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Planning Board Minutes 09/09/08

Planning Board Meeting   September 9, 2008

Chairman Kehoe          Ms. Allen
Mr. Andrews             Mr. Aarons

Mr. Luntz-absent

  • Call to Order:
Chairman Kehoe opened the meeting 8 P.M.

  • New Business:
Re:  Croton Community Nursery School – Lower North Highland Place – (Sec. 67.20 Blk. 2 Lots 5, 6, 9 and 25 [formerly Sec. 67.20 Blk. 2 Lots 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 25]) – Application for a Preliminary Subdivision Approval – Preliminary Discussion

Ron Wegner presented plans for discussion for preliminary subdivision of property owned by Croton Community Nursery School; the property is located on the west side of Lower North Highland Place; there are a variety of vacant parcels to be combined and developed into a four lot subdivision with frontage right on Lower North Highland Place; it has existing water & sewer; the site has a wetlands in rear, however, the lot disturbance limits will not violate the 120’ wetlands buffer; there also is a drainage channel through the center of the property, which will also be protected.  He added that these areas were identified two years ago before the current wetlands law was passed; they don’t intend to go near these features, but he will confirm the locations of the drainage areas in the field; the house plans he used for the proposal have been previously submitted to the Village and will not vary substantially from what is shown; he fit the structures into the site using the existing contours; they are approximately 30x50 colonials; he added a garage on three of the houses.  Mr. Wegner stated that on Lot 2, they may take about 10 ft. off the top of a knob; Lot 3 is closest to the road so the house is pushed a bit forward; Lot 4 is flatter and the house is pushed toward the back.  Mr. Wegner showed a slope map with the proposed lot disturbances and described the percentage of slopes.  He added that on Lot 1 he located the driveway; Lot 2, once done, will be more of a plateau; Lots 3 and Lot 4 go through a more steeply sloped area; the cross sections of Lots 1 and 2 shows taking the knob down.

Chairman Kehoe stated that he and Village Engineer O’Connor met with Ron Wegner and the applicant a few weeks ago and they presented the same plans; the property is still owned by the nursery school and Mr. Nikic is working on behalf of the nursery school.  Mr. Wegner presented a letter signed by the president of the nursery school; he understands that this is still a preliminary meeting.  Chairman Kehoe asked if the president reports to a board of directors who authorized the presentation by Ron Wegner; he asked Village Engineer O’Connor to confirm the authorization.

Fran Allen asked if anyone knew the history of the ownership of the property.  Chairman Kehoe replied that he believes that the school is a not-for-profit and that any profit that comes from the sale or development of this land most likely would have to be returned to the school; he is looking for advice on how involved the Board should get into the authorization to proceed with this proposal.  Fran Allen stated that they need to know the history of the land; is it encumbered or perhaps a gift.  Mr. Andrews added that they should review the charter to understand the board’s ability to develop the land outside of educational purposes.  Fran Allen asked if the people in the audience are members of the Board.   Genevieve Holkum stated that she believes it was a gift in about 1947 with no strings attached; this project was put to a vote before entire the nursery school membership a year or two ago.  Chairman Kehoe related that his children attended this school about 6 years ago and remembers discussion about this property then.  Fran Allen asked if the property is roughly 10 acres.  Ron Wegner replied that this is correct.  Dan O’Connor asked if they have an attorney they deal with. Mr. Nikic replied that the school has its own attorney who knows the school.  Chairman Kehoe asked for the school’s attorney to give the Board information about the legality of a subdivision.  Mr. Aarons asked if there is a deed with a covenant that runs with the land and, if so, does it prohibit this type of development? He added that the Planning Board can ask for a bond.  He suggested that the school’s Board needs to check its own charter to see if they are authorized to do this and he would like to see the resolution passed by the school’s Board of Directors that this is a valid project.  Mr. Andrews asked if there is a school on the site now.  Mr. Wegner replied that there is not, the school itself is on VanWyck St.; there is nothing but a small concrete structure on the property now.  Chairman Kehoe asked how the applicant determined that the area in the rear was a wetland.  Chairman Kehoe stated that this Board has concerns about the school’s ability to develop the area and also needs some guidance about the wetlands in the rear.  

Chairman Kehoe asked how Mr. Wegner came up with the 120 ft buffer.  Mr. Wegner replied that this came from the surveyor, but no report was provided to him.  Chairman Kehoe replied that the size of the wetlands buffer and amount of steep slopes on the front squeezes everything together.  Mr. Wegman replied that the code did not require him to lay this all out for steep slopes.  Chairman Kehoe asked how you handle the rainfall drainage course.  Village Engineer O’Connor replied that they will need a wetlands scientist to take a look at it in respect to the Village code, the person who flagged it probably would be best.  Fran Allen stated that they should use an environmental consultant who is paid for by the applicant but hired by the Village.  Chairman Kehoe read the Village regulations regarding watercourses.  Dan O’Connor added that since this subdivision process will go on for some time, they should start collecting data from that area after rain events.  Fran Allen suggested that an expert should be hired to do that.  She added that this is a very serious stream with real problems when it crosses Old Post Rd.; some problems have been mitigated by a side stream that comes in.  Chairman Kehoe stated that as it is laid out, there will be no disturbance near the stream.  Ms. Allen added that disturbance also means maintaining vegetation up to the stream.  Chairman Kehoe suggested that the Board could encumber the entire back piece of property with a conservation easement; if houses are nowhere near the buffer and the buffer is 120 ft. from the stream, a conservation easement should ensure that vegetation is maintained.  Village Engineer O’Connor stated that if the drainage flows more than 3 months a year, it becomes wetlands which would require a 125 ft. buffer, not 120 ft.  Mr. O’Connor asked Mr. Wegner to show it as a 125 ft. buffer and collect some data from the drainage; pick a point in the channel.  Chairman Kehoe asked Mr. Wegner if water from the drainage goes into the bigger water course.  Ron Wegner replied that it does.  Village Engineer O’Connor asked Mr. Wegner to provide the upstream watershed for the waterfall drainage system.  Mr. Wegner replied that he believes it is near the top of the hill, but will confirm.  Village Engineer O’Connor asked if he has calculated the disturbance area for the steep slope.  Mr. Wegner replied, no, but he knows it is over what it has to be.  Chairman Kehoe instructed that when you quantify these, do so by range.

Chairman Kehoe asked when they will need to talk about trees.  Village Engineer O’Connor replied that the Village will need a tree survey showing what area will be appropriate to survey, a surveyor will survey the tree area and an arborist will tag trees and provide the data base; the Planning Board needs to conduct a site visit.  Chairman Kehoe asked if they will be directing drainage to the Village draining system.  Mr. Wegner replied that some conceptual drainage is shown on the plan.  Chairman Kehoe asked how high the walls on Lot 3 will be.  Mr. Wegner replied it will be about a 2 or 3 ft wall; he kept walls under 4 or 5 ft.

Mr. Andrews asked if there are any desirable trail areas crossing this area?  Ms. Allen replied that she spoke with the Trails Committee and they didn’t think there was.  Chairman Kehoe added that one of the tags is at the intersection of Lower Highland & Old Post Road.  Mr. Wegner offered that a trail is on the adjacent property; it can be seen as a common open area parcel.  Ms. Allen added that a trail goes down to Symphony Knoll and used by a lot of residents, especially school children; the common open space is quite steep; she will look into this further and report back.

Chairman Kehoe stated that he noticed a stone structure and asked what it is.  Mr. Wegner replied that he will have to take a look.  Village Engineer O’Connor asked what the plan for the development is; will they sell each lot or the entire parcel.  Mr. Nikic replied that he believes they are open to selling all four to one person or to individual owners.  Chairman Kehoe stated it is his understanding that no traffic will be going up the hill.  Mr. Wegner replied that it has a locked gate and the road is closed.  

Village Engineer O’Connor asked if the knob on Lot 2 is rock and will it be blasted.  Mr. Wegner replied that it is rock and will need blasting.  Village Engineer O’Connor asked if there are any other lots requiring blasting.  Mr. Wegner replied that there may be, but Lot 2 was obvious.  Village Engineer O’Connor asked why excavation is being done on Lot 1.  Mr. Wegner replied that it is just to level it; his other option would be to push the house further back, but he had somewhat of a flat area to work with.  Village Engineer O’Connor asked if a retaining wall could be put there.  Mr. Wegner replied that it could, depending on the soil content; he was trying to avoid walls.  

Chairman Kehoe added that down the road, this project may incur a Recreation fee; if houses are built and people move in, it will loose any “schoolness” it had.  Mr. Andrews stated that this would most likely be dictated by the grant and deed.  Ms. Allen added that it will also depend on ownership of the land in the end; if land was purchased and then developed, this would determine any recreation fees.  Village Engineer O’Connor added that in the past, recreation areas did not usually work out with small subdivisions unless there was a link to other recreation areas.  Chairman Kehoe stated that it has become more common to put in trails or passive recreation areas.

Village Engineer O’Connor stated that the owner needs to stake out the properties, the center of driveways and the center of stormwater areas.  Chairman Kehoe will coordinate the site visit with Engineer O’Connor.  Ms. Allen stated that she hopes once the house footprints are shown they will not change significantly; especially not become larger; she would like to avoid this scenario.  Mr. Wegner replied that he has used houses that have been previously brought to the Board; he will have to come back with a site plan; this is a subdivision site plan; they will do a very thorough review when it comes to the site plan portion of process; if he comes back with something different, it will have more thorough review.  Chairman Kehoe stated that the lots are fairly narrow and it looks like they can not shift the house & garage at all.  Mr. Wegner replied that they could go with a different style house.

Mr. Nikic stated that he was contracted by the school to help spearhead this; whoever buys these will want to put up the house and will need to go through the review process; to do all that work now may be redundant.  Chairman Kehoe replied that he would hope to do that work now so it won’t have to be done on the back end.  Ms. Allen added that it is best to anticipate things now to avoid changes and anticipate what possibilities there are.  Mr. Nikic replied that if the school needs to market this with parameters that can’t be changed, it will need to be marketed differently.  Chairman Kehoe stated that this is a decision the school needs to make; a 3,000 sq ft house has specific requirements and a 6,000 sq ft house would make a big difference.  Mr. Andrews added that the lots are pretty narrow and there probably is not a whole lot of flexibility; if they see specific things on the site plan, they can work with the applicant during the site plan process; the Board will keep this all in mind.  Chairman Kehoe stated that if the Board doesn’t want a 6,000 sq ft. house, they must tell the applicant; this is the discretion of the Board; wetlands are separate issues.   

Chairman Kehoe summed up that they need to find out who did the original delineation or the Village will have to hire someone.  Mr. Nikic replied that he has talked about this.  Engineer O’Connor told them to get the lines on paper and reflagged; the Board cannot move forward without knowing the wetlands line.  Ms. Allen added that there has been a lot of change in the wetlands through the years.  Chairman Kehoe stated that they need to redelineate the wetland using their own wetland scientist who could coordinate with the Village’s consultant or the Village Engineer’s Office.  Chairman Kehoe added that if they are delineating the wetlands, do it soon as this isn’t usually done in December or January.  

The Village Engineer will coordinate when the site visit can be done; perhaps late on a Saturday afternoon

Village Engineer O’Connor added that the lots are very big, it is the natural desire of a homeowner to expand a backyard;  there is a lot of property behind the houses and it is a natural progression to encroach on the wetland buffer; he does not want them to encroach upon wetlands in future expansion of recreational use of homeowners..  Chairman Kehoe replied that this is why conservation easements are a good tool; there is a lot of land the homeowners can use and they will have a decent size yard; it would be better for everyone to encumber as a wetlands setback or greater, in an easement.  Ms. Allen added that markers should clearly identify conservation easements in the backyards.  Ron Wegner stated that by putting houses closer to the road, it leaves more backyards for homeowners.  Ms. Allen asked if the land behind Lot 3 is owned by someone else.  Mr. Wegner replied that there are a couple of large parcels that go back to Lounsbury.

Village Engineer O’Connor stated that later on they can have new monuments put in appropriate spots and take out ones that are in incorrectly marked.  

  • Approval of Minutes:
Mr. Andrews made a motion to approve the minutes of the Planning Board meeting held on August 26, 2006.  Ms. Allen seconded the motion.  The minutes were approved with Mr. Aarons abstaining.

Discussion:  The next meeting is scheduled for September 23rd   Ms. Allen will not be there; Mr. Kehoe hopes to be there by 8:30 P.M.

  • Adjournment:
The meeting was adjourned at 9 P.M.

Respectfully submitted by:

Phyllis A. Bradbury

Sylvia Mills
Village of Croton-on-Hudson
Engineer's Office
tel: 914-271-4783
fax: 914-271-3790