Planning Board Minutes 09/11/07


A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, September 11, 2007 in the Municipal Building.

MEMBERS PRESENT:                Chris Kehoe, Chairman
                                Fran Allen
Vincent Andrews
                                Robert Luntz
Deven Sharma
                ALSO PRESENT:           Ann Gallelli, Liaison from the Village Board
Daniel O’Connor, P.E., Village Engineer

1.  Call to Order:

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


*    Lakomata Realty – 2-12 Maple Street (Sec. 79.09 Blk. 1 Lot 66) Application for a Change of Use Approval from a Computer Repair/Retail Store to a Day Care Center for Dogs

Kathleen Huffman, prospective owner of the new day care center for dogs, was present.

Ms. Huffman told the board members that day care centers for dogs are a growing business in the United States.  Pet owners do not want to leave their pets at home while they are at work.  Her customers would drop their dogs off in the morning and pick them up after work.  She proposes to be open from 6:30 A.M. to 6:30 P.M.  Her center would provide activities for the dogs during the day to keep them entertained.  Ms. Huffman pointed out that in many ways a day center for dogs is just like child day care.  

Chairman Kehoe noted that, according to the Applicant’s memorandum to the Planning Board dated September 6, 2007, the number of dogs anticipated at the center would be 10 to 15 dogs, to which Ms. Huffman said that this is, indeed, the case.  She pointed out to the board members that this number of dogs (10 to 15) is a good number to handle.  Ms. Huffman said that the square footage of the facility is 2,300 square feet (1,150 sq. ft. on the main floor and 1,150 sq. ft. in the basement).

Chairman Kehoe said that a waiting area is being shown on the proposed floor plan.  Ms. Huffman said that there would be a waiting area at the front entrance for dogs arriving or leaving her facility.  Her customers would not have access to this waiting area.  She would be the one to bring the dogs back into the waiting area.

Chairman Kehoe asked if there would be two spaces (rooms) on the first level of the facility, to which Ms. Huffman said that there would be.  She noted that the rooms on the first floor used to be used as offices.  She would make one of the rooms into a “nursery” for the younger dogs and the other room would be a “senior center” for the older dogs.           

Ms. Huffman said that, prior to admittance into the day care center, she would screen the dogs to make sure that they were not aggressive.  If they were to show any type of behavioral problem, they would not be admitted into the center.

Ms. Huffman explained the sanitary measures that would be taken at the center for the disposal of dog waste.  There would be an enclosed area inside for the smaller dogs in which disposable pads would be used.  The larger dogs would be walked outside to the rear of the facility once a day.  Any dog waste would be picked up and placed in a covered and double-bagged trash can. Ms. Huffman said that the dog waste could be disposed of off-site or, in the alternative, she could have a waste disposal company come every night to pick it up.

Chairman Kehoe questioned how the Village’s Zoning Code would classify this type of business.  He suggested that perhaps, it could be classified as a “kennel.”  Ms. Huffman said that she would think that, rather than a “kennel,” it should be classified as a “grooming shop.”  The dogs staying at her day care center would be leaving her facility by 6:30 P.M. every night.  A dog kennel is an overnight facility.  Chairman Kehoe noted that in so far as a day care center is concerned, the code does not make a distinction between animals and humans.  Ms. Huffman said that “doggy day care” is a new concept.  There are dozens of day care centers for dogs in New York City.  There is also one in Verplanck and one in Mt. Kisco.  Mr. Sharma said that whether or not this type of business fits in well in the Village would depend on its location. In this case, the location is a shopping center (strip mall) with a number of shops/businesses including restaurants. A computer store used to be in this space.  A computer retail store and a day care center for dogs are very different in nature.  The Planning Board would have to take this into consideration in their review.

Mr. Andrews asked what the Board of Health requirements would be.  Ms. Huffman said that this type of use is (would be) regulated by the Board of Health, and there are numerous regulations. Everything in the facility would have to be inspected.  She would have to follow the sanitary measures for dog care, which are required by the Board of Health.  The floors have to be cement and covered (painted).  Hospital grade disinfectants have to be used to deal with “accidents.”  The dogs have to have all of their required inoculations.  

Ms. Huffman said that noise would not be a problem at her day care center. She explained that dogs oftentimes bark when they are bored. The dogs at her facility would not be bored.  They would be playing with each other or sleeping.  The dogs would not be spending their days in cages.

Chairman Kehoe noted that the required square footage per dog is 60 square feet.  In the case of the day care center being proposed the square footage would, therefore, not be a limiting factor.

Chairman Kehoe asked if there is a requirement for the landlord of the building to notify the other tenants of a new business coming into the shopping center. He would think that they should be notified.  Ms. Huffman said that she has spoken to the owners of the flooring store and the delicatessen.  They seemed to her to be very welcoming.  Ms. Huffman said that she has spoken to several of the tenants but not all of them.  She noted that the nail salon next door seems to be empty, as she has never seen anyone working there.  Mr. Andrews told the Applicant that all of the tenants/store owners in the shopping center should be notified of the date of the public hearing on this application.

The Village Engineer said that some of the issues the Planning Board should be considering for this change of use application would be the parking, noise and odors. He noted that there is some parking in the back of the building.  

Ms. Huffman said that, in so far as walking the dogs is concerned, she would need a small grassy area over which she could have complete control.  There is such an area directly in back of the building.  The Village Engineer suggested that the Applicant could fence in this area in the back for the purpose of walking the dogs.  The Planning Board could make it a condition that the area be cleaned up and fenced in.  Ms. Huffman said that she would try to obtain the approval of the landlord to fence in a private area in the back for walking the dogs.

Chairman Kehoe asked if the Applicant would have a cage for each dog, to which Ms. Huffman replied that she does not plan on keeping the dogs in cages.  She would have cages in the “time off” area, which is (would be) an area of the facility sectioned off for the animals to sleep.

The Village Engineer asked if there would be a need for ventilation.  Ms. Huffman replied that the disinfectant that they use in case of “accidents” is cherry-scented.  The area would be mopped up immediately. According to Ms. Huffman, the smells emanating from her establishment would not be as bad as the smells emanating from a hair or nail salon.

Mr. Andrews said that when dogs get together it is likely that they will bark. He expressed concern that the noise of the barking dogs could be heard by the neighboring store/restaurant owners and their customers.  He thought that there should be soundproofing installed, to which Mr. Luntz agreed.

Chairman Kehoe said that it is his understanding that there are plans for sidewalks in this area of the Village.  He asked when this project would start, to which the Village Engineer said, probably next spring.  As part of the improvements the sidewalk would be “pushed” closer to Route 129.  One aspect of the proposal would be to use the DOT right-of-way for parking.  The Village Engineer noted that this proposal for a new sidewalk would not create any new parking spaces for the shopping center.  Chairman Kehoe asked what affect the “doggy day care” would have on the parking.  Ms. Huffman said that the only all-day parking would be for the two staff members (her assistant and herself). The rest of the parking would be temporary for drop-off and pick-up of the dogs.  Ms. Huffman said that to preserve the parking at the shopping center for customers, her assistant and she could park across the street, to which Mr. Luntz told Ms. Huffman that this is precisely what the Planning Board would want them to do.  The Village Engineer pointed out that this type of use would not generate any “special” parking requirements in the Village Code as would, for example, a restaurant.

Ms. Huffman suggested that, as requested earlier in the meeting, she could look into the possibility of soundproofing the rooms.  She would think that Styrofoam panels would minimize the sound.  

The Village Engineer noted to those present that the basement area of the space in question is (has been) approved as a storage area. He would not know, without looking at the file and reviewing the plans in the file, whether it would be possible to use the basement for any other purpose other than storage. If the Applicant intends to use the basement space as part of her business (day care), he would have to do some additional research to make sure that this could be done.

The Village Engineer suggested that, for the next meeting, the Applicant could provide to the Planning Board information from the dog waste pickup company as to how they run their operation.  The Applicant should also investigate soundproofing the rooms and fencing in the area in the back.  The Village Engineer noted that the Applicant should provide to the Planning Board a letter from the landlord saying that he is agreeable to making the changes requested.

Ms. Huffman said that she has chosen this particular location (the shopping center) because it is close to the train station and a convenient location for drop-off and pick-up of the dogs.

Ms. Huffman stated that her normal hours of operation would be 6:30 A.M. to 6:30 P.M.  However, if a customer were running late and could not arrive at her facility before 7:00 P.M. (for example), she would always accommodate the customer.  Ms. Huffman noted that she would never leave the animals alone.  She would remain with them at the facility (in the case of an emergency) or even take them home if need be.

The Planning Board scheduled the public hearing on this change of use application for Tuesday, September 25th.


*    The Village Engineer referred the Planning Board members to Sec. 230-164D of the Zoning Code in which it states that the Zoning Board Secretary shall provide to the Planning Board Secretary a copy of any appeal/application scheduled to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals. The appeal/application shall be provided at least ten days before the scheduled hearing.  The Planning Board has the option to submit to the Zoning Board an advisory opinion on said appeal/application.  

The Village Engineer said that he would think the Planning Board would probably not want to look at residential applications for variances but would instead want to take a look at commercial applications.  The Village Engineer noted that Ronald Napolitani is scheduled to go before the ZBA in October with a proposal for a new mixed-use building. The subject property is located at 379 South Riverside Avenue.  He thought that the Planning Board would want to review Mr. Napolitani’s application and provide their comments to the ZBA.

The Village Engineer said that Mr. Napolitani is seeking several variances including a variance from the number of stories and a variance from the parking requirement(s).  

Ms. Allen questioned why this Applicant was going to the ZBA first.  She would think that this application should go before the Planning Board first. The mixed-use building has not even been designed yet. This Applicant would have to go before the Planning Board for approval of the site plan. She would think that the application should come to the Planning Board first and then be referred to the ZBA. Trustee Gallelli told the Planning Board that five years ago there was a special permit application before the Village Board that also required variances from the ZBA.  The application in question was referred to the Planning Board for a recommendation.  There was much controversy at the time about this application being looked at by the Planning Board before the required variances had been granted.  The Village Board subsequently made a policy decision that prior to going before the Village/Planning boards any required variances must be granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals.  

Chairman Kehoe noted that the Applicant, Mr. Napolitani, is seeking a variance from the number of stories.  He questioned what the Planning Board’s recourse to action would be if the ZBA were to grant a variance for a three-story building, and the Planning Board was opposed to the idea.  The Village Engineer said that the Planning Board would go through the review process. If in the course of the review the Planning Board were not satisfied, the Planning Board could ask that the Applicant’s architect redesign the building.  In the end the Applicant would hope that the Planning Board would be satisfied with any change(s) made. The Village Engineer noted to the board members that a third story on a building would create additional parking requirements.      

Mr. Sharma noted that the Applicant would have to show a hardship, to which Mr. Luntz said that the argument being presented is a financial hardship. Mr. Luntz noted to the other members that he has been part of a committee that has been looking at ways to improve (“better”) this area of the Village.

Trustee Gallelli suggested that, prior to the ZBA hearing on the Napolitani application, the Planning Board and the ZBA could meet to discuss this application. The ZBA would then have a better understanding of the Planning Board’s issues/concerns.  Trustee Gallelli noted that the ZBA has its own set of criteria for the granting of a variance(s), which is very strict.  She would think that it would be difficult for the ZBA to make a decision without knowing first what the Planning Board’s issues/concerns are.  She reiterated that it would be worthwhile for the Planning Board and the ZBA to have a joint meeting.

Chairman Kehoe said that, should the ZBA send this application to the Planning Board for comments, he would want the Planning Board to have the time to do a thorough review. This would not be possible given the time frame for the ZBA meeting.  Chairman Kehoe said further that he would not want the Planning Board to “micro-manage” the review of this application.  

Ms. Allen suggested that the Planning Board should write a letter to the Village Board asking the Village Board to change the order in which applications come before these boards (the ZBA and the Planning Board). She would think that an application should come to the Planning Board first and be referred to the ZBA.  Chairman Kehoe agreed and said that it does seem “backwards,” in terms of the order that an application should be submitted to these boards, to go to the ZBA first.  

Mr. Sharma questioned the timing of this (the Napolitani) mixed-use application.  He said that he would think that the Village Board would want to make studies first as to how the Village (residents) might want to see that area developed.  

Mr. Andrews thought that, even though there would not be enough time for the Planning Board to do a thorough review of the Napolitani application, the Planning Board should still meet with the ZBA to discuss the application.  Chairman Kehoe asked when the Napolitani application was scheduled to go before the ZBA, to which the Village Engineer said, Wednesday, October 10th.  The Village Engineer suggested that he could scan the plans that have been submitted thus far and distribute them to the board members.  The Planning Board could invite the ZBA members to the next Planning Board meeting to be held on Tuesday, September 25th.

Trustee Gallelli reiterated that it would benefit the ZBA members to discuss this application with the Planning Board.  The ZBA would still have to consider their criteria for the granting of a variance. The Applicant would have to demonstrate to the ZBA a hardship, in this case, economic hardship.  A meeting with the Planning Board would inform the ZBA members of the Planning Board’s issues/concerns. The ZBA might decide to grant the variance(s) on condition that the other considerations, which are (would be) in the Planning Board’s purview, would be satisfied.

Mr. Sharma said that, in his view, unless the Village were to have a comprehensive plan for the development of this area, it would be hard to look at this (the Napolitani) application.

Mr. Andrews asked that, for the joint meeting with the ZBA, the Planning Board be provided with a copy of the area variance requirements.

*    Ms. Allen referred to the letter to the Planning Board from Ralph Mastromonaco, P.E., dated September 7, 2007, regarding the steep slopes calculations on the Duce property.  She noted that, at the August 14th meeting, she had pointed out a discrepancy on the Applicant’s plans in the “Total Slope Area” calculation(s).  Ms. Allen was not satisfied with the response given to the Planning Board in Mr. Mastromonaco’s September 7th letter.  She suggested that this issue pertaining to the steep slopes needed further clarification. Ms. Allen said that she would want to be certain that, with respect to the Duce Subdivision application, the Village’s steep slopes criteria are being met. The Village Engineer said that he would look into this matter.  He would call Mr. Mastromonaco and ask for a further clarification of their steep slopes analysis/calculations.  Once he has received Mr. Mastromonaco’s response, he would report back to the board.


The minutes of the Tuesday, August 14, 2007 Planning Board meeting were approved, as amended, on a motion by Mr. Luntz, seconded by Mr. Andrews and carried by a vote of 4 to 0.  Chairman Kehoe abstained.   


There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was duly adjourned at 9:30 P.M.


Sylvia Mills