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Planning Board Minutes 2006 02-28



A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 in the Municipal Building.

MEMBERS PRESENT:                Ann Gallelli, Chairman
Fran Allen
Vincent Andrews
Chris Kehoe

 MEMBERS ABSENT:               Robert Luntz
                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.


-  Rakis Inc. (Peter Tsagarakis) – 215 South Riverside Avenue (Sec. 79.09 Blk. 1 Lot 54) – Application for an Amended Site Plan for the Croton Colonial Diner

Ed Gemmola of Gemmola & McWilliams, Architects, was present to represent the Applicant.

Chairman Gallelli stated that Mr. Gemmola is before the Board tonight with revisions to the Applicant’s plan(s) based on the comments made by the Planning Board at the last meeting, attended by the Applicant’s attorney, Gerald Klein.

Mr. Gemmola stated that the steep slopes issue has been addressed.  The retaining wall has been pulled back closer to Bungalow Road.  The calculations will show that they are now under the 10% threshold.

Chairman Gallelli noted to Mr. Gemmola that the Applicant’s plan does not show what the disturbance would be to build (to accomplish the building of) the retaining wall. The steep slopes calculations would have to include any additional disturbance due to the type of wall construction.  Mr. Gemmola told the Board members that he could supply a detail (sheet) of the wall for the Village Engineer and calculate what the additional disturbance would be.

Mr. Gemmola described for the Planning Board how the wall would be constructed.  They would take into consideration the type of soil.  They would use sheet piling to support the existing wall during excavation. The sheet piling would prevent the slope from caving in.  Ms. Allen asked if the sheet piling would be driven in behind the wall, to which Mr. Gemmola replied that the face of the sheet piling would be the back face of the new retaining wall. Mr. Gemmola stated that they would either do the sheet piling with a pile driver or they would do “H” pilings in sections.  If they use the latter method, heavy timbers would be slid between the “H” pilings for support.  

Mr. Gemmola said that whether they use sheet pilings or the “H” piling method, the limits of disturbance for the steep slopes would still be under the 10% threshold.

Mr. Gemmola referred to the Applicant’s proposed landscaping plan. He said that the landscaped areas are not terraced.  The plantings would basically be placed on the top of the new retaining wall.

Mr. Kehoe wanted to know whom the Planning Board would rely on to verify the Applicant’s suggestions for the types of plants to be used.  Chairman Gallelli stated that, in her view, the Planning Board should have a professional consultant (an arborist) review the Applicant’s proposed landscaping plan. Chairman Gallelli stated that she visited the site today and looked at the existing plantings. She noticed that some of the trees on the hillside are undermined in terms of their root systems being exposed. She reiterated that the upper reaches of the steepest section of the hillside is very eroded with many trees having their root systems exposed. Mr. Gemmola said that, for the most part, the existing trees on the hillside are far behind the wall.  Chairman Gallelli said that it would be her guess that the trees are in a precarious condition. The Planning Board would want to have an arborist look into the matter of the plantings/trees.  Chairman Gallelli said that she would think that remediation of the trees would be required.  Furthermore, it would probably not be desirable to have the landscaping work on the hillside done by machine.  It would probably have to be done by hand.  

The Village Engineer stated that the trees that are undermined are really at the high point of the hill.  The Applicant is proposing to build a retaining wall to stabilize the hillside but, even so, some of the existing trees are probably going to have to come down.  It would be better to take down these trees and select trees/plantings to replace them that would do well on the hillside.  The Village Engineer said that, for stabilization purposes, it might even be necessary to put down some erosion control fabric.

Ms. Allen recalled that at a previous meeting there was a suggestion to use terracing as a way of stabilizing the slope, to which the Village Engineer said that if terracing were used, the disturbance to the steep slopes would be more than 10%.  The Village Engineer stressed the importance, from an environmental standpoint, of finding a long-term solution for the slope (a solution that would last).  Chairman Gallelli noted that, because the hillside and retaining wall are a very visible part of the diner property, the long-term solution for the landscaping of the hillside should be an attractive one.

The Village Engineer requested that the Applicant should provide some additional screening of the commercial parking lot from the homes on Hudson Street.

Chairman Gallelli noted that the Village Engineer met with the Applicant’s attorney, Gerald Klein, and reviewed the issues still pending with the ZBA and WCC.  The Applicant must seek a Special Permit from the ZBA to allow parking in a RA-5 residential zoning district.  Another possible zoning issue relates to the proposed entrance to the parking lot off of Bungalow Road.  The Applicant might have to seek a variance from Sec. 230-49 of the Village Code, should it be determined that this entrance constitutes a “driveway.” The Village Engineer told the Board members that Sec. 230-49 of the Village Code states:  “No driveway shall provide access to a lot located in another district, which lot is used for any use prohibited in the district in which such driveway is located.” The Village Engineer noted that the proposed entrance off of Bungalow Road is located in a RA-5 residential district whereas the parking lot area next to the diner, to which the “driveway” would provide access, is in the less restrictive commercial (C-2) district.         

The Village Engineer stated that he has asked Mr. Klein to prepare a letter regarding this matter of the driveway.  The Village Engineer would submit Mr. Klein’s letter to the Village Attorney.  The Village Attorney would make a decision as to what constitutes a “driveway,” and should a variance be required, the Village Attorney would make a determination as to the type of variance (use or area). The Village Engineer noted that, if a use variance were required, he would suggest to the Applicant that they relocate the entranceway to the C-2 portion of the property.

Chairman Gallelli noted that, at the last meeting, there was an issue raised concerning the rear yard.  The Village Engineer has done some research on this subject.  Chairman Gallelli said that it is her understanding that this issue has been resolved.  The Village Engineer stated that the lot in question is a corner lot with three front yards. The property owner can choose which yard is the rear yard.  The remaining yards are considered side yards.  Chairman Gallelli said that the need for the Applicant to go before the ZBA for an interpretation on the rear yard has been eliminated now that the property owner can select which yard is the rear yard.  Mr. Kehoe said that the end result is that the Applicant does not need any area variances for setbacks, to which the Village Engineer said that this is, indeed, the case.

Mr. Gemmola noted that there is a pre-existing front yard at the diner property that does not meet the present zoning requirements.  The Village Engineer explained to the Board members that when the diner was built, it was in the C-1 zoning district. The zoning has since changed to C-2. There is no setback requirement for a front yard in the C-1 district; however, there is a requirement for a front yard setback in C-2.  Mr. Gemmola told the Board members that the existing steps at the front entrance probably do not meet the zoning requirements; however, the steps are going to be removed during the renovation project.  The Village Engineer asked Mr. Gemmola if the Applicant is planning to increase the footprint in that area, to which Mr. Gemmola said, “No.”

Chairman Gallelli stated that the Applicant is going to have to address the issue regarding the entrance (driveway) off of Bungalow Road. Mr. Gemmola asked if the Applicant should be preparing an application for the ZBA, to which Chairman Gallelli said that the Applicant’s attorney, Mr. Klein, should write a letter on the subject of the proposed driveway for the Village Attorney to review. The Village Attorney would make a determination on how the term “driveway” should be interpreted and whether a variance (use or area) is required.

Ms. Allen said that she had a concern about the merged lots belonging to Mr. Tsagarakis, which comprise the parking area going from South Riverside Avenue to the break in the parking lot.  The lot now known as Lot #53 used to be comprised of two lots.  There are actually three lots on the Tsagarakis property, which are in the C-2 zoning district.  Ms. Allen said that it is her understanding that lots in a C-2 district in an area, which is basically residential, could only be one lot deep; it would seem that this is not the case here (on the Tsagarakis property). The Village Engineer noted that, several years ago, there was a change in zoning from C-1 to C-2.  He suggested that he could do some research on the zoning change that occurred.  The Village Engineer said that there are actually two tax map lots on the Applicant’s property in the C-2 zoning district, Lots #53 and #54.  These two lots would probably be combined into a single lot for tax billing purposes.  The Village Engineer noted that the assessor could make this change unilaterally with this (the Planning Board’s) review.  He could suggest that the assessor call the NYS Office of Property Services.  Ms. Allen reiterated that Lot #53 used to be comprised of two lots.  The new Lot #53 is in the C-2 zoning district. Ms. Allen thought that the issues, which she mentioned before, regarding the merging of lots and commercial zoning in a basically residential area, still need to be addressed.      

Chairman Gallelli pointed out to Mr. Gemmola the intrusion into the wetlands of a portion of the Applicant’s property. She stated that there is an “overlap” in the diner parking lot with the wetlands minimum disturbance area.  The Village Engineer stated that a small portion of the diner parking lot is within the buffer zone. He told Mr. Gemmola that the 120-foot wetlands buffer should be shown on the Applicant’s plan(s).  

Mr. Kehoe wanted to know what the system of catch basins is (would be).  The Village Engineer told Mr. Gemmola that he should probably also show the connectivity of the catch basins on the site.  

Chairman Gallelli said that, normally, the procedure for an Applicant would be to go to the ZBA before coming to the Planning Board.  She suggested that, in this particular case, the Applicant should work with the Planning Board first to produce a viable plan that could then be presented to the ZBA. Chairman Gallelli explained to Mr. Gemmola that when the ZBA grants a variance, the ZBA bases the granting of the variance on the plan that was presented at the ZBA hearing.  If the Planning Board were to subsequently ask for changes to this plan, then, the Applicant would have to go back to the ZBA for approval of the “new” revised plan.  Chairman Gallelli stated that the Planning Board would want to avoid the Applicant’s having to go back and forth between the two boards; this could hopefully be accomplished by continuing to work with the Planning Board.  

Chairman Gallelli suggested that prior to going before the ZBA, the Applicant should come back to the Planning Board with a plan showing how the retaining wall would be constructed.  The Village Engineer told Mr. Gemmola that the Planning Board would need to know the status and/or condition of the existing wall.  Sheet piling might have to go behind the existing footing(s).  The construction of the wall might have to be segmented.  Different procedures might have to be followed for different sections of the wall.  Chairman Gallelli stated that the Planning Board would want to know, step by step, how the wall would be constructed. Chairman Gallelli noted that whatever the process for building the wall, there should be no gaps in the construction (process) that would cause failure of the existing slope.

Chairman Gallelli noted that the retaining wall is a major feature of the property.  The Planning Board is going to be interested in the visual appearance of the wall as well as the landscaped area(s) above.

The Village Engineer wondered if there had been any thought of putting trees along the sidewalk on Bungalow Road.  He asked Mr. Gemmola if trees would be in planter islands in the parking lot, to which Mr. Gemmola said that they would be.

Ms. Allen said that she would be interested in having an arborist look at the Applicant’s entire planting plan.  Chairman Gallelli suggested that the Planning Board could provide names of arborists for the Applicant to choose from.  The Village Engineer stated that the Planning Board would need to see a report, prepared by a professional, on the slope, the existing trees and the proposed landscaping plan.  The Village Engineer noted that a landscape architect should be involved with the landscaping plan and a professional arborist with the trees.  Chairman Gallelli said that the Applicant should consult an arborist for the trees on the hillside.  The Applicant should be responsible for choosing an arborist and for submitting his/her credentials to the Planning Board.  Chairman Gallelli stated that the issue of the exposed trees on the hillside should be addressed.  The Planning Board would want to know if the trees could be saved or if they would have to be removed and, should they have to be removed what their replacements would be.   Ms. Allen said that she, personally, is uncomfortable with the proposal to put two dogwood trees on the top of the retaining wall.  It did not strike her as being adequate. Mr. Kehoe said that he would assume that an arborist could have an opinion on plantings, to which Chairman Gallelli said that, if not, then a landscape architect should be consulted.  The professional consultant should comment on the Applicant’s landscaping plan and make a recommendation.  Mr. Gemmola told the Planning Board that if they had any suggestions of names of consultants to please let him know.

Chairman Gallelli raised the issue of the houses on Hudson Street belonging to the Applicant, which are in disrepair.  Mr. Gemmola told the Board members that he has made Mr. Tsagarakis aware of the Planning Board’s concern about the houses, and Mr. Tsagarakis is supposed to let him know what he intends to do.  Chairman Gallelli noted that the rundown condition of these houses on Hudson Street has been, and continues to be, a “sore spot” with the neighbors. The Planning Board would want the Applicant to move forward with a proposal to resolve this matter.  Chairman Gallelli thought that such a proposal should go hand in hand with this application to renovate the diner.  Mr. Andrews recalled that at a previous meeting on this application it was suggested that one of the houses would be demolished and the other would be renovated and that there would be a timetable for doing the work.   

The Village Engineer stated that the owner of the diner, Mr. Tsagarakis, has a grease dumpster behind the first house off of Hudson Street, and this dumpster needs to be shown on the site plan. The Village Engineer said that he thinks the DPW picks up the trash from the diner.  The Applicant might want to have some type of gate along Hudson Street that could be opened.  Michael Calcutti of 10 Hudson Street said that the diner uses a private carting service for picking up trash.

Mr. Gemmola said that, as far as the proposed lighting is concerned, they could provide a photometric plan to show where the light hits the ground.  

Mr. Gemmola stated that, hopefully, by the end of March, he would have the proposed plan for the retaining wall.  In the interim, the Applicant’s attorney, Gerald Klein, could work out the ZBA issues.  

Chairman Gallelli told Mr. Gemmola that the Applicant should take a look at whatever they could do to maximize the aesthetics on the Hudson Street side of the property.

Mark Lewis of 9 Hudson Street asked how high the retaining wall would be, to which Mr. Gemmola said about 5 feet high at the lowest point and 12 feet high at the corner.  Mr. Lewis asked where the drainage behind the wall would go.  The Village Engineer stated that the current wall has weep holes for drainage.  The area is all sand.  He (the Village Engineer) did not see where there would be a continuous type of water flow from the wall.

Mr. Gemmola told the Board members that he would try to be back before the Planning Board for the second meeting in March (March 28th).


-    Chairman Gallelli noted that the Planning Board members have received documentation on upcoming seminars from the Land Use Training Institute.  She thought that the first, third and fourth sessions would be particularly useful.  She told the Board members that, should they decide to attend the seminar(s), they should let the Planning Board secretary know by the end of the week.  Chairman Gallelli noted that the State of New York is about to pass legislation requiring training for all new zoning and planning board members.  She thinks that the Land Use Training Institute has done a good job in revamping the scheduling of their seminars.

-    Chairman Gallelli stated that the next meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, March 14th.  She expects that Symphony Knoll would be back before the Planning Board on the 14th.


The minutes of the Tuesday, January 10, 2006 Planning Board meeting were approved, as amended, on a motion by Mr. Andrews, seconded by Mr. Kehoe and carried by a vote of 3 to 0. Ms. Allen abstained.

The minutes of the Tuesday, February 14, 2006 Planning Board meeting were approved, as amended, on a motion by Mr. Kehoe, seconded by Mr. Andrews and carried by a vote of 3 to 0. Ms. Allen abstained.


There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was duly adjourned at 9:37 P.M.


Sylvia Mills,