wall would go from about 1 foot on each end to a maximum height of 7 feet.  Mr. Helmes said that the Applicant is proposing a stone masonry wall in earth tone colors to make it very attractive.  Mr. Helmes noted that these revisions to the Applicant’s plans are in answer to the drainage concerns expressed by members of the WCC.

Mr. Helmes stated that the Village Engineer has expressed concern about the DOT headwall becoming clogged and drainage overtopping the berm and flowing down to the area of the proposed house.  Mr. Helmes explained to the Board members that the drainage system has been designed in such a way as to force the runoff to follow the contours of the property and continue down to the corner of the property.   

Mr. Helmes said that the Applicant has chosen the proposed driveway location to access the parcel at a reasonable grade.    

The Village Engineer explained to the Board members the direction of the drainage flow. The water continues past Mrs. St. John’s house and the entrance to Wolf Road.  After the first house, there is a basin to catch the water. The flow of water then continues down to Route 9 and into a culvert.  Chairman Gallelli asked if anyone knows whether the DOT headwall has ever become clogged and, if so, what happened to the water, to which the Village Engineer replied that he (personally) has never seen it overflow. He said that there is no evidence of erosion of the berms, which one would expect to see if there was an overflow problem.  Chairman Gallelli asked Mr. Helmes how he would address this issue of overflow. Mr. Helmes said that, in the event that the headwall becomes clogged and water overflows the berm, the water would continue to flow where it currently does today.  He explained to the Board members that, at the edge of the driveway, a riprap swale has been created to catch the water.  The water would take a redirected route around the side of the house but then go back to where it flowed previously.      

Ms. Allen asked Mr. Helmes if, with respect to the drainage, he is guaranteeing that after all the excavation has taken place for the construction of the house, the exact same drainage situation would exist that exists today. Mr. Helmes replied that it would be a very similar situation.  Mr. Helmes pointed to a catch basin on the Applicant’s plans.  He stated that the driveway is pitched from the garage and goes back down so that the water would flow into this catch basin.  This catch basin would get the brunt of the overflow.  

Julia Horowitz of 2 Wolf Road was present.  Ms. Horowitz noted that the downstream drainage system also takes water off of Finney Farm Road and Riverside Avenue.  Chairman Gallelli stated that the issue to be addressed is how the construction of this house is going to affect the drainage system, which is functioning in this area now.  Ms. Allen noted that much of the drainage in this area has been changed by the development of the golf course and other (housing) development.  The drainage flow that is being observed now might be different from what would be observed ten years from now.  The drainage situation is in flux.  Chairman Gallelli noted that the subject property is downstream. She would think that the drainage situation to which Ms. Allen is referring would have more to do with future development taking place upstream.  

Chairman Gallelli said that she would still want to know how this project would affect the drainage that exists now.  

Ms. Allen stated that the area in question is one of the major drainage areas of the Village.  It is an area where the Village is trying to manage the water patterns.  She thought that much more research on the drainage issue would have to be done before this application could be approved.

Chairman Gallelli stated that, even though the house is within the 120-foot setback, it would appear that the house is outside the area where the water flows.  Mr. Kehoe noted that there might be problems with drainage for future owners of the house.  Mr. Luntz pointed out that if drainage is a problem, the owners of that (the Nagy) house are going to have the biggest problem.

Mr. Helmes noted that when he has had to represent applicants before a wetlands board in other communities, the projects are upstream from the wetland, and any water would be draining down into a wetlands area.  In this case, the wetlands are uphill from the subject property.  Mr. Helmes said, “Anything we do will have ‘zero’ affect on what’s happening up there.”

Ms. Rhodes noted that, during the last few years, the Village has spent a great deal of money for Dvirka & Bartilucci to perform an extensive storm water drainage study.  D&B has shown two watershed areas: High Street and Finney Farm.  Ms. Rhodes pointed to an area on the Applicant’s plan and stated that on a WCC site visit it was noted that this area of the property was very wet.  The question that the WCC raised was whether there might be another wetland condition coming from a different area.  Ms. Allen noted that there was fill dumped onto the property, which makes it difficult to know what the previous condition of the property was.  

The Village Engineer said that the DOT’s preliminary plans sent to the Village in 1978 show a pipe layout past Mrs. St. John’s property.  This would signify to him that there was a stream in this location.  The stream flowed downhill past Ms. Horowitz’s house.  Mr. Kehoe asked why the DOT wanted a berm and drainage easement in 1978, to which the Village Engineer replied that it probably had to do with complaints from local residents about the problems with drainage from state highways.  

Mr. Andrews said that the first question to ask is whether this proposal for a house would exacerbate any potential problem with drainage in this area.  Mr. Kehoe noted that the Planning Board would probably have to focus on this issue of drainage overflow when it reviews the Bell property proposal.  Mr. Helmes noted that, with respect to the future development of property upstream, the Planning Board could have the developer design a drainage system to mitigate any potential overflow.   He suggested a possible location for another berm.  Chairman Gallelli thought that the drainage problems, which are now being discussed, would have to be handled upstream from the Nagy property.

Chairman Gallelli said that, with respect to drainage, she would want to make sure that the construction of the new house would not make matters worse for the property downstream (the Horowitz property).

Ms. Allen noted that the Applicant would be starting construction from a topology of the site that has been artificially constructed and that is not natural.  It concerned her that the Applicant is proposing to “make changes to the changes.”  Ms. Allen referred to the previous illegal fill operation(s) on the property and said that, as a result of these changes to the site, no one now knows what is underneath the ground/surface.  Mr. Helmes pointed out to the Board members that the WCC has requested that, should anything of concern be encountered during the excavation phase, the Applicant would have to bring it to the attention of the WCC and the Village Engineer.  Chairman Gallelli noted that she was a member of the WCC when the first round of fill violations took place.  Mr. Demarro owned the lot at that time.  Chairman Gallelli pointed to the area where the illegal fill was placed and noted that the area in question is situated to the right of the proposed house.

Mr. Helmes said that he would consider the DOT drainage ditch a “self-created” ditch.  His clients’ (the Nagy’s) lot is a legal building lot and conforms to the Village’s zoning requirements.  The Nagy’s are keeping their proposed house away from the edge of the watercourse, and the proposed improvements are downstream from the wetlands.  Mr. Helmes said that, from an environmental standpoint, he does not see “how creating something down here is going to have an adverse affect on anything up there.”  Mr. Luntz said that, indeed, it would not have an affect, however, the building (construction) of this house could have an affect downstream, and that should be looked into.

The Village Engineer explained the history of Mr. Demarro’s fill violations.  He stated that in 2000, when Mr. Demarro received his last violation, it was not clear why he was bringing in fill.  The Village Engineer said that it might be that Mr. Demarro was trying to start the process of filling the whole lot in.  The Assistant Building Inspector at the time, Joseph Sperber, inspected the site.  Mr. Sperber recalled that the fill did not look like trash; it just looked like soil.  

Chairman Gallelli questioned what kind of information the Planning Board would need to have to help alleviate its concerns about any potential drainage impacts downstream.  She wanted to know if the Planning Board would need to have runoff calculations.  The Village Engineer said that he already has some calculations that he can review.  Mr. Luntz said that he would think that a review of these drainage calculations and a subsequent opinion from the Village Engineer would “go a long way.”

The Village Engineer said that the drywells being proposed are five feet deep and one foot below the surface.  If the ground water table is high or there is rock, there would be a loss of capacity in the bottom unit.  Mr. Helmes said that when the house is constructed, deep hole tests would be performed.  He suggested that they could be performed in this location.  Mr. Helmes suggested further that, if the Planning Board so chooses, they (the Applicant) could do the “perc” tests now rather than to wait for the construction, to which the Planning Board members all said that they would prefer that the tests be done now.  Mr. Luntz noted to Mr. Helmes that by doing the tests now, it would give the Planning Board the assurance that these calculations were based on reality rather than assumptions.

The Village Engineer said that if the Applicant were to build a retaining wall on the driveway side, they could have a wider drainage channel, to which Mr. Helmes said that he would be willing to do that.

Chairman Gallelli told the Applicant that, with respect to the next Planning Board meeting on this application, the Applicant could either wait to find out the results of the (next) WCC meeting or continue to come before both boards simultaneously.  Chairman Gallelli noted that Ms. Rhodes is here tonight and will be reporting on tonight’s discussion to the WCC.  Ms. Rhodes said that the “perc” and deep hole tests would give the WCC some assurance about the drainage issue(s).       

Chairman Gallelli told Mr. Helmes that any changes/additions to the Applicant’s plans or calculations should be provided to both boards (WCC and Planning Board).    

Mr. Helmes reviewed the information and materials requested for the next meeting.  Among other items, deep hole and “perc” test results should be provided to confirm the adequacy of the design for a ten-year storm event.  Mr. Helmes said that, if need be, the drainage system on the site would be relocated.

The Village Engineer told Mr. Helmes that it would be helpful if he could provide a clean, existing contour drawing with the flow(s) marked with arrows.  Mr. Helmes suggested that they could take the original topography map and put flow arrows on it.  Plan S-1 is the survey.  If the Planning Board would want to see a clean copy of the survey, he would have no problem providing that.

Ms. Allen asked if there would be any way of obtaining existing water flows.  The Village Engineer said that the problem is (again) that this is upstream.  Some of the basins were not studied in detail.  The boundaries may have errors in them the closer one gets to the Hudson River.  He reiterated that some of the boundaries might be off a little.  Ms. Allen said that she would want to make sure that the gate house downstream would not be imperiled in any way.  The Village Engineer said that nothing down here (at the Nagy property) is going to change what is going into that watershed. The property is completely out of that (watershed) area.

Ms. Allen questioned if the Planning Board would also need to be assured how deep the soil is.  There might be an underground stream on the property.  The Village Engineer said that the deep hole tests would provide this information i.e., soil depth, the existence of any streams, rock, etc. Mr. Helmes said that they could also do deep hole tests in the center of the foundation area if the Planning Board would like this done, to which Ms. Allen said, “Yes.”

Chairman Gallelli told the Applicant that the Planning Board would also like, tonight, to look at the proposal for the house itself, the elevation(s), the appearance from the street, etc.

Mr. Helmes referred the Board members to the plan showing the elevation of the house from the street.   He said that the house is lower than the street.  The porch would be two feet lower.

Chairman Gallelli said that she does not have a sense of how this house would relate to the Victorian house that is situated south of it.  She asked Mr. Helmes if he could produce a rendering that would superimpose the outline of the proposed house on a picture taken of the brick house to see how high the new (proposed) house would be.   Ms. Allen said that the Planning Board would want to see how the new house fits into the character of the neighborhood.  Mr. Helmes said this his firm takes pride in making sure that a house would fit into the existing neighborhood.  Chairman Gallelli said that, with respect to fitting in, the Planning Board is looking at the mass and bulk of the house.  She would like to see a drawing that shows the actual distance and location of the Nagy house from the houses surrounding it on Cook Lane

Chairman Gallelli said that she would like to see how the proposed house is going to fit (be situated) on the site from the perspective of a person driving by and looking at it.  

Ms. Allen said that the height of the house (really) needs to be determined from some specific reference point.  The Village Engineer stated that the average grade line has to be determined.  There is an existing average. The Village Engineer explained to Mr. Helmes how to make a determination on the 35-foot height requirement for a house, based on the average grade line.  Ms. Allen stated that, in terms of visibility, the Planning Board would need to see the highest point to the ridgeline from various points.  Ms. Rhodes suggested that the Applicant could do balloon testing.

Mr. Helmes noted to the Board members the cost involved to the Applicant to do the renderings being requested.  Chairman Gallelli told Mr. Helmes that the Planning Board is not asking that these renderings be produced right now.  She reminded the Applicant that the WCC has to approve the wetlands activity permit before the Planning Board can make a decision on this application.

Chairman Gallelli wanted to know what the view of the new house would be from the back yard of the neighboring house(s) on Cook Lane, to which Mr. Helmes said that someone standing in the back yard would be looking down upon the roof of the new (Nagy) house.

Chairman Gallelli said that it would appear that much of the subject property is under a DOT easement.  There would not be much yard space.  She questioned what the prospective homeowners could do in their yard. Mr. Helmes told the Planning Board members what the DOT told the Nagy’s i.e., that there could be no construction of a driveway or house in that area.  He thought that the easement area could be used for recreation (ball games, croquet, etc.).  Mr. Helmes said that the DOT has given its permission to install the curb cuts, so it would appear that the DOT is satisfied with the proposed plans.  Chairman Gallelli asked if the DOT imposed any restrictions on the plans, to which Mr. Helmes said that he does not know of any.

Mr. Luntz asked if the house is being built as a “spec” house, to which Mrs. Nagy said, “No, the house is for us.”

The Village Engineer said that there was some confusion about whether or not an easement exists in the other lot (the Horowitz lot) but it would appear that it does not.  He told Mr. Helmes that the reference to this easement should be taken off of the Applicant’s plan.  The Village Engineer explained that he is referring to the easement over the Horowitz property when the original subdivision was proposed, but it would appear that it was never dedicated.    

Chairman Gallelli told the Applicant to contact the Village Engineer’s office when they are ready to be put back on the Planning Board’s agenda.


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


Sylvia Mills,