Planning Board Minutes 11/24/2009
VILLAGE OF CROTON ON HUDSON, NEW YORK

PLANNING BOARD MEETING MINUTES – TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2009

A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, November 24, 2009 in the Municipal Building.

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

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.

  • OLD BUSINESS:
  • Referral from the Village Board for a Special Permit for a Pre-school/Day Care Center at 1380 Albany Post Road
Tom Vayda and Gloria Foster, owners of the proposed day care center, were present.

Mr. Vayda said that, at the last meeting, the Planning Board asked that the trees and the topography be added to their proposed site plan, and this has been done.  

Chairman Kehoe noted that the Applicant has provided to the board an addendum to the narrative that had been submitted for their day care center proposal.  He suggested that Mr. Vayda could review for the board the high points of the addendum. Mr. Vayda stated that when they had the property resurveyed they discovered errors in the original survey.  The existing building on the property was not properly located and had to be shifted somewhat. The existing storm drain also had to be shifted. He referred to the site plan and pointed out the location of the storm drain pipe.  Mr. Vayda said that it was discovered in doing the new survey that the storm drain pipe would run under the proposed addition. The pipe would, therefore, have to be moved.  Mr. Vayda described for the board the drainage system being proposed noting the location of the new open catch basins. Mr. Vayda said that the existing catch basin on the site connects to the storm drain pipe; from the storm drain, the water would flow in a northerly direction around the perimeter of the building.  Mr. Vayda said that as a result of the modifications that have been made to the site plan a few more trees would have to be removed. Mr. Vayda stated that they hired a professional horticulturist to assess the trees on the property.  Their horticulturist recommended the removal of some of the dead trees.  Mr. Vayda said that it is their intent to remove ten dead trees on the southern side of the property.

Mr. Vayda said that in the currently proposed configuration of the building there would be a maximum of 72 full time children and 20 after-school children in the facility.  Mr. Vayda noted that if they were to decide to tear down the existing building and make a change in the configuration/design, the capacity of the facility would be increased to 80 full time children (8 more than before) and 20 after-schoolers (same as before).  

Mr. Vayda said that due to some site issues that have come up, they may decide to tear down the existing building.  Mr. Vayda noted that it would cost more to tear the building down than to keep it intact, but tearing it down would alleviate a number of site issues. Mr. Vayda said that if they were to go with a brand new building, the new design footprint would be increased by approximately 200 square feet.  Mr. Vayda noted that nothing would change in terms of the tree removal that would be required for construction. Also, the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) requirements would still be met.  Mr. Vayda noted that the color rendering of the proposed building that was submitted for the meeting tonight, as well as the plot plan and site plan, show the currently proposed configuration with the existing building intact.

Mr. Vayda said that they have had to add an ADA-compliant sidewalk because of elevation issues.  Mr. Vayda said that the grading problem on the property could have been made simpler if they could have used the soil being removed for the building to cover over the play area.  The problem is that if they were to put three or four feet of dirt in the play area, they would more than likely kill the trees, and they do not want that to happen.  Mr. Luntz referred to the Applicant’s plan(s) and asked if, to enter the existing building, one has to walk down and then up a flight of steps to the entryway. This would seem to be the case given the current elevation at the front entrance.  Mr. Vayda said that, indeed, one has to walk down and then up the steps to enter into the existing building; however, this is going to change.  Mr. Vayda said that, as part of the project, the parking lot would be leveled off so that instead of walking up steps, one would have to walk down some steps to enter the building. Mr. Vayda said that people entering the day care center would do so through the reception area to the right of the main entrance. Mr. Vayda said that the reason for building up the parking lot is to avoid having to deal with an ADA issue. By building up and leveling off the parking lot, the entrance to the building at the reception area would now be at grade. Mr. Vayda said that they are putting the handicap lift inside the building so that they can have an entrance to the lower classroom area. Mr. Luntz suggested that to avoid having to install the ADA-compliant sidewalk, the Applicant could put the dirt being removed for the building in the back play area.  Mr. Luntz noted that there are hardly any trees behind the building, maybe two at the most. Mr. Luntz said that, in so far as tearing down the existing building is concerned he would think that the Applicant would be better off building a brand new structure.  Mr. Vayda said that they are not yet in a position to propose taking down the old (existing) building. They are in the process of ascertaining whether this is (would be) economically feasible.

Mr. Luntz said that he, personally, does not have a problem with this type of use (a day care center use) at this location. If the use were the issue for the granting of a special permit, then, he would have no problem recommending to the Village Board that the special permit be granted.  Mr. Luntz questioned the layout described tonight by Mr. Vayda and said that there would seem to be some convoluted “up and down issues” that do not make sense.  

Mr. Luntz referred to the site plan and asked Mr. Vayda if the force main being indicated on the plan is new, to which Mr. Vayda said, “Yes.”  Mr. Luntz asked if, to hook up to the sewer treatment plant across the street, the Applicant would need a permit from the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT), to which Mr. Vayda said that they would need a permit from the DOT. Mr. Aarons asked how deep the water main and gas main go, to which the Village Engineer said that the water main goes down 4 feet and the gas main 2 feet.

Chairman Kehoe said that it would appear from the Applicant’s revised site plan that the Applicant has been working with the Village Engineer on the drainage. Chairman Kehoe noted the details to the drainage system that have been added to the plan.  Mr. Vayda said that they have been discussing the drainage with Ralph Mastromonaco, and it would appear that the drainage system is going to be costly.  Mr. Vayda said that, in so far as the drainage is concerned, “They will end up with something that is acceptable to all.”

Chairman Kehoe said that the Planning Board is supposed to be looking at the specific criteria given in the Village Code for the granting of a special permit. Chairman Kehoe read aloud these criteria.  Chairman Kehoe reiterated that the Planning Board should be looking at these criteria to make their recommendation on the granting of the special permit to the Village Board.  Mr. Luntz said that he has no problem with the proposed use; however, the building, as proposed, “is not working, and [the Applicant] should take another look at that.”  Mr. Luntz said that he realizes there are many requirements that have to be met for this type of facility.  What makes it even more difficult in this case is that the existing building does not meet grade.  Mr. Vayda noted to Mr. Luntz that this building was not their first choice, but it became something that they felt would be workable.  

Mr. Vayda said that in the O-1 (Limited Office) Zoning District, the hours of operation are supposed to be 7:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M.  They would want their hours of operation to be 6:30 A.M. to 7:30 P.M.  Mr. Vayda said that he was told that this might be a Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) issue, to which Chairman Kehoe noted that, according to the Code, the Village Board has the authority to waive the requirement on the hours of operation.  Chairman Kehoe said that in the Planning Board’s recommendation to the Village Board the Planning Board could say that the Applicant prefers 6:30 A.M. to 7:30 P.M.  Chairman Kehoe said that he, personally, does not have an issue with extending the hours.  

Chairman Kehoe asked Mr. Vayda if, with the proposal for a brand new building, the maximum capacity would be 100, to which Mr. Vayda said that it would, indeed, be 100.  Mr. Vayda noted that this is (would be) pending Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) approval.  Chairman Kehoe asked if the addition of 8 (92 to 100) would be all students or if it would include employees, to which Mr. Vayda said that it would be all students.  Mr. Vayda said that, with respect to the additional parking, they believe they could get more parking out of the existing lot.  They have to discuss this matter with their architect.  Chairman Kehoe asked the board members if, in the Planning Board’s recommendation to the Village Board, the Planning Board should go with the greater number of students, to which Mr. Andrews questioned why this would be an issue for this board. Mr. Andrews said that he would think that this matter regarding the number of students would be governed by the state requirements for child care facilities, local (Village) parking requirements, etc.       

Mr. Vayda noted that, with respect to the hours of operation, there may be times when parents have extenuating circumstances that would prevent them from being on time, and the day care would need to stay open later than 7:30 P.M. to accommodate these parents.  Chairman Kehoe suggested that the Applicant could say to the Village Board that their regular hours of operation would be 6:30 A.M. to 7:30 P.M. They (the Applicant) could deal with the extenuating circumstances for extending the hours as they come along.   

Mr. Vayda noted to the Planning Board that if, at some point in the future, the cash flow is such that they could afford to add more space to the day care center, they would choose to add an auditorium or some other form of enhancement to the existing space rather than a classroom, to which Chairman Kehoe told Mr. Vayda that if, in the future, they were to propose an addition to the existing building, they would have to come back before the Planning Board for an amended site plan approval.

The Village Engineer told the Applicant that they should provide to the Village Board documentation that they have a license from OCFS to operate a day care center. Also, they need to provide documentation to show that the owner of the private sewage treatment plant across the road is going to allow the day care center to connect to their facility.

Ms. Foster noted that they would have to obtain a new license from OCFS for their new commercial building. They are the contract vendees; they do not own the building yet. Ms. Foster noted that they could not obtain the license for their new day care center until they are issued a Certificate of Occupancy for the new building.  Ms. Foster said that, in the interim, they have been working with the OCFS on other site- and building-related matters such as ADA requirements. Mr. Vayda reiterated that they would not be able to obtain the license until the Certificate of Occupancy is issued and until the state safety inspectors have visited the site.  Chairman Kehoe noted that, with respect to the licensing, the Village Code says that the special permit shall not be effective until the day care center facility has been licensed. State regulations say that the owners of the day care could not be licensed until the Certificate of Occupancy is issued. Chairman Kehoe said that this is a “chicken and egg” issue which, he would think, the Village Board might want to address.  

The Village Engineer stated that if the Village Board were to grant the special permit, the Applicant would have to come back before the Planning Board with an amended site plan.  The Village Engineer said that the details of the proposed construction would need to be shown on the Applicant’s plans.  The Village Engineer noted that the Applicant would also have to submit to the Planning Board a landscaping plan and more notes/details on the proposed water and sewer connections.  A sign application would have to be submitted. Mr. Vayda said that they would be appearing before the Advisory Board on the Visual Environment (VEB) for the sign.  They also have to seek two variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals.  Mr. Vayda explained to the board the nature of the variances they would need, stating that one of the variances pertains to the height of a fence. A fence can only be six feet in height. They would like to propose and eight-foot high fence along Route 9 to help alleviate the sound of traffic.  Mr. Vayda said that the other variance would be for a second sign. They are limited to one sign in the O-1 district, and they would like to install a second sign facing Route 9. Ms. Allen asked if the NYS DOT would have an issue with the sign along Route 9.  She noted that the state has laws about billboards.  Mr. Vayda said that the sign would be on their (the day care center) property as opposed to the state right-of-way; nonetheless, he would check with the DOT regarding the sign.

Chairman Kehoe reviewed the items to be included in the Planning Board’s memorandum to the Village Board.  The Planning Board’s memorandum should incorporate the Planning Board’s discussion about the expanded hours of operation.  The issues regarding the license for the day care center should be addressed.  The Applicant should provide documentation to show that they are currently licensed to operate a day care center. The Applicant should also provide documentation to show that the owner of the private sewage treatment plant is agreeable to the sewer connection that is being proposed.

Chairman Kehoe asked the board if they had any further comments, to which there were none.

Chairman Kehoe entertained a motion to recommend that the special permit be granted subject to the conditions discussed tonight.  The motion was made by Mr. Luntz, seconded by Mr. Andrews and carried by a vote of 5 to 0.

  • Referral from the Village Board for a Special Permit for an Auto Repair and Auto Sales Shop at 365 South Riverside Avenue
John Gochman, Esq., attorney for the Applicant, was present.

Chairman Kehoe noted that there was a discussion at the last meeting on this application about the Planning Board needing a more up-to-date site plan.  For the meeting tonight, the Applicant has provided an updated survey and a site plan prepared by Gemmola & Associates, Architects/Planners.

Mr. Andrews asked if the Applicant could explain to the Planning Board the status of the special permit that had been granted in the 1980’s.  Mr. Gochman said that this special permit has expired. The reason that it expired is that the legally non-conforming use had been “abandoned for two years or more.” Mr. Gochman said that, under the statute, a new special permit has to be issued.  Mr. Gochman said that he applied to the Village Board for the special permit, and the application was referred to the Planning Board for a recommendation.  

Chairman Kehoe noted that the Village Board recently approved revisions to the Harmon Gateway Overlay Zoning District.  As part of these revisions a number of properties were added to the Harmon Gateway, one of which is the property being discussed tonight.  The Village Engineer noted that the new Harmon Gateway law is in the process of being filed with the NYS Department of State; it will become law any day now if it hasn’t already.  The Village Engineer said that this application for a special permit would have to abide by the regulations set forth in the newly adopted gateway law.

The Village Engineer said that in the C-2 (General Commercial) Zoning District a motor vehicle service station is a special permit use. The sale of used cars is permitted as an accessory use to a service station and is (also) subject to the issuance of a special permit.  Chairman Kehoe referred to Section 230-17B(1) of the C-2 regulations pertaining to motor vehicle service stations and noted the numerous conditions that would have to be met to operate a motor vehicle service station.  The Village Engineer noted that the Harmon Gateway zone has some additional requirements that would have to be met. The Village Engineer said that to better understand the requirements the Applicant should start with the C-2 regulations and then go to the gateway regulations.

The Village Engineer noted that an automobile dealership is a prohibited use in the gateway district, to which Mr. Gochman said that the Applicant is not proposing an automobile dealership. The Applicant is proposing a motor vehicle service station with used car sales as an accessory use.  Mr. Aarons said, “so [there is a] question as to whether a used car accessory use is permitted under the gateway overlay [law].”

The Village Engineer noted that the “main” special permit would be for the motor vehicle service station use.  A secondary special permit would be required for the accessory use (used car sales). The Village Engineer said that an accessory use would be a small percentage of the main use.  The Village Engineer noted to the Planning Board that an enforcement problem for the Village would arise if, at some point in the future, the used car sales use were to increase to the point where it could no longer be considered an accessory use. The Village Engineer referred to the floor plan that was provided to the Planning Board and said that the plan shows a showroom for cars and an outdoor auto display at the front of the building; from an appearance standpoint, the facility looks like a used car sales facility. Mr. Gochman said that it is his understanding that the owner of the business is going to display classic cars with the hope of selling them.  He would imagine that the auto repair shop business would have to do with the restoration of classic cars.  Mr. Aarons recalled that at the last meeting the Applicant had said that the predominant use would be a motor vehicle service station and they would have some vintage cars for sale.  Mr. Gochman referred to the aforementioned floor plan and noted that this floor plan is the “existing condition floor plan;” it shows the previously existing (car dealership) use.

The Village Engineer recalled that at the last meeting the Planning Board had asked that the survey be updated, to which Mr. Gochman said that he had told Ed Gemmola that, as part of the next submission, the configuration going into Benedict Boulevard had to be shown on the Applicant’s plan(s). Chairman Kehoe recalled that the Applicant was asked to show the connection onto Benedict Boulevard and to show the parking layout.  The Village Engineer noted that if the site plan being presented represents the layout of the parking lot that currently exists, then this is, indeed, an important aspect of this proposal that the Planning Board would want to review.  The Village Engineer said that the issue pertaining to the use i.e., used car sales versus auto repair shop still needs to be addressed.  Mr. Gochman noted that the floor plan shows a repair area for cars in the back of the property.  Chairman Kehoe noted that the floor plan also shows an outside sales/display area for four automobiles and areas for automobile display on the inside of the building.  Chairman Kehoe said that the question remains as to whether the used car sales component could be considered “accessory” to the motor vehicle service station use.  Mr. Gochman said (again) that in the C-2 regulations it states that a motor vehicle service station is permitted with the issuance of a special permit.  The sale of used cars is permitted as an accessory use with the issuance of a (second) special permit.

Chairman Kehoe asked Mr. Gochman if the auto repair component of the business would involve standard auto repair or just the refurbishing and/or repair of classic cars. Mark Franzoso came forward and told the board members that he is familiar with the proposal being presented tonight.  As he understands it, the primary use would be auto repair.  The owner of the business would do repairs on all makes and models of cars and, at the same time, offer an up-scale line of classic cars for sale. Mr. Franzoso said that the primary business would be the auto repair service. The Village Engineer noted that the sales/display area for cars faces South Riverside Avenue.  From that perspective (South Riverside Avenue), the business is going to look like a used car dealership.

Mr. Franzoso asked if, in the zoning district in which this property is located it would be possible to open up a small car franchise, to which Mr. Aarons told Mr. Franzoso that automobile dealerships are not allowed in the gateway zone.  The Village Engineer added that the subject property is in the C-2 and Harmon Gateway Overlay zoning districts. In the C-2 district, the sale of used cars is allowed as an accessory use to a motor vehicle service station.  The Village Engineer said that if the Applicant were to operate a motor vehicle service station and in a few years offer for sale as an accessory use a few used cars, then, that would be allowed.  

Mr. Franzoso said that with the economy the way it is this commercial building has remained empty for the last 2 years.  Finally, “we have someone who owns the property and wants to open up a business.”  Mr. Franzoso said that he would think that it is the Planning Board’s role to “help people and not hurt people.”  He questioned what could be done to get a business in that building. Mr. Franzoso noted (again) that the primary business is going to be an auto repair shop. Mr. Franzoso said that this should prove to be a lucrative business in a down market where people feel that they have to hold on to their cars. Chairman Kehoe reiterated that a new or used car dealership is not permitted in the gateway zone. A motor vehicle service station is permitted with the issuance of a special permit.

Mr. Franzoso said that the Village wants to see more businesses come into the Harmon area.  The Applicant wants to sell used cars as an accessory use to his repair shop.  Mr. Franzoso said that he would think that the Planning Board or Village Board would have leeway to decide how many cars could be sold.  They could limit the number of car sales.  Mr. Franzoso said that he realizes that a used car lot in the gateway is clearly what the Village wants to avoid; however, “an accessory use to a service station means a limited number of cars.” Mr. Franzoso offered to the Planning Board a possible auto repair/used car sales scenario suggesting that the Village could stipulate that 70% of the revenue would be from the service end of the business and 30% from the sale of used cars.

Chairman Kehoe noted that the existing plan shows inside and outside display areas that would be visible from South Riverside Avenue. Chairman Kehoe said that if the Planning Board were to recommend to the Village Board that a special permit be granted, one of the conditions for the Planning Board to consider would involve the number and location on the property of the cars being offered for sale.  

The Village Engineer said that the Applicant would need to provide to the Planning Board a parking analysis. The Village Engineer said that the Applicant should also refer to Section 230-17B(1) in the Village Code governing motor vehicle service stations and provide a narrative response to items (a) through (l) in this section.  Chairman Kehoe questioned how the Applicant would answer item (h) noting that item (h) states that, “no building permit for a motor vehicle service station shall be issued within a distance of 2,000 feet from any other motor vehicle service station in operation prior to the submission of such application…..” Chairman Kehoe stated that Oil City is across the street and Luk Oil is probably within a distance of 2,000 feet.  Mr. Andrews asked if there were any other service station operations with an accessory use component, to which Mr. Franzoso replied that Hudson View Automotive is a repair shop with a used car component. The Village Engineer suggested that he could put together for the Planning Board a list of how many service stations in the Village sell used cars as an accessory use. There are probably not that many. Mr. Franzoso suggested that most of these establishments are probably “grandfathered in.”

Chairman Kehoe reviewed the issues that should be addressed stating that the Applicant should provide a written narrative for items (a) through (l) in Section 230-17B(1) of the Village Code pertaining to motor vehicle service station operations.  A parking analysis should be provided.  Chairman Kehoe referred to the “Existing Condition Floor Plan” and said that the Applicant should define the terms “auto display” and “sales display” indicated on this plan.  The Applicant should also provide a plan showing what is being proposed. Chairman Kehoe said that the Applicant’s architect Ed Gemmola should also provide more information on the landscaping being proposed.  The Village Engineer reiterated that, for the next meeting, he would do research on whether there was ever a special permit issued for the sale of used cars at a motor vehicle service station.  

Mr. Gochman said that they would try to be ready to come back before the Planning Board for the meeting of Tuesday, December 22nd.  
          
  • OTHER BUSINESS:
  • Chairman Kehoe said that Trustee Gallelli has requested a short period of time tonight to ask the Planning Board for input on ways to streamline the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process.  
Trustee Gallelli explained to the Planning Board that she has been asked to be on a state committee formed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for the purpose of identifying ways to streamline SEQRA reviews.  Trustee Gallelli said that the genesis for the formation of this state-wide committee is that New York State has been and continues to “hemorrhage” businesses to other states.  The state is trying to streamline the process so that SEQRA is not a deterrent to businesses.  There will be a series of meetings to see what could be done.  Trustee Gallelli said that the dialog of these meetings would focus on recommendations that could be accomplished within a short time frame without necessarily requiring regulatory or legislative changes. The state has provided a list of questions for committee members to ask. The first pertains to possible measures that could be taken to make the process run more efficiently. The second and third questions pertain to weaknesses in the process and how these weaknesses could be addressed. Finally, question four asks for contributing factors that could be identified that lead to successful or problematical reviews. Trustee Gallelli said that she has reached out to the Village Attorney and other organizations for input and would appreciate any suggestions that the Planning Board might have.   

Chairman Kehoe noted that the projects that come before this Planning Board are usually small in nature.  The Planning Board complies with the SEQRA process; however, the nature of these projects is such that a Positive Declaration and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would normally not be required.  The Village Engineer said that he has always wished that there could be a “medium” Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) that could be filled out for medium-sized projects.  SEQRA provides a short EAF and a long EAF; the long EAF is “too much” for certain projects. It would be good to have something in between.  

Chairman Kehoe said that from his experience with SEQRA reviews in the Town of Cortlandt he would think that there could be changes in the way questions are asked in the EAF.  The questions that are asked in the EAF could be clearer.

The Village Engineer said that the SEQRA review process “starts with” actions that require a short EAF and, then, after a certain period of time spent on the review “get to the point of” a Negative Declaration.  The long EAF is somewhat more complicated and has parts 2 and 3 that have to be filled out. The Village Engineer said that the major slowdown in the SEQRA process is when an action ends up requiring a Positive Declaration and the submission of an EIS.

Chairman Kehoe noted to the board that it is his experience working in the Town of Cortlandt that the Planning Board does not reduce the size of the scope (scoping document) even if categories could be removed. Trustee Gallelli said that from her experience with SEQRA it would seem that the procedures that are being followed always get more complicated instead of less.  Trustee Gallelli noted that projects are slowed down because of opposition, and businesses feel that they might find “greener pastures” in another state.  Chairman Kehoe said that in Georgia (for example) the only applications that go before the planning board are requests for rezoning. Mr. Aarons said that there is this assumption that a full review is required for every application.  Perhaps, a way of streamlining would be to take away the initial process from the group (board) and give it to an individual. The group could eventually come in and take over for the individual, but this might allow for a more objective approach that could take less time. Trustee Gallelli suggested that there could be an appeal process allowing an applicant to go to a higher authority to lessen the burden.

The Village Engineer suggested that in determining the scope of a project, generic studies could be used. If an applicant were to meet the thresholds established in the generic study, then, the applicant would not have to conduct any further studies and/or provide any further information in that regard.  The Village Engineer gave as an example of a generic study a report prepared by the County on the subject of air quality. If the applicant were to meet the criteria established in the County report, then, this item would be removed from the scope.  The Village Engineer said that he would think that a number of items/issues in the scoping document could be addressed by making use of these generic studies.

Trustee Gallelli thanked the Planning Board members for their input.

  • APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
The minutes of the Tuesday, September 22, 2009 Planning Board meeting were approved, as amended, on a motion by Mr. Andrews, seconded by Mr. Aarons and carried by a vote of 4-0-1.  Mr. Luntz abstained.   

The minutes of the Tuesday, October 27, 2009 Planning Board meeting were approved, as amended, on a motion by Mr. Luntz, seconded by Mr. Aarons and carried by a vote of 5-0.   
   
  • ADJOURNMENT:
There being no further business to come before the board, the meeting was duly adjourned at 10:10 P.M.

Sincerely,



Sylvia Mills
Secretary


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