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Board of Trustees Minutes 12-20-04
Regular Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, NY was held on December 20, 2004 at the Municipal Building, Van Wyck Street, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520.

The following officials were present:

Mayor Elliott
Trustee Grant
Village Manager Herbek
Trustee Schmidt
Village Attorney Waldman
Trustee Kane
Treasurer Zambrano
Absent: Trustee Wiegman

Mayor Elliott called the meeting to order at 8:05 p.m.  Everyone joined in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Trustee Schmidt made a motion to approve the vouchers as follows, subject to review by the Audit Committee.  The motion was seconded by Trustee Kane and approved unanimously.

General Fund
$ 60,916.81
Capital Accounts
Trust & Agency

PUBLIC HEARING: LOCAL LAW INTRODUCTORY #8 OF 2004 – amending the small lot provision in section 230-40G of the Village code.  Village Manager Herbek reviewed the resolution and read a letter from Ann Gallelli on behalf of the Planning Board.  Mayor Elliott opened the Public Hearing to the public for comments.  Maria Modica-Snow, representing the applicant, gave a history of the request pertinent to her client’s property and distributed materials showing vacant small lots in the Village which may or may not conform or be effected by the amendment.  She stated that three properties (including her client’s) out of eighteen may or may not be impacted; the rest would not be impacted at all.  Ms. Modica-Snow addressed a memo from Village Attorney Waldman, explaining her position on matters cited within the letter.  

Lillian Projesky, 55 Truesdale Dr., stated that she was worried about the word ‘intent’; she disputed some claims made by Ms. Jackson and read a statement explaining why she was opposed to approval of this amendment.  

Village Attorney Waldman asked why Ms. Jackson felt she must compensate the contract vendees.  Ms. Modica-Snow replied that Ms. Jackson is still under contract for this lot so she cannot breach the contract without offering to reimburse the vendees.  Mr. Waldman replied that he did not necessarily agree with that; there may be a provision in the contract that would cover that obligation if this was not a buildable lot.  

Joan Schilk, 42 Morningside Drive, distributed a copy of her statement; she voiced strong opposition to the amendment; under no circumstances were they ever informed of the pending sale of the lot next to her home when they purchased it and it was never offered jointly with the property they purchased; they have made offers to purchase the undeveloped lot; most recently in response to a letter from Ms. Modica-Snow; they had their house assessed with and without the adjacent lot and made what they thought was a generous offer which was rejected; there was no attempt to negotiate.  Ms. Schilk added that Ms. Jackson is looking for a big payday and is not interested in reaching an amicable settlement; she is also looking to put a dwelling on the property and sell it for a huge profit, not for her own residence.   Warren Schilk, 42 Morningside Drive, continued that he will have a complete loss of privacy as the proposed dwelling will be 22 feet from his front door; he fears for the structural integrity of the steep slope; he referred to another instance of a similar building in another community that made the news recently; parking and visibility will be made worse; the Zoning Board stated the same fears he has when they denied Ms. Jackson’s variance requests; developing that lot will change the character of the neighborhood; the property value of his home will be significantly lowered;  the amendment will not improve but degrade the neighborhood; Ms. Jackson’s hardship is self-imposed; he asked the Board to deny the amendment.

Fran Allan, 7 Finney Farm Road and a member of the Zoning Board for 13 years, stated that the Board has struggled with this law multiple times. She added that this may affect many property owners in other parts of the Village; she cited a personal situation whereby she purchased property that did have two pieces of property; the one she bought and an adjacent lot, they were put on the market as two lots, but upon the death of one owner, these lots had merged under the current law; she was able to purchase the property by redrawing the lot lines; the law must change; it is too convoluted.

Danita Restutia, Cedar Lane, stated that the law has a problem, developing this piece of property is a folly.  Ms. Restutia addressed the lack of the compost program in the Village; residents need to be taught about composting; she suggested that the town should purchase this piece of property for open space; then change the law so it doesn’t happen again.

Jan Carey, 45 Morningside Drive, asked if is there any way the requirement for or lack of a variance can be separated from this amendment.  Village Attorney Waldman replied that the only way would be to redefine the definition of small lot, but under the present law, if this is adopted, he believes no variance is required, but a steep slopes permit would be required.   Ms. Carey added that she understands Ms. Jackson’s position but money seems to be the bottom line; she believes a responsible owner/contractor must post an enforceable bond of one million dollars for each piece of property it impacts; the bond will remain in effect for 3 years; much can happen beyond one year.

William Freeman, 43 Morningside Drive, stated that he is opposed to the amendment to the Law; he has heard that the property could have been sold with the house; Ms. Jackson was offered a bid and it could have been sold then; not a total loss; there is a point where it should be stopped; Ms. Jackson is not liable for reimbursing the contractor; one does not pay upon ethics, but on liability.

Ms. Jackson stated that she was a good neighbor and does not appreciate the accusation of being greedy, she was a member of the community for over 30 years; she taught school in Croton for 2 years and still has an office here; she has paid taxes on that lot & continues to pay taxes; she chose to sell the house and move into a 1 bedroom condo; both she and the Schilk’s have been misled; they were told nobody could build on that lot by someone who had no authority to say that; she was told she had a building lot then told she did not have one; the sale of the lot would be a help to her at this time of her life.  Ms. Jackson added that she disclosed that the lot was for sale at the closing of the house but they declined the purchase offer; the Schilk’s have utilized the lot without her requesting any rent; it now looks like they have more property than they actually own.  Ms. Jackson added that she has asked for a hardship variance; she will lose a lot of money if this lot is not sold; she does want to get as much as she can because she needs it.      

Maria Modica-Snow replied to several questions brought up tonight; Ms. Jackson would have sold the lot earlier if she knew it was not a buildable lot; she can understand the feelings of the Schilk’s; prior to the closing, Ms. Jackson was ready & willing to change the plans and wishes there were more negotiations at that time; this is still subject to a steep slopes variance.  Ms. Modica-Snow then summarized a deposition from Ms. Jackson.

Mayor Elliott closed the Public Hearing and opened it to comments from the Board.  Trustee Grant stated that it is not clear to her if the house was purchased with the knowledge of whether the lot was buildable or not; there seems to be a difference of opinion.  Trustee Grant added that what they are acting on tonight is not the approval to build a house, but if the law should be amended to reflect the change that someone would not be affected because of death or divorce; she finds it difficult that an unforeseen circumstance such as a divorce or death should deny someone the full use of their property.  Trustee Kane stated that he agrees the law should be changed.  Trustee Schmidt stated that many misunderstandings and misrepresentations have been voiced; there is a need to decide whether or not the intent of this law was to take property; he doesn’t think as a municipality that is ever the intent; this area was laid out by Mr. Harmon in 1902 when small lots were okay; he can’t see the Village standing by and taking a piece of property because of a misrepresentation in the law.  Trustee Grant added that the area was up zoned which means originally the small lot was okay.  Mayor Elliott suggested that the Board digest this information and discuss items further with the Village Attorney; it will be put on a future agenda as soon as possible.

Village Manager Herbek read the following correspondence (full text available at the Village Office):
A letter from Philip Spagnoli on behalf of John Feminalla, requesting a steep slope
special permit for 214 Grand Street.  Village Attorney Waldman stated that the hardship permit is limited to single family homes and this request is for a two family dwelling.  The attorney for Mr. Feminalla stated that this particular lot meets all other zoning requirement including a 2 family house; he is looking for guidance from this Board whether or not the law will allow for a 2 family house and would it consider an amendment or modification of the law.  Village Attorney Waldman replied that the framers of the law restricted it to a one family law and minimum use of the property; he suggested changing the plans to a one family house.  Mr. Feminalla’s attorney asked if this could be discussed with the Planning Board.  Village Attorney Waldman replied that they would still need an amendment to a law to proceed with a 2 family house on that property.  Mayor Elliott added that it could be referred to the Planning Board with no recommendation of what the final outcome would be.  The Board agreed that this should be referred to the Planning Board including further discussion about a two family structure.
A letter from Carl Oechsner, Friends of History, requesting to rename the Senasqua
Tunnel to Rondthaler Picture Tunnel in commemoration of Ed Rondthaler.  Trustee Grant requested this be put on a work session for further discussion.  Trustee Schmidt asked that this request also be sent to the Recreation Advisory Board for their recommendation.

Mayor Elliott requested Village Attorney Waldman to give an update on recent court action on the MetroEnviro case.  Mr. Waldman stated that this is the first public meeting since it was publicly announced on Friday, 12/17 that the court of appeals granted MetroEnviro’s motion for leave to appeal and extended the existing stay pending that appeal; it also set a briefing schedule for Feb, March and likely oral argument in late spring; as is always the case in this type of motion, no reasons are given- simply the bottom line results of the order.

CITIZEN PARTICIPATION-Agenda  and Non-Agenda Items  - none

Trustee Grant made a motion to approve the minutes of the Regular Board Meeting held on December 6, 2004 as corrected.  Trustee Schmidt seconded the motion.  The Board voted unanimous approval.

7.      REPORTS:
Trustee Kane reported that the Brook St. Crossing is now closed; the new road is open; it has a very beautiful, 3 mile unobstructed view of Havestraw Bay.

Trustee Schmidt reminded residents to check the snow ordinance and get cars off the roads when there is more than two inches of snow on the road.  He added that the new road is great and congratulated Mayor Elliott for pushing this through.  Trustee Schmidt wished happy holidays and happy New Year to all.

Trustee Grant commended everyone who worked on the road.  She also added that everyone should have a wonderful holiday.

Mayor Elliott reported that the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new road would be held about noon tomorrow, December 21st; it will be at the bottom of the cul-de-sac, by the bridge.

Trustee Kane made a motion to adjourn.  Trustee Schmidt seconded the motion; approved unanimously.  The meeting was adjourned at 9:50 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Phyllis A. Bradbury
Phyllis A. Bradbury, Secretary

Village Clerk