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Planning Board Minutes 03/10/2009

VILLAGE OF CROTON ON HUDSON, NEW YORK

PLANNING BOARD MEETING MINUTES – TUESDAY, MARCH 10, 2009


A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, March 10, 2009 in the Municipal Building.

MEMBERS PRESENT:                Fran Allen, Acting as Chairperson
                                        Mark Aarons
                                        Robert Luntz

ABSENT:                         Chris Kehoe, Chairman
                                        Vincent Andrews

ALSO PRESENT:                   Daniel O'Connor, P.E., Village Engineer


1.  Call to Order:

The meeting was called to order at 8:31 P.M. by Chairperson Allen.


2.  OLD BUSINESS:

  • Margo Francy – 57 Old Post Road North (Sec. 67.20 Blk. 2 Lot 27) – Application for a Steep Slope Permit
John Gochman, attorney for the Applicant, and Ron Wegner, P.E. of Cronin Engineering were present.

Chairperson Allen explained to those present that, at the last Planning Board meeting on this application, the Planning Board had raised some issues/concerns about the proposed project and had asked the Applicant’s engineer Ron Wegner for some additional information to be included on the Applicant’s plans.  Mr. Wegner has updated the plans and will review these updates tonight.  Chairperson Allen noted that interested members of the public would have an opportunity to speak once Mr. Wegner has given his presentation.

Mr. Wegner stated that, as requested by the Planning Board at the last meeting, soil tests have been performed at the site.  The technique they used to test the soil was to “hand dig” an eight-foot hole. They discovered that the soil has the consistency profile of a sandy loam.  Mr. Wegner said that the soil (sandy loam) would be adequate for temporary excavation. Mr. Wegner noted that this type of sand (sandy loam) is not sand that would spill out.  It has some cohesion to it.  Mr. Wegner noted that the eight-foot hole that they dug was one and one-half to two feet in diameter.  When the digging was going on, the hole remained stable and did not cave in.  Mr. Wegner said that, during construction, the contractor/excavator would want to reduce the time of soil exposure. The excavation work being performed would be short in duration.  Chairperson Allen asked if there were other factors to consider besides the duration of the excavation and the type of soil(s). She asked if it (stabilization of the slope) would also depend on how much soil is being excavated. Mr. Wegner said that the soil tests performed at the site showed no signs of creeping, moving or collapsing.  He would think that landslides would not be an issue in this location.  Mr. Wegner added that the soil looks consistent throughout the site. There are no rock outcroppings.  They would anticipate a stable excavation throughout.   

Mr. Wegner said that, at the last meeting, the Planning Board had asked him to compare the sight distance of the Applicant’s driveway and the Lipton’s driveway.  He found that the sight distance would be much improved from the Applicant’s driveway. The sight distance from the Lipton’s driveway is 120 feet to the left and 240 feet to the right as compared to the Applicant’s driveway, which would be 180 feet to the left and 490 feet to the right.  Chairperson Allen noted that the Planning Board did not actually ask for a comparison between the two properties.  Instead, she (Chairperson Allen) had expressed her concern that the sight distance would be hindered by the hill and the curve in the road; she wanted Mr. Wegner to calculate what the sight distance would be. Chairperson Allen noted to Mr. Wegner that there are driveways in the Village, which are configured in such a way as to make it difficult for a driver pulling out to see someone walking on the sidewalk. She asked what the angle of the vehicle would be on exiting the Applicant’s driveway. Mr. Wegner said that sight distances are measured using an eye height of 3 feet located or set back 10 feet from the edge of the pavement.  In this instance, the Applicant’s entranceway onto the property would be such that the driver of a vehicle could pull out and have adequate sight distance.  The Village Engineer noted that, if there were a car coming up the hill, the driver of a vehicle exiting the driveway would want to be able to see 200 feet.  Chairperson Allen said that, in so far as the sight distance is concerned, it would have been helpful for the Planning Board to see a drawing showing the contours.  The property in question is steeply sloped, and the road is heavily traveled.  The Planning Board would want to be certain that all NYSDOT safety standards are being met.  

Mr. Wegner said that, at one point the Applicant was looking at the option of having a common (shared) driveway with the adjacent property owner at 55 Old Post Road North, to which Ira Lipton, owner of this property, told the board members that he had never been informed of any such driveway proposal.  The Village Engineer explained to Mr. Lipton that the Planning Board would typically ask for options for driveways, and common driveways have their advantages.  The Planning Board realizes that the property/driveway in question is his (Mr. Lipton’s) and that any decision relating to this driveway would be his to make. The Village Engineer said that this comment about the driveway was probably just a “general statement” made at a previous meeting.

Mr. Wegner showed the Planning Board a color-coded steep slopes map indicating the existing slope conditions. The color blue on the map is the least steeply sloped area with 15 to 25% slopes, the color yellow indicates the 25 to 35% slopes and the color orange indicates the greater than 35% slopes.  

John McKeon of 25 Prospect Place was present.  Mr. McKeon asked Mr. Wegner if, with respect to the soil test, he probed the site with a corer to which Mr. Wegner said that he did not. They were going for a deeper hole than what a corer could produce.  Mr. Wegner said that they chose the deepest corner of the foundation for the soil test. They tried to put the hole as close as possible to where the deepest excavation would take place.  Chairperson Allen asked how much deeper than the test hole they would have to go for the excavation, to which Mr. Wegner said, two feet.  Mr. Wegner explained the technique they used to perform the soil test.   They had a person at the site all day with a post-hole digger so as not to disturb the trees. Their intention was to disturb the site as little as possible.  Chairperson Allen expressed concern about the stabilization of the soil. She said that the fractured sand consistency of the soil is due to the glacier that came through this area.  The geology of this area is unique.  Chairperson Allen said that not knowing what the base of it (the soil) is makes her uncomfortable.  She would not want to rely on assumptions made about the soil.  The Village Engineer assured Chairperson Allen that there was only a very limited amount of the soil around the foundation that they could not account for in performing this soil test.     

Mr. Wegner reviewed his answers to the sixteen review standards in the Steep Slopes Ordinance.  Mr. Wegner read aloud item #1, “The proposed activity and the manner in which it is to be accomplished are in accordance with the findings set forth in section 195-1 of this chapter.” Mr. Wegner referred to his answer for item #1, stating that the proposed development would not endanger the health, safety and welfare of the public and the disturbance proposed is (would be) the minimum necessary to ensure the land owner a reasonable use of the property.  Mr. Wegner said that the Applicant is proposing the minimum sized house that could possibly be constructed and still meet Code requirements.  The floor area is only 110 square feet above the minimum required in the Code.  Chairperson Allen asked Mr. Wegner what the square footage of the total disturbed area would be.  She noted that the Planning Board has to factor in the total disturbance of the site.  Mr. Wegner said that the Applicant has a 1,200 square-foot site, which means that the Applicant does not have much (land) to begin with.  Chairperson Allen said that the Planning Board would want to know how much of this 1,200 square-foot site would be disturbed.  Mr. Wegner said that if the Planning Board would like the slope disturbance broken down by numbers, he could calculate these numbers for the next meeting, to which Chairperson Allen said that it would be helpful to know the actual numbers.

Mr. Wegner referred the Planning Board to his third paragraph under Item #1 pertaining to erosion control and noted that the developer (contractor) would have a tarp put down for the rain. A construction sequence is usually not laid out for a site this small but he (Mr. Wegner) has provided one anyway.  Mr. Luntz noted that the assertion in Mr. Wegner’s answer to item #1 is that by developing this property there would actually be an improvement in the existing run-off situation, to which Mr. Wegner said that this is, indeed, true.  Mr. Wegner stated that they intend to level the area out, which would reduce run-off.  They also intend to provide drywells that would reduce the overall flow from the site.  Mr. Wegner noted that he still has to do the percolation tests for the drywells.  

Mr. McKeon expressed concern about the run-off from this site, stating that a miscalculation associated with run-off would potentially flood the flag lot behind the property.  Mr. McKeon said that the lot behind the Francy property already has a water problem.  Mr. Lipton asked if the ponding already present would be exacerbated by the run-off from this lot.  The lot is going to be devegetated.  He would be concerned that the run-off problem would be exacerbated by the construction.  Mr. Lipton noted that drywells would need to be maintained.  This would be the property/homeowner’s responsibility.  Mr. Wegner explained the drainage system being proposed and indicated the direction of the run-off, stating that the water both at the front and the back of the property would end up flowing down Old Post Road North and into the Village’s drainage system.  

The Village Engineer said that a limit of disturbance line is indicated on the Applicant’s plan.  The trees on the property that are downhill from the limit of disturbance line would remain and/or would be protected during construction.  Mr. Lipton asked what would happen to these trees after construction, to which the Village Engineer replied that if a future property/homeowner of this lot wished to cut down a tree, he/she would need to apply for a Tree Removal Permit.

Mr. Wegner referred the Planning Board to his fourth paragraph under item #1, which states that the disturbance of slopes would be controlled by the construction of retaining walls.  Mr. Wegner said that he would not expect a mass movement of earth during construction.  Chairperson Allen noted that, in this paragraph, Mr. Wegner also says that the retaining walls being proposed would actually reduce the potential for slipping and landslides. As she understands it, Mr. Wegner’s justification in dealing with the Steep Slopes Ordinance in this instance is that by building a house on this site and changing the site so significantly, the earth would actually be less likely to slip.  Chairperson Allen stated that she was under the impression that, at present, there is no slipping problem on this site, to which Mr. Wegner replied that the site, the way it is now, would be more prone to slipping.  Once the house is built, there would be less slipping and less soil erosion than there is now. Mr. Wegner referred to the next review standard (item #2) regarding creep and sudden slope failure and asked the board members if they wanted him to review his answer to item #2, to which the board decided that it would not be necessary.

Mr. Wegner referred to item #3 regarding the impacts of the project on wetlands and endangered flora or fauna. Mr. Wegner said that the proposed project is not within a regulated wetlands, water body, watercourse, etc.  Mr. Wegner said that he contacted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regarding the impacts of this project on plant and animal life and the DEC, in their letter dated December 1, 2008, stated that they have no record of known occurrences of endangered animal and plant life in the immediate vicinity of this site.  

Mr. Wegner stated that item #4 pertains to the impacts of the project on wells or sewage disposal systems.  To his knowledge, there are no wells or sewage disposal systems in the vicinity of this site.  The area is served by municipal water and sewer services.

Mr. Wegner read item #5, which states that “The proposed activity and the manner in which it is to be accomplished are consistent with the principles and recommendation of the Village Comprehensive Plan adopted by the Village Board.”   Mr. Wegner said that this project falls within the recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan.  The project would comply with all applicable zoning requirements.  

Mr. Wegner said that item #6 pertaining to the installation of a sewage disposal system is not applicable because the proposed building (house) would be served by the municipal sewer service.

Mr. Wegner read item #7, “The padding or terracing of building sites shall be evaluated on a site-by-site basis for appropriateness. The mounding of septic tile fields shall be minimized to the maximum extent practicable.”  Mr. Wegner noted that there would be no septic tile fields installed as part of this project.  They are, however, proposing site terracing to stabilize the slope(s). Mr. Wegner said that this aspect of the project (terracing) is something that the Planning Board would have to consider.  He asked the Planning Board if they had any comments on the terracing being proposed.  Chairperson Allen told Mr. Wegner that the Planning Board would have to factor this into the overall disturbance of the site.  Mr. Luntz said that terracing is, indeed, a way to develop this site, but the question to ask is whether it is the only way or the best way.  Mr. Luntz thought that terracing would accomplish what the Applicant is suggesting for this site, however, the Planning Board would want to know “at what cost [it would be] to the site.” Mr. Wegner noted that the terracing they are proposing would also create flat areas, which would be usable for lawn space.

Mr. Wegner referred those present to cross section detail A-A on the Applicant’s “Details and Sections” plan and noted that detail A-A shows a six-foot wall that tapers down at the front and back of the property. Mr. Wegner said that they are considering a unilock construction or modular interlocking blocks for the lower wall. Mr. Wegner said that, as far as the aesthetics of the wall is concerned, the Applicant would be looking for input from the neighboring property owner as to the material(s) to be used. The upper wall would be a plain concrete wall with stone facing. Chairperson Allen stated that the height of the wall could not be greater than six and one-half feet.  She asked Mr. Wegner how the table on wall heights shown on the “Details and Sections” plan should be interpreted, to which Mr. Wegner told Chairperson Allen that this table is just for construction purposes.  Mr. Luntz added that this table is just a standard detail and does not necessarily apply to this lot.

Mr. McKeon told the Planning Board members that he has occasion to walk past the Francy property to visit friends. Mr. McKeon pointed out that once the house on the Francy property is built, rather than woods, he would be looking at a six-foot high retaining wall and an eight-foot high exposed basement.  John Mastracchio of 49 Old Post Road North had a question regarding the elevation/topography of the land and wanted to know if it was a 30-foot drop from the neighbor’s house above to the Francy property below.  Mr. McKeon wanted to know at what elevation over the foundation line the retaining wall is being cast into the hill. Mr. Aarons responded that the foundation line is going to be taller than the wall.  Mr. Wegner referred (again) to cross section detail A-A and noted that there is a span of 21 feet from the lowest to the highest point of the retaining wall (75 feet to 96 feet.)  Mr. Aarons said that the span of 21 feet is from the bottom of the fill wall to the top of the cut wall.  

Mr. McKeon said that, with respect to the drainage that was described earlier tonight, there was a representation made about how water flows on the driveway, which is inconsistent to his experience.

Mr. Wegner referred to the next review standard (item #8) regarding the construction of roads and driveways.  Mr. Wegner noted that the Applicant is not proposing to build any roads.  In so far as the driveway is concerned, they have located the driveway in such a way as to minimize the amount of grading to gain access to the site.
    
Mr. Wegner read aloud item #9 regarding the protection of ridgelines and said that, to his knowledge, there are no ridgelines located on or adjacent to this site.

Mr. Wegner referred to item #10, which states that “All regrading shall blend in with the natural contours and undulations of the land.” He noted that the grading is designed to blend in with the natural contours and land undulations to the greatest extent practicable.

Mr. Wegner said that, with respect to item #11, their intention during the construction process is to round off the cuts and fills so as to blend in with the existing (natural) contours.

Mr. Wegner referred to item #12 pertaining to the angle of cut and fill slopes and noted that Item #12 states that “…cut and fill slopes should not be steeper than two horizontal to one vertical (fifty-percent slope).”  Mr. Wegner said that they are not proposing any grading to exceed two horizontal to one vertical except where retaining walls or other structural stabilization is being used.  In fact, they are proposing to make the grading even gentler than that.  

Mr. Wegner said that they are in compliance with item #13.  They meet the standard regarding the angle of the fill slope (50% slope), and they will be keeping the toe of the fill slope further than 12 feet from the top of any existing or proposed cut slope.   

Mr. Wegner referred to item #14, “Tops and bottoms of cut and fill slopes shall be set back from existing and proposed property lines a distance at least equal to the lesser of three feet plus 1/5 of the height of the cut or fill or 10 feet.”  Mr. Wegner said that they are able to avoid having to address the setback requirements in item #14 by placing retaining walls on the property lines, thereby eliminating cut and fill slopes in these areas.   

Mr. Wegner said that they would meet the standards set forth in item #15 regarding the slopes/grades on the property and the impact(s) on the structural integrity of the house. Mr. Wegner said that the building (house) would be designed so as to withstand any forces exerted on it by the surrounding slopes/grades.  

Mr. Wegner said that his answer to item #16 on measures for erosion and sedimentation control is provided in note #10 of the Erosion and Sediment Control Notes on sheet UD-2.1 of the Applicant’s plans.

Chairperson Allen asked if Mr. Wegner has prepared a terracing plan, to which Mr. Wegner replied that he has a cross section of the terracing.  He picked the most steeply impacted portion of the site for the terracing.

Chairperson Allen asked if there were any other comments.  Mr. McKeon noted that there are two flag lots adjacent to the subject property, which is not depicted on the Applicant’s plans.  There are two domiciles on the flag lot next to the Lipton property.  The Village Engineer said that the very long lot with two dwellings, to which Mr. McKeon is referring, is actually not considered a flag lot. The property in question also belongs to Mrs. Francy.  The Village Engineer said that the house on this property was built under the 1931 Zoning Code and is considered legally non-conforming.  The rear house was an old carriage house, which was converted to a dwelling in the 1950’s.  Mr. McKeon noted that, in order to meet code standards, the property would have to have 20 feet of frontage.  He said that the two driveways collectively are not 40 feet wide, to which the Village Engineer replied that the subject (Francy) property has more than 20 feet of frontage that attaches itself to Old Post Road North.  

Mr. McKeon expressed concern that access to the two existing domiciles, which are adjacent to the Francy property being reviewed tonight, is being constrained by the retaining wall being proposed, to which Mr. Wegner noted that the retaining wall on this property is not where Mr. McKeon is saying it is.  The retaining wall is further back from the edge of the road.  The Applicant’s attorney John Gochman told those present that there is an existing retaining wall adjoining the Lipton property.

Mr. Gochman reviewed again for the Planning Board the history of the improved Francy lot, stating that the carriage house in the back was converted to a house under the previous zoning law.  The front house has suffered water damage and has not been used for several years.  

Mr. Luntz noted that, at a previous meeting the lot, which is the subject of tonight’s discussion, was presented to the Planning Board as a legal building lot. Mr. Gochman said that, indeed, he had performed research regarding the legality of this lot. Mr. Gochman noted that it was ultimately determined that the subdivision, of which the Francy lot is a part, is a legitimate subdivision, and the lot is a buildable lot.  Mr. Gochman pointed out that his research delayed this project by two years.  

Mr. Lipton told the board that he bought his house with the idea that the Francy property could not be built on.  This has always been his understanding.

Mr. Aarons said that he would think that allowing the public to speak tonight, although this is not actually a public hearing, would “speed up the process.” Mr. Aarons said that, ultimately, the Planning Board would want to obtain a synthesis of opinion(s) to make their decision.

Chairperson Allen stated that, for the next meeting, the Applicant should provide a storm water analysis.  Slope disturbance(s) broken down into actual numbers should also be provided.

Mr. Gochman asked if it would be possible to schedule the public hearing tonight, to which Chairperson Allen said that she, personally, would be uncomfortable scheduling it tonight. The Planning Board is missing one member. Also, the Planning Board chairman has recused himself from this application. The Planning Board would like to see disturbance numbers and the storm water analysis.  She suggested that the Applicant should come before the board one more time before the public hearing is scheduled.  The Village Engineer noted that the Applicant also requires a Minor Site Plan approval.  As part of the Minor Site Plan approval, the Planning Board would be reviewing the architectural features of the house.  More information would be required for the Minor Site Plan review.  The Village Engineer said that it might prove difficult to separate the two applications (Minor Site Plan and Steep Slopes).

Mr. Lipton asked why the Applicant needs to have the retaining walls – “Is it because of terracing?” – to which Mr. Wegner said, no, the retaining walls are necessary to make a required parking area and a flat useable yard.

Mr. Aarons asked if, when Mr. Wegner prepares his slope disturbance analysis for the next submission he could reiterate, for edifications purposes, the square footage of the Francy lot. Mr. Wegner suggested to the board that his layout could be in three parts:  total slopes, existing slopes and “what we are going to disturb.”

Chairperson Allen pointed out that there are a great number of trees on the Francy property.  The terracing being proposed would undoubtedly affect these trees.  She asked Mr. Wegner to identify which trees would be saved and which ones would be removed.  The Planning Board would also want to know how the trees that are being saved would be protected.  Chairperson Allen said that she has not seen any development recently that has protected trees to the drip line.  The Planning Board should insist on that for this site.  Chairperson Allen said that she would not want to see, during the construction, a contractor piling up dirt on the trees and then, at the end, putting in tree wells. This technique has proven to be inadequate for saving trees. Chairperson Allen noted that trees are a factor in maintaining the slopes on this property.  The Planning Board would want the trees identified and would want to know the steps being taken during construction to protect the trees.  Mr. Wegner said that he would put an “X” through the trees that are going to be removed, to which Chairperson Allen said that she would also want to have the trees identified (marked) in the field.  

Mr. Lipton said that the Steep Slopes Law states that “the public policy of the Village [is] to preserve, protect and conserve its steep slopes…”  Mr. Lipton said that once a house is built on this property, it will not be a “steep slopes” anymore.  Mr. Lipton said that, as he understands the procedures of the Planning Board, the planning efforts being carried out by this Applicant’s engineer would be asked for (insisted upon) by the Planning Board anyway. He does not see what additional steps are being taken in this case.  Mr. Lipton said, “It makes the law meaningless when you take away the steep slopes.”  Mr. Lipton pointed out that this is an “odd ball” situation – a tiny lot made up of steep slopes, which the Applicant is proposing to take away.  Mr. Wegner referred to the Steep Slopes Law and noted that the law also states that when the avoidance of steep slopes is not practicable, the disturbance should be the minimum necessary to afford a property owner a reasonable use of his property. The Village Engineer stated that, at an earlier meeting, the Planning Board asked the Applicant to shrink the size of the house to reduce the environmental and aesthetic impacts, and that has been done.  Chairperson Allen said that the Planning Board has to look at the overall impacts on the neighborhood and environment. Mr. Wegner is a very competent engineer, and he has presented a plan that shows, from an engineering standpoint, how a house could be built on this lot.  Chairperson Allen said, “That does not mean that the Planning Board has to go along with it.”  Mr. Lipton pointed out that it is difficult to understand the impacts of this project on his (the Lipton) property by looking at a site plan.  From his perspective, once the house is built, he would be looking at an exposed foundation, a first story, a second story and a gabled roof.  The impact will be enormous.  A house on this lot would totally and fundamentally alter what they (the Lipton’s) have.  Mr. Lipton invited the Planning Board members to come to his property to have a better idea of the impacts, to which Chairperson Allen thought that this would be a good idea.  She suggested that the Planning Board members could take a site walk prior to the public hearing.

The Village Engineer said that, as Chairperson Allen suggested earlier, the trees should be marked in the field.   Mr. Wegner should also stake out the corners of the proposed house.        

Mr. Luntz said that he would think that a satisfactory way to proceed would be to have the Applicant prepare the items requested i.e., the storm water analysis and disturbance analysis and once submitted, schedule the public hearing.  The Village Engineer noted that for the Minor Site Plan review, not only should architectural elevations be provided but also samples of colors and (exterior) surface treatments and materials.  

The Village Engineer stated that once the public hearing is called, the Applicant would also have to go before the Waterfront Advisory Committee (WAC) for a determination of consistency with the policies of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP).

Mr. Wegner said that he would contact the Village Engineer’s office when the Applicant is ready to come back before the board.

  
3.  APPROVAL OF MINUTES:

Approval of the minutes of the Tuesday, January 13, 2009 Planning Board meeting and the Tuesday, January 27, 2009 Planning Board meeting was tabled until the next regularly scheduled meeting to be held on Tuesday, March 24, 2009.  


4.  ADJOURNMENT:

There being no further business to come before the board, the meeting was duly adjourned at 10:39 P.M. on a motion by Mr. Luntz, seconded by Mr. Aarons and carried by a vote of 3 to 0.

Sincerely,



Sylvia Mills
Secretary


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