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Planning Board Minutes 01/29/08


A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 in the Municipal Building.

MEMBERS PRESENT:                Chris Kehoe, Chairman
Vincent Andrews
                                Robert Luntz
                                Deven Sharma

                ABSENT:         Fran Allen
                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.


*    Sarina & Antonio Tucci – 325 South Riverside Avenue (Sec. 79.13 Blk. 1 Lot 60) – Application for an Amended Site Plan Approval for Installation of Solar Panels on the Roof of the Umami Cafe

Craig Purdy, proprietor of the restaurant, and Alan Paul of Apex Thermal Services were present.  

Mr. Purdy noted to the board that his contractor Alan Paul prepared the drawings that the Planning Board received in their packets. He would defer any technical questions on this application to Mr. Paul.

Mr. Purdy said that he had requested of Mr. Paul that the solar panels be pulled closer to the street. It is his understanding that these panels could be sited anywhere on the rooftop.

Mr. Andrews asked if the Applicant has prepared an engineering analysis showing what the roof could support.  Mr. Paul said that he prepared drawings of the underlying structural members of the roof. The building, which is now the Umami Café, used to be a Carvel ice cream store.  Judging by what he has seen in this location, these Carvel stores were built “in a robust fashion.” In Mr. Paul’s view the building in question is very well constructed.  The Village Engineer asked if the roof rafters are supported by steel beams, to which Mr. Paul said that they are.   

The Village Engineer asked the Applicant if the thermal panels would be supported to the roof’s surface by two cable tie-downs, to which Mr. Paul said that, indeed, they would be.  These cables “wrap over” the edge and are then attached to the side of the building.

Mr. Luntz asked what the roofing material is, to which Mr. Paul replied that the roof is flat and consists of a “rolled” roof material.

Mr. Sharma asked if, according to the building code, roofs are designed for 55 pounds of snow load, to which the Village Engineer replied that they are designed for 45 pounds of snow load. Mr. Sharma said that he would think some engineering would be required to show that the loading of the roof is adequate. It would be prudent to have a structural engineer look at the roof.  Mr. Paul pointed out to Mr. Sharma that steel underlies this structure and, as this is the case, he would not foresee any problem.  Mr. Sharma reiterated that a structural engineer should (still) look at the roof.  He would want to see signed and sealed drawings confirming that the roof is capable of sustaining the weight.  

Mr. Sharma noted that the height of the solar panels could have a visual impact on the neighborhood.  He would want to see drawings done to scale so that the visual impact(s) could be accurately assessed.

Mr. Luntz said that he would agree with Mr. Sharma that a structural analysis should be done to confirm that the roof is capable of safely supporting the weight of the panels.  A structural engineer would perform the analysis based upon the spacing and length of the beams supporting the roof.  Chairman Kehoe noted to the other members that the Village Engineer would require such an analysis before approving the application for a building permit.

The Village Engineer referred to the simulated rendering of the panels on the roof and noted that they are a bluish color. He asked Mr. Paul if blue would be the actual color of the panels. Mr. Paul replied that the panels are not actually blue but more like a glossy, black color.

Mr. Luntz said that, in so far as the environment is concerned, the installation of solar panels is (would be) a positive step to take. All in all, “it would be good for the Village.” Mr. Luntz said that, once the Planning Board is satisfied with the technical (engineering) information provided regarding the roof, he, personally, would have no problem with the Planning Board’s approving this application.  Chairman Kehoe said that the Village Engineer would have to be satisfied with the engineering analysis provided. He, too, would be willing to approve this application on condition that the Village Engineer is satisfied.  Mr. Paul noted to the members that the solar panels are 113 pounds each, which is not that heavy.  These panels hold about a gallon of fluid.  The raft structure is basically the same weight as the panels.  Mr. Sharma said again that he would want this Applicant to provide drawings, which are signed and sealed by a professional engineer.

The Village Engineer asked what the color of the flat work of the panels is, to which Mr. Paul said dark brown.

The Village Engineer said that the Applicant should provide, for the next meeting, additional photographs showing the visual impacts of the panels from the rear and side of the building.

Chairman Kehoe suggested that the public hearing on this application could be held the first meeting in February (February 12th).  He asked the Applicant if he could have the engineering analysis done by then, to which Mr. Purdy said that he would try to have it ready by the 12th.  

The Planning Board scheduled the public hearing on this application for Tuesday, February 12th.


*    Bell Property – 175 Old Post Road North (Sec. 67.15 Blk. 1 Lots 8 & 8.01) – Application for a Preliminary Subdivision Approval

Ron Wegner of Cronin Engineering; Craig Bumgarner, attorney for the Applicant and Kevin Kaye, consultant representing the Bell family, were present.

Chairman Kehoe noted that this Applicant has already been before the board twice for conceptual discussions on the project.  It is his (Chairman Kehoe’s) impression that this is the beginning of a lengthy process. There are some complexities with respect to the zoning variances required.  

Mr. Wegner stated that the property is located in a RA-40 Zoning District.

Mr. Wegner referred to the Applicant’s subdivision map and pointed to the location of the existing (two) residences and pool. The proposal would be to keep the existing residence on Lot #3.  The residence on Lot #1 would be demolished.  Mr. Wegner stated that the total number of lots being proposed would be six.  

Mr. Wegner explained to the Planning Board the layout of the merged parcels belonging to the Bell family. There is presently a common driveway that serves both of the existing residences. The Applicant proposes to maintain that driveway.  The existing driveway would be widened.  A common driveway would be provided for access to Lots #’s 1 and 2.  The existing driveway would be continued (extended) for access to Lots #’s 4, 5, and 6.  The Applicant would provide public water and sewer connections to tie into the municipal water and sewer mains on Old Post Road North and leave, as is, the proposed utility easement farther up in case an opportunity presents itself in the future.

Mr. Sharma said that, as he understands it, the most significant issue with the Applicant’s present proposal is the variances required, to which Mr. Wegner replied that this is, indeed, true.  The lots meet the area and the setback requirements.  The issue of non-compliance has to do with the frontage.  Lots #’s 1, 2 and 3 gain their frontage on Old Post Road North through “fingers” or “legs.”  Lots #’s 1 and 2 have 20 feet of frontage.  Lot #3 has 19.9 feet of frontage, which means that this lot is short by one-tenth of a foot.  Lots #’s 4, 5 and 6 gain their frontage through the narrow strip owned by the Bell’s on the northwesterly side of the property.  Lots #’s 4 and 5 have 20 feet of frontage and Lot #6, slightly more than 40 feet.  Mr. Wegner said that the problem with the frontage is with the access to the lots.  The code specifies that there must be emergency vehicle access to each of the individual lots.  Five out of the six lots would not meet this frontage requirement for access.  

Mr. Luntz asked if there were a mechanism in the Village Code to provide relief from this requirement for frontage, to which Mr. Bumgarner replied that the Village Code does not contain such a mechanism.  He explained that in a town (versus a village) the Applicant could seek relief through the provision on “open development,” but there is no corresponding provision in the Village Code.  Mr. Luntz suggested that another option would be to create a public road.  Mr. Bumgarner noted that the Applicant had reviewed this option, and found it to be “next to impossible” due to the environmental impacts (the amount of grading required and the proximity to the wetlands areas).  Mr. Wegner suggested that he could look into possible ways of reducing the amount of grading required.

Mr. Sharma asked if the number of lots being proposed is the same number that has been proposed at previous meetings, to which Mr. Wegner said, “yes.”

Mr. Wegner said that at a previous meeting the Applicant proposed, as an alternative, using Finney Farm Road as the access route to Lots #’s 2, 3, 4 and 5.  After the discussion that took place with the Planning Board, the Applicant decided against this option.

Janet Nelson of 40 Finney Farm Road was present.  She expressed concern about the close proximity of her house to the proposed house and driveway on Lot #6. Chairman Kehoe noted to Ms. Nelson that the Planning Board is at the beginning stages of their review.  The siting of the houses would be taken into consideration.  Furthermore, the Planning Board would hold a public hearing on the preliminary subdivision at which time the public would have an opportunity to provide their comments.

The Village Engineer told the Applicant that specific information on each of the variances required should be provided in the zoning data chart on the Applicant’s plan.  The chart should include information on the type of variance, how much of a variance is being requested, etc.     
Mr. Wegner noted that the subdivision proposal before the board tonight is essentially the same layout that the Applicant originally presented to the Planning Board.  Mr. Sharma expressed concern about the plausibility of this layout. Among other items, this (current) proposal requires a number of variances from the frontage requirement for emergency access to the individual lots.  Mr. Sharma said that he did not see how the proposal, presently before this Planning Board, could be plausible at all.  

The Village Engineer noted that the Zoning Board of Appeals would be looking at their five criteria for the granting of variances. The problem associated with access is different for each lot. The ZBA is going to have to look at each request for a variance on its own merit. The Planning Board would review this application from a planning perspective and provide a recommendation to the ZBA. The Village Engineer stated that the current proposal shows a common driveway for all six lots. There are issues associated with common driveways, which would have to be addressed.  

Mr. Sharma said that he, personally, would not want to circumvent the intent of the Village Code with respect to the requirement(s) for allowable frontage.  Chairman Kehoe said that it is up to the ZBA, and not the Planning Board, to make a determination in this regard.  Mr. Andrews said that the Applicant would have to show that they could meet the “spirit of the code,” as it is intended.  Mr. Wegner pointed out that it is not so much that the lots have no access; it is (just) that there are lots that do not meet the frontage requirements for access.  The common driveway is being proposed to provide access to all six lots.  Mr. Bumgarner said that the Applicant understands that the access issue is (would be) the most significant issue for the ZBA. Mr. Bumgarner said that the Applicant has complied with the Village Code requirements to the greatest extent possible with the understanding that a number of variances would still be required.  Mr. Luntz noted that one of the alternate proposals was to create a “legal” public road to provide access to the lots.  The current proposal would require a number of variances. Mr. Luntz said that it seemed to him that the current proposal “seeks to circumvent the way the code was set up.”  

The Village Engineer told the board that the Planning Board should reach the point where they could make a recommendation to the ZBA “one way or the other.”

Chairman Kehoe questioned if the Planning Board should ask the Applicant to provide a plan showing the trees to be removed in the area of the proposed common driveway.  He would think that this type of information pertaining to the environmental impact(s) would be relevant for the Planning Board’s recommendation to the ZBA.  Mr. Wegner suggested that it might be helpful to the Planning Board if they were to go on a site visit.  The Village Engineer told Mr. Wegner that in preparation of the site visit, he should stake out the location of the proposed driveway as well as the locations of the houses.  

The Village Engineer told Mr. Wegner that, in terms of alternatives, he should look at which road design would cause the least amount of impact on the environment.  He should consider, for example, what the environmental impact(s) would be if a public road were built as opposed to a common driveway.  Mr. Luntz said that he would think it would be worthwhile to look at the public road option.  It would eliminate the need to seek the variances.  

The Village Engineer asked that the Applicant provide a plan showing in more detail how the lots are being configured.  The wetlands buffer should also be shown on the plan(s).  Mr. Bumgarner said that the Applicant would want to have more feedback on “where this project is going,” before they incur the expense of having the trees surveyed, the wetlands flagged, etc.  

The Village Engineer told the Applicant that the Planning Board would schedule a site visit to the property.  It would probably be on a Saturday.  He would circulate emails to the board members to come up with the date and time.

The Village Engineer noted that, as part of the SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) process, the Planning Board would need to declare its intent to become the Lead Agency for this project.  The Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF) has been submitted.  The Planning Board would circulate the FEAF to the involved agencies listed on page 5.  Chairman Kehoe asked if the local Fire Department should become involved, to which the Village Engineer suggested that the Fire Department could be an interested agency.  He noted that the Planning Board would want to review the FEAF before circulating it to the interested and involved agencies. Chairman Kehoe suggested that the Planning Board could declare its intent to become the Lead Agency at the next Planning Board meeting.

Mr. Wegner noted that Ms. Allen is not present tonight.  He wanted to know if Ms. Allen had any comments on the current proposal.  The Village Engineer said that he met with Ms. Allen last week.  As he recalls the conversation they had, Ms. Allen was ultimately concerned about the final layout of the subdivision (how the lots would “end up”).  She suggested that the Village Attorney should attend a meeting(s) on this application to talk to the Planning Board about their recommendation to the ZBA, the significance of it, procedures to follow, etc.    

A member of the public asked the Planning Board if the site visit would become a part of the record.  Chairman Kehoe said that it would.  As part of their review, the Planning Board has to visit the site.  The Planning Board would report back to the public on what transpired at the site visit.


a)  Discussion of Proposed Steep Slopes Law

Chairman Kehoe noted to the other members that he has attended two meetings of the Village’s environmental laws committee to discuss this ordinance.  The proposed steep slopes law has been drafted into the form that the Planning Board has before them tonight. Chairman Kehoe said that it is his understanding that there will be a discussion of the draft law at the Village Board work session of February 11th.

Chairman Kehoe asked the Village Engineer to explain the changes from the old ordinance.  The Village Engineer stated that in the proposed law, rather than being granted a “Steep Slopes Hardship Permit,” an applicant would be granted a “Steep Slopes Permit.”  The approving authority would be the Planning Board rather than the Village Board.

The Village Engineer said that in the proposed law there would be a different method of calculating the steep slopes.  The old law had three categories: 0 to 15%, 15 to 20% and over 20% slope area.  In the 0 to 15% category there were no restrictions.  In the 15 to 20% category, 25% of the slope area could be disturbed without going over the threshold.  In the “over 20% slope” category, if, for example, the area of the steep slopes were 10,000 square feet, only 10% of the slope area could be disturbed.  

The Village Engineer said that, in the new law, instead of having a percent of slope area, steep slope areas are categorized as:

Moderately Steep Slope – Proposed new steep slope and/or disturbance covering a minimum horizontal area of 3/10 of an acre or 13,068 square feet.
Very Steep Slope – Proposed new steep slope and/or disturbance covering a minimum horizontal area of 2/10 of an acre or 8,712 square feet.
Extremely Steep Slope – Proposed new steep slope and/or disturbance covering a minimum horizontal area of 1/10 of an acre or 4,356 square feet.

The threshold would not be based on a percentage but would be based instead on a square foot of disturbance, which is different for each slope category. The Village Engineer said that in the proposed law, to handle smaller lots, another threshold would be a percentage of the lot area.

The Village Engineer stated that in the old law a steep slope was classified as such if it had a horizontal run of 30 feet.  If it were less than 30 feet, it would not be considered a steep slope.  In the proposed law the horizontal run is “down to” 10 feet.

The Village Engineer noted to the board members that, in so far as individual, smaller lots are concerned, he has been asked by the committee to perform an analysis of the smaller lots in the Village to try to ascertain what an appropriate threshold for requiring a permit would be.  The Village Engineer pointed out that he would not want the percentage of the lot area to be so restrictive that a homeowner/property owner would (invariably) need a steep slopes permit to build an accessory structure such as a garage or a pool.  The Village Engineer suggested that, perhaps, the Planning Board could discuss this matter tonight. Mr. Luntz said that he would think that, for the individual, smaller lots, a percentage that might work would be 25%.  Anything less would be too restrictive.

Chairman Kehoe referred to Sec. 195-5 of the new (proposed) law entitled “Approving Authority.” As he understands the language of the law, the criterion for the Planning Board’s acting as an approving authority has more to do with the degree of steep slopes than the amount of disturbance.  The Planning Board would review “very steep slope” or “extremely steep slope” applications.  The Planning Board would also review applications that are the subject of a pending site plan, minor site plan and subdivision or a fill/excavation application.  The Village Engineer would review all other steep slope applications.

Chairman Kehoe recalled the Planning Board discussion(s) that had taken place in the past regarding the method of calculating steep slopes for subdivisions.  Ms. Allen had expressed concern about the method being used.  The way the law is currently written, the calculations for determining the steep slopes are based on the entire acreage versus the acreage of each individual lot.  Mr. Luntz recalled that Ms. Allen had wanted applicants to prove that the Village’s steep slopes requirements were being met for each individual lot.  Chairman Kehoe noted that the Planning Board would be issuing a steep slopes permit at the time of the subdivision approval.  The Planning Board would not be issuing a permit for each individual (building) lot.  The Village Engineer pointed out that in the new (proposed) law, if an applicant were to disturb over a certain area of steep slopes, there are a number of criteria that would have to be met. In their review, the Planning Board and the applicant would need to reach the point where they could feel comfortable that these criteria have been or could be addressed in the future.  Chairman Kehoe asked the Village Engineer if the Planning Board would issue another steep slopes permit later on when the driveway and house locations have been determined.  The Village Engineer did not know the answer.  He said that this would be a question for the Village Attorney.

Mr. Andrews referred to Sec. 195-4 entitled “Review Standards.”  In this section there are 16 criteria to be considered by the approving authority in granting a steep slopes permit. Mr. Andrews questioned if some of the criteria might be too restrictive. Chairman Kehoe said that it is his understanding that the applicant would be responsible for submitting documents answering these 16 questions. The Planning Board would then decide whether or not these questions have been adequately answered.  Chairman Kehoe referred to Sec. 195-4 (B), which says that, “The applicant shall have the burden of proof to demonstrate compliance with this chapter.”  He suggested adding at the end of this sentence “to the greatest extent possible.”  Mr. Andrews reiterated that, in so far as the 16 criteria are concerned, there did not seem to be much flexibility.  There is no provision in the proposed law to waive any of the criteria.  He would think that there should be some mechanism in the new law to allow the Planning Board to make a decision “based on actual field conditions.”  The Village Engineer suggested that one of the Planning Board’s comments on the proposed law could be to recommend adding language to this section (Sec. 195-4) to give the Planning Board more flexibility.

The Village Engineer noted that the discussion on the proposed law is scheduled for February 11th. When he (the Village Engineer) met with Ms. Allen, she had suggested that the Planning Board should write their memorandum on the proposed law ahead of time so that the Village’s consultants could research and have answers to the board’s questions/concerns by the meeting of the 11th.   The Village Engineer suggested that the Planning Board could write their comments to him via email.  He would organize these comments “into memo form” and submit to the consultants.  

b)  Village Manager Richard Herbek’s Retirement

Chairman Kehoe noted that Village Manager Richard Herbek has announced his retirement and thanked Mr. Herbek for his many years of service and all the work he has done for the Village.


There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was duly adjourned at 10:15 P.M.


Sylvia Mills