Planning Board Minutes 04/28/2009


A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, April 28, 2009 in the Municipal Building.

MEMBERS PRESENT:        Chris Kehoe, Chairman
                                Mark Aarons
                                Fran Allen
                                Robert Luntz

ABSENT:                 Vincent Andrews

ALSO PRESENT:           Ann Gallelli, Member of the Board of Trustees
                                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.


  • Liz Jacobson & Amy Rosato (Property Owner, Estate of Paul Hoffman) – 139 Grand Street (Sec. 67.20 Blk. 3 Lot 18) – Application for a Change of Use from a Law Office to a Specialty Boutique
Liz Jacobson and Amy Rosato, principals of the prospective specialty boutique, were present.

Ms. Jacobson described the offerings of their proposed boutique Treasures & Tales, stating that they would be offering for sale a variety of merchandise including clothes, jewelry, furniture and books.  Their boutique would also be a showcase for the works of local artists.  Ms. Jacobson stated that they would not only purchase new products (themselves) but would also welcome consignment items.  Ms. Jacobson said that the gift shop and boutique Wondrous Things left a gaping hole in the Village when they closed their doors. Their boutique Treasures & Tales would be a “throw back” to the time when Wondrous Things was a showcase for local artists.  Ms. Jacobson noted that by the time Wondrous Things closed down, it had become a rather expensive place to shop. Most of the items in Treasures & Tales would be sold at a mid-range price-point.  Ms. Jacobson noted that there is a consignment store in the Harmon section of the Village known as Elena’s Boutique.  It is her (Ms. Jacobson’s) understanding that this boutique would be narrowing their focus and phasing out their clothing line(s). There is also in the upper Village the clothing store Groovy on Grand, which targets teenagers.  Ms. Jacobson said that their boutique Treasures & Tales would offer clothing and accessories for adults.  Their shop would be a place to buy an affordable gift for children, teenagers and adults.

Chairman Kehoe asked the Applicant if they were proposing any changes to the exterior of the building, to which Ms. Jacobson said that they are not proposing any changes to the building itself.  They are proposing to put a railing around the porch.  Ms. Jacobson said that they would not want people injuring themselves on the metal bolts.  They would be adding the railing to the porch to provide for the safety of their customers.  Chairman Kehoe noted that the Applicant’s letter to the Planning Board states that they would be providing seating on the porch, to which Ms. Jacobson replied that they would want to provide a welcoming place where people can gather together and be comfortable – a place where people can “hang out.”  Ms. Allen asked if they would be serving food, to which Ms. Jacobson said that they might serve coffee to customers, but they would not be serving anything that “people would be walking around with.” She pointed out to the Planning Board that in order to serve food they would have to have a food handling certificate.

Chairman Kehoe asked the Applicant to explain the consignment end of their business. Ms. Jacobson said that an individual/organization would bring items to the shop for sale “on consignment.” If a sale were to take place, the profit(s) from the sale would be split 50-50.  Ms. Jacobson noted that it is usually a 60-40 split (40% to the individual/organization bringing in merchandise and 60% to the consignment shop); however, they (she and her partner) would want to be fair and make it a 50-50 split.

Chairman Kehoe asked if the sign being proposed would be hanging in the same place as the existing sign in front of the building, to which Ms. Jacobson said that this is, indeed, the case.  

Chairman Kehoe said that, as he understands the parking, eight on-site parking spaces are required and the site can fit only seven spaces.  Ms. Jacobson said that they are requesting a waiver from the one additional on-site parking space.  The Village Engineer noted to the Planning Board that, in so far as the parking is concerned, the Applicant would have to meet the off-street parking requirements or ask the Planning Board to grant a waiver from these requirements.  The Village Engineer noted that the Applicant would also need to provide a handicap parking spot; there would be an eight-foot aisle next to the handicap parking spot.      

Ms. Jacobson said that the hours of operation would be Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M.  They would be closed on major holidays.

Ms. Jacobson asked about the requirement to have a handicap ramp at the facility (building), to which the Village Engineer replied that, if any changes were being made to the building, then, a handicap ramp would be required.  It is his (the Village Engineer’s) understanding that no changes are being made.

Ms. Jacobson told the board members that Ms. Rosato and she would like to open their boutique in time for the annual Village “Summerfest” in early June.

Chairman Kehoe asked the Applicant if they are going to be leasing the space from the property owner(s), to which Ms. Jacobson said, “Yes.”

Mr. Aarons asked if they would be using as a display area for their merchandise the second floor of the building, to which Ms. Jacobson replied that they want to put the furniture on the second floor.  Mr. Aarons noted to Ms. Jacobson the difficulty they might have putting furniture in that location.  He would think that the stairwell from the main floor would not be “friendly” for moving furniture.  There is not a lot of room from the stairwell to the passageway. Ms. Jacobson said that, as far as displaying the merchandise is concerned, Ms. Rosato and she have come up with the idea of setting up “vignettes” in rooms.  She gave as an example a room that would be just for designer-type merchandise.  Each room/display area would have its own unique focus.   

Chairman Kehoe told the Applicant that there would have to be a public hearing scheduled for this change of use application.

Chairman Kehoe asked if there were any further comments on this application, to which there were none.

The Planning Board scheduled the public hearing for the next regularly scheduled Planning Board meeting to be held on Tuesday, May 12th.  

  • Tom & Carlene Fallacaro – 3 Arrowcrest Drive (Sec. 67.15 Blk. 1 Lot 33) – Applications for a Modification to the Building Envelope, a Steep Slopes Permit and a Wetlands Activity Permit for an Existing Retaining Wall and Other Site Improvements
Norman Sheer, Esq. of Bank, Sheer, Seymour & Hashmall and Tom Fallacaro, owner of the property, were present for this application.

Chairman Kehoe noted that he was unable to attend the site visit to the Fallacaro property, to which Mr. Sheer said that Chairman Kehoe would be welcome to come to the property at any time.  He should just call Mr. Fallacaro when he is available to visit the site.

Mr. Sheer said that the Applicant’s consulting engineer Bernard Grossfield has performed the ground penetrating radar tests on the existing retaining wall and has submitted his report to the Planning Board.  Mr. Grossfield’s conclusion is that the retaining wall is safe.

The Village Engineer told the Planning Board that, in so far as this report is concerned, he has only given it a cursory review. Before drawing any conclusions himself or before confirming the conclusions drawn by Mr. Grossfield, he would need to review the calculations given in the various sections of the report more thoroughly. Mr. Sheer said that judging from the report it would appear that the wall was built as it should have been built, but he realizes that the Village Engineer would be the final arbiter.

Chairman Kehoe told Mr. Sheer that he would think that from this point on the Planning Board could use some guidance as to the processing of this application. “We need an outline of where we are going from here.”  Mr. Sheer said that at some point the Planning Board has to request that the Applicant go before the Zoning Board of Appeals.  The Applicant needs variances including a side yard setback variance and a front yard setback variance.  A variance from the height requirement for retaining walls is also required. Mr. Sheer said that the Applicant has to go before the Water Control Commission (WCC) for the wetlands permit.  Members of the WCC attended the joint site visit. Mr. Sheer noted that the Planning Board is the final arbiter on the granting of a wetlands permit; however, the Planning Board requires a recommendation from the WCC.  Mr. Sheer said that the Village Engineer has recently told him that, for the wetlands and steep slope permits, the Applicant would also have to go before the Waterfront Advisory Committee (WAC). Mr. Sheer stated that the Applicant has to go before the Village Board for the intrusion into the conservation easement of the swimming pool deck.  There has also been clearing of trees, which has taken place in the conservation easement. Mr. Sheer noted that this clearing of trees would actually be the jurisdiction of the Planning Board and not the Village Board.  

Mr. Sheer recalled that he had already given the Planning Board members as part of their review a copy of the original site plan for the house.  Mr. Sheer noted to the board that this site plan was not followed with respect to the water course/wetlands area(s).

The Village Engineer told the board that the WCC is aware that this application is being referred to them by the Planning Board.  This is the first referral that the WCC has received from the Planning Board under the “new” wetlands law.  Mr. Sheer noted to the board members that he has spoken to the WCC secretary and the Applicant is on the WCC agenda for the 19th of May.

Ms. Allen questioned what the Planning Board’s options are with respect to the violations incurred by this Applicant. “Are fines an option?”  The Village Engineer said that, with respect to the payment of fines, an option would (always) be to send the Applicant to the Village Justice Court.  

Mr. Aarons asked to what degree of certainty the Planning Board is satisfied with Mr. Grossfield’s conclusions.  He pointed out that, in so far as the failure of this wall is concerned, there is the potential for litigation from the downhill property owners.  He suggested that it might be wise for the Village to request a surety bond to protect the Village against the possibility of something happening to this wall. Mr. Sheer said that he would think that Mr. Fallacaro carries an adequate amount of insurance, as is.  Ms. Allen said that she found the cover letter of Mr. Grossfield’s report not very elucidating. In her view it was just “boilerplate.” Ms. Allen said that, given the technical nature of this report with its numerous pages of numeric calculations and no written explanations, it would seem to her that this report was being addressed to a very knowledgeable engineer and not being addressed to a planning board.  Mr. Sheer said that the Village Engineer has to go through Mr. Grossfield’s calculations and advise the Planning Board accordingly.     

Mr. Aarons asked the Village Engineer if, with respect to Mr. Grossfield’s report, he would need any additional support in his review from a structural engineer, to which the Village Engineer replied that he would have to review the report first to make this determination.  He would have to “see what was picked up and what assumptions were made.”  The Village Engineer explained the nature of radar testing to the Planning Board and pointed out that the radar can only see a certain amount. The Village Engineer said that the radar emits radio waves, which bounce back to produce a profile of the wall.  The radar would pick up different densities and would show any voids.   

Chairman Kehoe said that, to date, the Planning Board has not had the Village Attorney present at the meetings on this application. The Planning Board would want to make sure that they are following the proper procedures.  Chairman Kehoe said that he would think that the Planning Board is not ready to send this application to the ZBA.  He would not want the Applicant to go before the ZBA until such time as the Village Engineer has had an opportunity to review the engineering report submitted. Chairman Kehoe said that the Planning Board also needs to decide whether to seek the advice of the Village Attorney on the processing of this application. If the wall were to collapse, he (Chairman Kehoe) would want to make sure that “we are not liable.” Mr. Sheer said that he is not suggesting that the Planning Board make the decision tonight on sending the Applicant to the ZBA.  He would think that an appropriate time to go before the ZBA might be after the issues pertaining to the wetlands (WCC) and the wall’s safety are settled.   Mr. Sheer said that, procedure-wise, the Applicant should go before the Village Board last.

Ms. Allen said that she would like to know the Planning Board’s range of options.  The Planning Board could seek the advice of the Village Attorney in this regard.  Mr. Aarons said that he is leaning toward the idea of inviting the Village Attorney to the next Planning Board meeting. This application is “out of the ordinary” and the Planning Board might want to call for an executive session with the Village Attorney present to discuss this application. Mr. Sheer said that he would agree that an appropriate approach for the Planning Board would be to settle the issue regarding the safety of the wall and then seek the advice of the Village Attorney.

The Village Engineer said that Ralph Mastromonaco was the original engineer on this (the Fallacaro) house project. Some initial drainage was indicated on the environmental site plan.  The Village Engineer said that when the wall was built the drainage was routed to the back of the property instead of the front.  He would like Mr. Mastromonaco to look at the drainage and give his opinion as to whether or not the drainage system can handle this change.  There could be additional pressure on the wall caused by the drainage.  Mr. Sheer said that he would ask Mr. Mastromonaco to take a look at it.  The Village Engineer said that he would like to be able to review the calculations for the “new” drainage system to ascertain what it can handle in terms of flow.  

Mr. Sheer noted to those present that the Fallacaro’s opted to start this “new” drainage system when they built their swimming pool. Water was flowing into the pool and they wanted to rectify this (drainage) problem.  Mr. Fallacaro said that they built their pool and then they put in the drainage system.  The wall went in last.

Mr. Fallacaro suggested that he could cut back the deck around the swimming pool so that it would no longer be within the conservation easement area.  

Mr. Sheer noted that the original site plan for this property shows that more than one-half of this property is within the conservation easement area.  Mr. Fallacaro noted further that the property is 3 acres in size and the actual house sits on a very small portion of this acreage.  Ms. Allen recalled that Village trails were supposed to be built through this conservation easement and this was never done.  

Mr. Sheer suggested that it might be worthwhile to schedule a joint-meeting with the various Village boards involved with this application.

Mr. Aarons said that the Planning Board should seek consultation from the Village Attorney on how to proceed.  The Village Attorney could act as a “point person” for the various boards.  The Village Attorney could set up a “game plan” as to the proper procedure(s).  Mr. Sheer said that he, too, would like to hear from the Village Attorney on what kind of steps need to be taken.  

Mr. Aarons suggested that the Planning Board should take a vote on the matter of asking the Village Attorney to attend the next meeting.  He entertained a motion that the Village Attorney be invited to attend the next Planning Board meeting and, if deemed necessary, that the Village Attorney and the Planning Board hold an executive session.  The motion was made by Mr. Aarons, seconded by Mr. Luntz and carried by a vote of 4 to 0.  Mr. Sheer said that he would think that the Village Attorney should attend the meeting, but he questioned the necessity and/or appropriateness of holding an executive session for an explanation on how to proceed.

Ms. Allen expressed concern about the lack of written explanations in Mr. Grossfield’s report.  She referred to Table No. 1 entitled “Summary of Wall Stability Calculations” and said that, for purposes of clarification and to aid the Planning Board in their review, she would like a written explanation on the conclusions being drawn. She would want to know what the ranges are for the “Factor of Safety” and the “Maximum Soil Bearing Pressure.”  Ms. Allen said that she would think that Mr. Grossfield could provide to the Planning Board an explanation of what the numbers mean.  She reiterated that a more detailed explanation should be provided.  The Village Engineer noted to the Planning Board that, in performing this type of test – ground penetrating radar test – some factors regarding the wall could be precisely determined while other factors are left to conjecture.  For example, the radar could determine the upper back of the wall on the lawn area; however, some assumptions were being made for the lower part of the wall. The Village Engineer noted to the Planning Board members that the question to ask is how critical this is for the analysis.  Chairman Kehoe said that he would agree with Ms. Allen that there needs to be a more detailed written explanation.

Chairman Kehoe told the Village Engineer that the Planning Board would want the Village Engineer’s input on the report e.g., whether he agrees or disagrees with the conclusions, whether more information is required, etc.  The Village Engineer said that, if necessary, he would ask that the Planning Board require the Applicant to provide escrow monies for the hiring of an outside consultant.  Mr. Sheer said that Mr. Grossfield could include an addendum to his report for the purpose of providing further explanations. Mr. Sheer said that the Planning Board would have to make it clear to Mr. Grossfield exactly what they are looking for in the addendum.  Ms. Allen said that, at a minimum, the Planning Board would want explanations and/or definitions of the technical terms being used. She (Ms. Allen) would like to know the state of the soils at the time the radar tests were taken.  Ms. Allen asked to know what the profile of the wall itself is on the ground’s surface.

Mr. Aarons asked what types of inspections would have been done on the wall, if the wall were built like it should have been.  The Village Engineer said that during a typical wall construction the Village inspector would stop by to inspect the wall every few days.  The mortar would be inspected, depth for the footings, etc.  The Village Engineer pointed out that, for a wall construction, it is critical that a licensed professional be hired to make inspections.  Besides the Village inspector, the Village would want a professional engineer on site who could certify the construction of the wall.  

Chairman Kehoe asked if there were any further comments, to which there were none.

Chairman Kehoe asked the Village Engineer to contact the Village Attorney and let the Planning Board know whether the Village Attorney would be able to attend the next Planning Board meeting to be held on Tuesday, May 12th.    

  • The Village Engineer told the Planning Board that the Village’s environmental consultant Bruce Donohue has met with Steve Coleman, the consultant for the Croton Community Nursery School, regarding Mr. Coleman’s wetlands delineation.  The two consultants had conflicting opinions about where the wetlands boundary is.  The conclusion of their meeting was that there is a discrepancy in Mr. Coleman’s original report that needs correcting.  The Village Engineer said that Mr. Coleman has agreed to produce an addendum to his report to this effect.
  • Chairman Kehoe said that at some point in the near future the Planning Board might be asked to look at the Harmon economic/commercial development proposal(s). Trustee Gallelli came forward and told the Planning Board members that the Mayor has announced that the Village Attorney is drafting a local law.  Once drafted, the Village Board would declare itself the Lead Agency for this project.  Trustee Gallelli said that she would think the time frame would be some time in June.

The minutes of the Tuesday, March 24, 2009 Planning Board meeting were approved, as amended, on a motion by Ms. Allen, seconded by Mr. Luntz and carried by a vote of 3-0-1.  Planning Board member Mark Aarons abstained.  


There being no further business to come before the board, the meeting was duly adjourned at 9:20 P.M.


Sylvia Mills

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