Planning Board Minutes 10/26/2010

VILLAGE OF CROTON ON HUDSON, NEW YORK

PLANNING BOARD MEETING MINUTES – TUESDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2010


A regular meeting of the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York was held on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 in the Municipal Building.

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

ALSO PRESENT:           Ann Gallelli, Member of the Board of Trustees
                                James Staudt, Esq., Village Attorney
                                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.

  • PUBLIC HEARING:
  • Croton Community Nursery School – Lower North Highland Place (Sec. 67.20 Blk. 2 Lots 5, 6, 9 & 25 [formerly Lots 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 & 25] – Application for a Preliminary Subdivision Approval – Request for an Adjournment
Chairman Kehoe stated that the public hearing on this application for a preliminary subdivision approval is being adjourned. This item will be back on the agenda for the next Planning Board meeting to be held on Tuesday, November 9th.  

  • OLD BUSINESS:
  • Referral from the Village Board Regarding Local Law Introductory No. 3 of 2010 – Repeal and Enactment of Harmon/South Riverside Gateway Overlay District Zoning Amendments
Village Attorney James Staudt was present.

Chairman Kehoe said that he drafted up a memorandum to the Village Board on the Harmon Gateway zoning amendments and has received comments on the memorandum from the Village Attorney and board members Kauderer and Luntz.  Chairman Kehoe noted that Mr. Aarons’ written comments on the memorandum have just been distributed to the board tonight.  

Chairman Kehoe noted the changes/additions that he made to his memorandum, denoted in red, which reflect the comments from the Village Attorney and the aforementioned two board members. Under item (1)(a) on page 1 the wording “as modified by the overlay regulations” was added to the sentence, which begins “The proposed Harmon/South Riverside Gateway…..”  Also, the following sentence was added to the same paragraph: “The purpose of the Gateway Overlay District is to ‘establish standards that upgrade the image and function of gateway areas, strengthen the overall visual identity of the Village, and improve pedestrian/linkages to adjacent residential neighborhoods’ Section 230-20.1.C.” Chairman Kehoe said that he has also added the following sentence to the end of this paragraph: “They [the proposed text changes] will foster the Gateway purposes by encouraging properties to be upgraded in keeping with enhanced design guidelines.”  Chairman Kehoe said that at the end of the last sentence in the first paragraph on page 1 he has added the words “…..and recommendations.”  

Mr. Staudt noted that in item (2)(a) on page 3 of Chairman Kehoe’s draft memorandum it states that “Retail stores would still need a Special Permit.” Mr. Staudt said that this is not the case. In the new gateway law retail stores would not need a special permit.

Chairman Kehoe said that there were a few grammatical errors/typos.  In the second paragraph on page 4 the word “of” was added to read “…..a mix of 1 and 2 bedroom apartments…..” In the next sentence of the same paragraph the word “complex” was added to read “…..an existing apartment complex…..”

Chairman Kehoe noted that in item 2 on page 5 of his draft memorandum Mr. Kauderer had suggested that the term “non-residential use” be changed to “office use.” Chairman Kehoe asked the other members how they felt about making this change.  After a brief discussion, the Planning Board decided to keep the wording as is.

Chairman Kehoe noted (again) that Mr. Aarons’ comments have been distributed to the board tonight. Chairman Kehoe said that rather than giving his (Mr. Aarons’) dissenting point of view on the Harmon zoning amendments in a separate memorandum, Mr. Aarons incorporated his comments in italics into the draft memorandum.

Mr. Aarons said that in his first comment under item (1)(a) he questions how increasing the FAR (Floor Area Ratio) is now considered to be consistent with the Village’s Comprehensive Plan.  This was not the case in the past. He noted that as a result of the Comprehensive Plan the Village had previously enacted a zoning code amendment, which reduced, rather than increased, the FAR.

Mr. Aarons referred to the comments he made under item (1)(b).  Mr. Aarons said that there were inconsistencies in the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) prepared by Saccardi & Schiff, the Village’s consultants. In one section of the EAF report it states that scenario #1 assumes that 11 of the parcels will be redeveloped and in another section it states that “Scenario #1 assumes redevelopment on 9 parcels…..” Mr. Aarons said that the tax ramifications of the Harmon redevelopment are, therefore, being based on two different numbers. Mr. Aarons noted that there would also seem to be an inconsistency in Table 3 of the EAF report pertaining to the number of parking spaces.  Table 3 shows a total required number of 109; however, if one were to add the required non-residential parking of 53 and the required residential parking of 71, the total comes to 124.

Mr. Aarons noted that at the October 19th Planning Board work session he had expressed concern about the parking requirements presently being proposed for the Harmon Gateway district. In the new law, the residential parking would be based on a bedroom count.  Mr. Aarons noted that the current C-2 district requirement of 2 spaces per unit is being changed to 1 space with an additional space for every bedroom beyond 1 bedroom.  Mr. Aarons said that there was no logic/rationale provided for this change. Mr. Aarons noted that if, in the redevelopment of Harmon, the residential units are all two-bedroom, then, the required number of spaces would be the same; however, if they were one-bedroom, there would be less parking available using the new bedroom count.  Mr. Aarons noted that the Village’s traffic engineering firm, the RBA Group, did a study that questions this parking change.  Their study recommends that the new law require 1.5 parking spaces regardless of the number of bedrooms. It would seem that the Village has ignored their recommendation.  Mr. Kauderer noted to Mr. Aarons that the Planning Board is recommending that the number of two-bedroom units in the Harmon Gateway area be limited. Mr. Aarons reiterated that the RBA Group’s study states that regardless of the number of bedrooms, the law should require 1.5 spaces.  Mr. Aarons said that he would think that this matter regarding the parking count should be looked at further.  In his view, there has not been enough “hard data” presented to make a decision. Mr. Aarons said that he would think it would not be that difficult to figure out how many spaces the residents of the apartments currently in Harmon actually use. There are 30 apartments. It would have to be determined how many vehicles there are per apartment. Mr. Aarons said that if it were determined that less than one-half of these apartments have two cars, then, there would not be a problem.  However, if it were determined that there were 27 out of the 30 apartments that have two cars, then, there would be a problem.    

Mr. Aarons referred to his comments under item (1)(d) in which he states once again his concerns about the inconsistencies of the new law with the Village’s Comprehensive Plan noting that as a result of the Comprehensive Plan the FAR had been decreased and it is now being increased. He questioned why it is suddenly being considered beneficial to increase the FAR, to which Mr. Luntz said that, as he understands it, the idea is (was) that an increased FAR would allow for a better return on the investment for a potential developer. Mr. Aarons said that this notion about increasing the FAR should be articulated more clearly.

Mr. Aarons referred to his comments under (1)(d) regarding the potential strain on the existing infrastructure in Harmon resulting from redevelopment.  Mr. Aarons said that there has been no discussion about what would happen to the Village’s infrastructure should there be a build-out of the Harmon area.  He would think that this should be looked at.  Mr. Aarons noted that there is no discussion in the EAF other than to say that such redevelopment is unlikely.  Chairman Kehoe said that this could have been worded differently, but he would still think that such redevelopment is unlikely.  He would think that this area is not going to be redeveloped to the extent that it would put much of a strain on the existing infrastructure.  Mr. Kauderer questioned why this issue is even being raised when the infrastructure in the Harmon area is already in place.  

Mr. Aarons brought up the matter concerning commercial parking in the redevelopment of the Harmon Gateway area and the idea of providing contiguous parking for the rear of buildings.  He questioned the likelihood of this happening at all and asked why the Village would put additional burdens on the current residents, “if we don’t know that we are going to achieve that end.” Chairman Kehoe said that, with respect to commercial development, he would think that the redevelopment of Harmon is going to be more “piecemeal” and that generally speaking, over time, the corridor would be improved. Mr. Kauderer said that, if the economy improves, a large developer might decide to acquire several parcels in the Harmon area and create a series of buildings with a corresponding streetscape. This is (would be) very desirable for the Village.

Mr. Luntz asked the Village Engineer if, with respect to the issue brought up tonight pertaining to the existing infrastructure, the Village is “woefully short” in the Harmon area. The Village Engineer described the existing capacity of the sewer and water systems. There is a County sewage pump station on Municipal Place, and there is another sewage pump station in Harmon called the Crotonville pump station.  The Village Engineer said that the County sewage pump station has a lot of capacity. The Village Engineer said that the Village just had a leak in the water main repaired so that the water main now has 24,000 gallons more capacity.  The Village is also in the process of drilling a new well. The Village Engineer said that there is an ample water storage tank to meet the demand.  As far as storm water drainage is concerned, an existing storm drain line flows through the ShopRite plaza to the train station. The Village Engineer noted that, as a result of redevelopment, the storm water flow could be the same or it could be even less by adopting storm water methods underneath properties.  The Village Engineer reiterated that the storm water flow could actually be reduced by this redevelopment.

Chairman Kehoe referred to the parking analysis/report prepared by the RBA Group in which it was recommended that the Village require 1.5 parking spaces per residential dwelling unit regardless of the number of bedrooms. As a result of RBA’s analysis/report, Siccardi & Schiff re-examined the parking. It was ultimately agreed upon that for the residential parking the Village would go by the bedroom count scenario currently being proposed.

Mr. Aarons referred to the report in Part 3 of the EAF pertaining to the implications of redevelopment in the Harmon Gateway district on school taxes. He questioned where the numbers come from in Table 10 “Tax Estimates (Village and School Taxes)” of the report.  The footnote underneath the table refers to the HDBC (Harmon Business Development Committee) report. Mr. Staudt said that he would think that the reference in this footnote is to Figure 8 “Impact on Real Estate Taxes” on page 32 of the Harmon rezoning committee recommendations. The Village Engineer noted that, as stated in the footnote under Table 10, the school tax ratio was extrapolated from the HDBC report.  Chairman Kehoe said that it is up to the Village boards to make a decision as to whether the school tax revenue in Scenario #1, for example, would offset the costs of the new students to the district.  Chairman Kehoe noted that the Village’s consultants Siccardi & Schiff think that this would be the case.  Mr. Kauderer noted that the Planning Board would be recommending to the Village Board that the number of two-bedroom apartments should be limited.  If this were the case, then, it would be highly unlikely that the Village would have a Scenario #1. Mr. Aarons noted that there is this assumption being made that one-bedroom apartments would have less children.  Mr. Aarons said that he thinks more data should be provided to be certain that “we are on the right target.”  

Mr. Aarons referred to his comments under item (1)(d) regarding affordable housing and noted to the board members that there is no discussion in the Saccardi & Schiff report on affordable housing and how this would affect taxes, school enrollment, etc. Mr. Aarons noted that municipalities have a federally-mandated commitment to provide affordable housing.  He thinks that it is negligent on the part of the Village Board that no study was done on the financial impacts to the Village. Mr. Aarons expressed concern that, once these zoning amendments are passed, it would be too late to address any potential issues pertaining to affordable housing.

Mr. Aarons said that, with regard to the need for additional office space in the Harmon area, the EAF refers to the Danth study completed in 2008.  Mr. Aarons noted that the economic landscape has changed in the last two years.  He questioned whether the Danth study is still relevant.

Mr. Aarons referred to his final comments on the Harmon zoning amendments in which he states that no attempt has been made to catalogue the existing use of the 36 parcels in terms of commercial, office, retail and residential use(s). Mr. Aarons said that the entire goal is to be as accurate as possible and use methods that would obtain a proper outcome for the Village. He would think that more data should be collected and that it would not be all that difficult to obtain.  Mr. Aarons said that the critical data is the residential numbers, i.e., the number of occupants per unit.  Mr. Aarons added that, “If there is a child in a one-bedroom unit, then, we need to know that.” Chairman Kehoe said that he, personally, would think that this information/data to which Mr. Aarons is referring would not be all that easy to obtain.  Chairman Kehoe asked Mr. Aarons if he really thinks that, at the end of the day, the Harmon area would be built out on a grand scale and that the redevelopment of Harmon would be out of character with the Village, to which Mr. Aarons said that he thinks that the Village “will get very little traction” out of this Harmon rezoning and that it will not accomplish the ends that the Village is desirous of.  Chairman Kehoe said that, with respect to the parking in the Harmon Gateway, he thinks that it is unlikely that the residents of a one-bedroom apartment unit would have two cars. Mr. Kauderer agreed and said that, because these apartments are near the train station, they would probably have only one car.  Mr. Aarons said that he would think that they would have two cars for their weekend shopping needs.  Whatever the case may be, he thinks that this matter regarding the parking should be further investigated.

Mr. Staudt brought up the matter of the recent lawsuit regarding affordable housing. Mr. Staudt said that there has been a settlement between the County and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  The County has agreed to do what it can to get municipalities to provide this housing.  Mr. Staudt noted that Croton already has affordable housing; right now, there is no law to make a municipality have affordable housing.  Mr. Staudt noted that, so far, the County has said that it is going to encourage municipalities to provide this housing through grants (CDBG [Community Development Block Grant], etc.). Chairman Kehoe noted that the County has just adopted a model ordinance pertaining to affordable housing. Chairman Kehoe said that unless or until a municipality puts in their documents on adopting an ordinance, it does not get the CDBG grants, etc. Mr. Staudt told the board again that there is no law that says a municipality has to adopt this ordinance encouraging affordable housing. Patricia Moran was present.  Ms. Moran asked if there are any fair housing laws that say it would be discriminating against families with children to limit the number of bedrooms. Mr. Staudt brought up the matter, discussed at a previous meeting, of the Planning Board’s mandating a parking easement to obtain a unified commercial parking lot design. Mr. Staudt said that there could be such a mandate by the Planning Board if it is done for legitimate planning reasons. He would think that the same holds true for limiting the number of bedrooms.

Chairman Kehoe said that he would make the changes/additions, denoted in red, from the Village Attorney and board members Kauderer and Luntz. Chairman Kehoe noted that Mr. Aarons has put his comments in italics throughout the memorandum.  He asked the board if, in the final version of the memorandum, the board would want to leave in Mr. Aarons’ comments. Mr. Kauderer noted that the majority of the board would recommend these zoning amendments; the majority’s views are expressed in this memorandum. He questioned if, rather than having Mr. Aarons’ comments in this (the majority’s) memorandum, it would be more appropriate to have a separate “minority report.” Chairman Kehoe explained how he prepared his memorandum stating that his memorandum is based on the criteria requirement(s) under Section 230-180 “Amendment procedure” of the Village Code.  The Planning Board has addressed in this memorandum the nine items specified in Section 230-180A(1) and (2).  Chairman Kehoe said that, as he understands it, the Planning Board is going to vote a positive recommendation with Mr. Aarons’ dissenting opinions.  Mr. Staudt said that, if the Planning Board so chooses, it can “separate the two out.”  Mr. Aarons said that he would be willing to do a separate memorandum.  Ms. Allen told the board that, when the vote is taken tonight, she is going to abstain.  The Village Engineer said that, as he understands it, Mr. Aarons would use in his memorandum the same format that he used tonight, putting in italics his comments underneath the chairman’s comments. The Village Engineer said that Mr. Aarons should use Chairman Kehoe’s final memorandum with the changes/additions discussed tonight. Chairman Kehoe said that he would send Mr. Aarons his final version in time for Mr. Aarons to make the deadline for the upcoming Village Board meeting.   

Chairman Kehoe entertained a motion to make a positive recommendation on the proposed Harmon/South Riverside Gateway Overlay District Zoning Amendment as per his memorandum that was reviewed tonight and with the changes/additions that were discussed tonight. The motion was made by Mr. Kauderer, seconded by Mr. Luntz and carried by a vote of 3-1-1.  Board member Aarons was opposed.  Board member Allen abstained.

Mr. Luntz asked Ms. Allen why she abstained, to which Ms. Allen said that, in so far as these zoning amendments are concerned, she has an opinion that this is far too complex and is going to “drown us later on.”  

  • Tom & Carlene Fallacaro – 3 Arrowcrest Drive (Sec. 67.15 Blk. 1 Lot 33) – Applications for a Modification to the Building Envelope, a Steep Slope Permit and a Wetlands Activity Permit for an Existing Retaining Wall and Other Site Improvements
Chairman Kehoe said that the Planning Board has received for discussion at tonight’s meeting a proposal from GZA GeoEnvironmental of New York (GZA) for professional geotechnical services on the retaining wall at the Fallacaro property.  Chairman Kehoe asked if the Applicant has received a copy of this proposal, to which the Village Engineer said, “Not yet.”  He (the Village Engineer) wanted to run it by the Planning Board first.

The Village Engineer said that GZA’s proposal consists of two parts:  Task 1 “Desktop Study” and Task 2 “Subsurface Exploration, Engineering Analyses and Recommendations Report.” For Task 1 the Desktop Study, GZA would review, evaluate and prepare a study/report based on the existing information (surveys, engineering reports, etc.) on the wall. They would make their recommendations accordingly. Task 2 would involve going back out in the field to collect geotechnical information. In Task 2, GZA would confirm the subsurface conditions and, then, prepare a report giving the results of their analyses, their conclusions and their subsequent recommendations.   

Chairman Kehoe said that according to the proposal, any subsurface exploration work would involve both tasks (Tasks 1 and 2) for a total cost of $17,500.00.  Chairman Kehoe noted that the Applicant has balked at paying such an amount in escrow in the past. He questioned whether doing just the Task 1 for a cost of $4,500.00 would “get us anywhere,” to which Ms. Allen said that, in her view, it would not.  Mr. Aarons said that he is familiar with this geo-technical engineering firm (GZA); the Planning Board had wanted to see how, moneywise, GZA’s services compared to the other engineering firms. Mr. Aarons said that his rationale was that they would have a deeper knowledge because they specialize in geotechnical work. Mr. Aarons said that he believes that the cost of GZA’s proposal is less than what the Planning Board was looking at before. Mr. Aarons said that doing Task 1 (the Desktop Study) might be the first step in determining whether the wall should come down or not.  The Village Engineer noted that, should the Applicant refuse to provide escrow monies, the Planning Board has the option to deny their approval(s).  The Planning Board could say that the Applicant did not provide what the board needed to conduct their review, so the permits are being denied.  The Village Engineer said that if the Planning Board were to say that the wall has to come down and the Applicant does not have the wall taken down, a violation would be issued. The Applicant would have to go before the Village Justice Court; the Applicant would have to pay a fine. Chairman Kehoe suggested that GZA’s proposal could be sent to Norman Sheer, the Applicant’s attorney. Chairman Kehoe noted that the Applicant might go along with Task 1 (the Desktop Study) which, in turn, might provide the board with enough information to move forward.  Ms. Allen said that she would think that there would have to be a more definitive study done rather than just the Desktop Study.

Mr. Kauderer brought the board’s attention to the item on page 3 of the GZA proposal pertaining to the client’s responsibilities. Mr. Kauderer noted that on page 3, it states that the “client is responsible for arranging access to the site,” etc….. Mr. Kauderer noted that the Village is the client in this case even though the Applicant (Fallacaro) has to pay the escrow monies; perhaps, this should be more clearly stated.

Mr. Aarons reiterated that GZA are specialists in the field of geotechnical engineering work. “If they can’t tell us, then, nobody can.”  Mr. Aarons said that they (GZA) specialize in doing underground and stability assessments.

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

Chairman Kehoe asked the Village Engineer to send the GZA proposal to the Applicant’s attorney.  

  • NEW BUSINESS:
  • Historic Hudson Valley – 525 South Riverside Avenue (Sec. 79.13 Blk. 4 Lot 35) – Application for an Amended Site Plan Approval for the Installation of Storage Units
Michael Natiello of Historic Hudson Valley was present.

Chairman Kehoe noted to the Applicant that a public hearing will need to be scheduled for this amended site plan application.  

Chairman Kehoe asked if the two shipping containers (storage units) being proposed are just for the “Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze” event at the VanCortlandt Manor site, to which Mr. Natiello said, “Yes.”  Mr. Natiello noted that, at present, they take the “Blaze” materials to Montgomery Place in Dutchess County, so putting them on the VanCortlandt Manor site would be a cheaper solution.

Mr. Kauderer asked Mr. Natiello why they could not put these two containers in the corner of the field so they would not have to take down trees, to which Mr. Natiello responded that they are not going to have to take down any trees to do this installation. The containers would be placed at the northwest corner of their parking field near the ShopRite shopping center. They are going to camouflage the containers by painting them green.  

Mr. Natiello asked the Village Engineer if the site plan he submitted is acceptable, to which the Village Engineer said that for this project, a conceptual site plan such as the one submitted is acceptable.  The Village Engineer said that these containers are considered to be a “building” under the Village Zoning Code, but they are not permanent structures, to which Mr. Natiello confirmed that these containers would not be there permanently but just for the next few years.

Mr. Aarons asked if these containers would be visible from the road, to which Mr. Natiello said that he does not think so.  Mr. Natiello noted to the board members that part of their reasoning for wanting to install the containers was to “clean up the mess on the southwest side that you can see from Route 9.”  Mr. Natiello said that the containers still have to be ordered.  

Chairman Kehoe told Mr. Natiello that he (Chairman Kehoe) does not anticipate any problems with this application. He would think that the public hearing could be called for the next meeting to be held in two weeks.

Chairman Kehoe entertained a motion to schedule the public hearing on this application for the next meeting to be held on Tuesday, November 9th.  The motion was made by Ms. Allen, seconded by Mr. Aarons and carried by a vote of 5 to 0.

  • APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
Approval of the minutes of the Tuesday, September 14, 2010 Planning Board meeting was tabled until the next meeting to be held on Tuesday, November 9, 2010.

The minutes of the Tuesday, September 28, 2010 Planning Board meeting were approved on a motion by Mr. Aarons, seconded by Mr. Luntz 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 10:50 P.M.

Sincerely,



Sylvia Mills
Secretary

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