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ZBA November 12, 2003

MEMBERS PRESENT:     Donald Sapir, Chairman
                                           Rhoda Stephens
                                           Paul Rolnick
                                           Witt Barlow

MEMBERS ABSENT:       Ruth Waitkins

ALSO PRESENT:              Joseph Sperber, Code Enforcement  Officer

                                           Deborah McCarthy, Village Board Liaison

Meeting came to order at 8:00 P.M.

The Chairman of the Board announced the location of fire exits to all in attendance of the meeting.


Richard Albert, 2 Croton Point Ave.  Section 79.17 Block 1 Lot 6.  Located in a LI District.  Request for a variance from Section 193-1(A) of the Village Code with respect to sprinkler systems and a proposed Site Plan dated 6/7/01.  (Adjourned on 10/8/03).

Michael Norton, 82 Shingle House Rd., Millwood, N.Y. – I am here on the behalf of Richard Albert.  We are appealing for a variance from the Section 193-1(A) of the Village Code with respect to sprinkler systems and an existing building permit that has been issued for a proposed construction.  At the last meeting we discussed the issue of the requirements of the Village Code, which requires a sprinkler system and the State Code, #903, which does not.  At the last meeting the Board requested I speak to the Fire Dept.  I thought there would be a representative here tonight, but I do not see one.  But, when I discussed this issue with them they stated that they would not want to go against the

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Village Code.  We contacted Daniel O’Connor, Village Engineer.  Mr. O’Connor submitted a memo dated November 12, 2003, with his comments.  I believe all the Board Members received a copy (the Board Members confirmed their receipt of the memo).  

Norton - A central monitoring alarm could be an alternative.  We have new up to date fire rated sheet rock.  Fire separations and mechanical systems meet all the Code requirements it will be a new up to date freestanding single building it is a minimum risk.  It will cost us upwards of $38,000.00 dollars to install a sprinkler system.

Sapir – Is your only reason of objection because of money?

Norton – No, basically the Village Code is in excess of the State Code for this type of use and occupancy.

Sapir -  The occupancy will be strictly office space?  What is the building now?

Norton -  It is a free separate standing building.  It is three floors and is only 2,100 sq. ft. on three floors.  It has two exits on the basement side and there is no exit in the front.

We will not be able to rent out because of parking space.  We will have the maximum of five (5) or six (6) employees.  According to the State Code, when dealing with uses that are similar to this one, they require a fully automated sprinkler system only if there is one hundred (100) people or above that amount.
Rolnick – Is that the sole criteria for a sprinkler system in the State Code?  The use, occupancy, number of people?

Norton – It is a blanket provision that the minimum requirement in any zone no matter what they are, industrial, manufacturing, etc., is 10,000 ft. or more and an occupancy of 1,000 or more.

Rolnick – In your letter dated November 5, 2003  to Mr. O’Connor, you described a conversation that you had with Mr. Vlad.  He said there would be adequate protection with the central alarm, but he would not make that recommendation.

Norton – Basically, the Fire Dept. is worried about liability and they will not go against their own Village Code.  They are worried about liability, if there is a fire and someone

dies in the building and it is proven that a sprinkler system would have saved a life.  They will not go against their own Code.
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Sapir – Other than the windows there is no fire escape?  

Mr. Sapir to Mr. Sperber – Is it correct that a fire escape is only needed when there is a third floor?

Sperber – For a residential second story house a window would be a means of egress, for a third floor house a fire escape would be recommended.   Fire escapes are not legal for a means of egress.  Exterior stairs would need a fire-separated wall.

Rolnick – What is the height of the windows facing the north?

Norton -  11 ft.- 12 ft. from the bottom sill to ground level.

Discussion followed over plans.

Rolnick -  There will be no connection between the existing building and the proposed new building?

Norton – Absolutely not.

Sapir – Would you be opposed to a condition to limit the use as office space and a limit to the number of people?

Norton – Absolutely, we would abide by it.

Sapir -  Why is this application before the Board?  What is it that gives us the right to deviate from this section of the Village Code?

Norton – Because our appeal is that the Village Code is more restrictive than the State Code and it has to go before the Zoning Board for us to get a variance from the Village Code.

Sapir – Are you ready to continue construction now?

Norton – Yes.  We have already started construction.

Stephens – If we decided that you need sprinkler systems you would not abandon the project.

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Norton – It would be difficult, but we would not abandon the project.

Sapir – What tenants do you have in the other building?

Norton – The old building has 4 full time employees and 15-18 part time employees. The second floor of the new building will be only big enough for four employees and a maximum of is a correct statement.  Mr. Albert owns Prudential Albert Brokerage and that may be moving over, possibly, but not right now.  We need to advertise and get responses to see what it entails.

Sapir – what would the rental be for a tenant at fair market value?  How much of a monetary difference would it make for you?

Norton – A requirement for us to put in a sprinkler system would bring down our investment. The range of rental prices is an average of $18.00 to $22.00 per sq. ft.  I could put something together, but it would take me awhile.

Sapir – I am uncomfortable in refusing something that will safe guard and save lives and the Fire Chief has expressed his own personal concerns in that respect.  What are we talking about as far as investment is concerned?

Norton -  It is not just recouping an expense, it is that the Village Code is too strict, there are almost no requirements in the State Code for a building this small.  I think a central station alarm would be adequate.  According to Section 75 of the Village Code, the Board not only has jurisdiction over this matter, but also the authority to make a final decision on our appeal.

Sapir – Are we to review this application under area or use variance?

Norton -  If I had to pick one it would be use, but I am not sure.

Sperber – I think it would be both.  In the State Code the use of the building is also considered.

Rolnick – As a residential use it would not be an issue and as a business it is.  What would happen if you built a residence in a Light Industrial Zone?  I would say it is a use.

Norton – Whether it is a full sprinkler system or a central fire alarm, both are to save lives.

Sapir – Are there any kitchens in this building?
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Norton – No, bathrooms and office.

Sapir – How many windows in this building?  I am thinking of rope ladders being an alternative escape for the second floor.  The central alarm will go off in the building and central station?

Norton – Most central station monitoring will ring to an alarm service that then the fire dept.  I am not sure whom it can go directly too.  With a fire alarm it immediately brings the fire dept. no matter how the alarm is put out.

Sapir – What about a contract paid in advance, filed each year with the Village for inspection service and you will need to provide certifications.

Norton – Certainly we can provide that.  I have a central alarm in my own home.  There is a monitor in every room.  I assume this will be the same.

Sapir to Sperber – Has Seymour Waldman, Village Attorney, been contacted with respect to this application.

Sperber – As far as revising the language in the Village Code.

Barlow – When this was put in the Village Code, they knew that it was more restrictive then the State Code.

Sapir -  When this ordinance was passed, what was the reason behind it?

Sperber – I would not like to speculate on that.

Sapir – Anyone else like to be heard?

Deborah McCarthy, Village Board Liaison – I am a member of the Village Board.  I am not taking any position to this application.  This building is going to stand for thirty or forty years or more.  Conditions on any approval can be helpful, but conditions are not apparent to one driving by.  For example; a condition of landscaping around a deck, that is all right, people driving by can see if it is not complied by, but a condition, such as the one discussed tonight will not be known to subsequent purchasers.  The issue you are

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talking about tonight is money.  If the building is going to stand for thirty years or more, that is a long time for monitoring.

Norton – Subsequent purchasers are knowledgeable   Especially, when it comes to commercial properties.  I would check the building files and the permits would be listed.  I disagree about the money issue.  We can appeal the economics of it.  We are allowed and we feel it is unnecessary, based on the State Code, that is the real reason we are here tonight.

Sapir – What would the state require for fire protection?

Norton – Under State Code we are listed as a “B” Occupancy and for sprinklers a “B” occupancy is not even listed.  Once you go to a certain occupancy load it goes to a different requirement.

Sapir – Does the State Code require anything other than what you have done?

Norton – As far as construction materials, such as fire rated sheet rock, fire separations, etc., the Village Engineer is making certain that we comply by that.

Sapir – So you still need to meet the State Code.

Sperber -  There is nothing in the State Code.  It is the Village Code that is more restrictive.

Sapir – Anyone else like to be heard?

There was no reply.

Hearing closed.

Stephens - Made motion to grant a variance from Section  193-1 of the Village Code with respect to sprinkler systems.

Rolnick – Second the Motion

Vote:  3-1   - VARIANCE DENIED -   Stephens, Rolnick, Barlow - Nay
                                                                Sapir - Abstained

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Danny Oks, 138 Maple Street, Section 79.05 Block 1 Lot 39.  Discussion only, with respect to a School Proposal/Request for variance.  (Discussion Adj. on 10/8/03)

Daniel Oks – 101 Truesdale.  I am the owner of 138 Maple Street.  I am also a parent of a child that goes to this school.

Barbara Sarbin – 624 Croton Ave., Cortlandt Manor.  We met at last months meeting.  Do I need to repeat everything that I said at the last meeting?

Sapir – No.  It is on record.

Sarbin – We are applying for more than one zoning variance to operate a pre-school kindergarten and a couple of elementary grades.  We need a use permit to apply to the state for a charter to have such a school.  Everything is contingent upon us getting a zoning variance.  We have also had communications with the Planning Board and Village Board and the Village Board is changing the language of the Village Code.  We are now waiting for the public hearing to amend the Code.  Basically, it is OK.

Stephens – How are the kids transported to and from school?

Barlow – How many children are there?

Donna Nicholson - Right now we are limited to twelve at one time, because it is used as a day care center.  As a school we will have more space use, teachers, and students.  We will need to have one parking space for every twelve children.

Sperber – The Village Engineer sent a memo to the Zoning Board on September 22, 2003, stating that they would also need area and setback variances to be used as a school. He also states that a variance from Section 230-51(b) of the Village Code may be needed.  They are required to have a 100 ft. setback from the street.  They also may need a parking variance.

Sarbin -  That was before we had it worked out to use Hill St. for parking

Sapir -  Do the parents park and then bring the children in or do they drop them off?

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Nicholson – No.  They bring the children in. That is our requirement.

Sapir -  Why do you think the Code requires a 100 ft. setback, which is further than what you already have?

Oks -  We have a front yard setback of 12.4 ft. a 15 ft. setback is required for residential.

Nicholson -  There will be no playing in the front and they enter in the back.

Sapir – When they wait to go home, do they wait outside?

Nicholson – No.

Sapir – Can anyone think of a reason for the 100 ft. setback that is required for the front yard?

Rolnick – You are thinking of changing the school substantially, so later it will be for older grades as well?

Sarbin – Most people would prefer to send kids to public schools for the upper grades.  We would like to have a first grade and if possible a second grade.  We do not anticipate having kids we can’t fit.  We need to be a school and we need a Special Use Permit from the Village.

Sapir – Could it be possible that the 100 ft. setback is required because of the possibility of kids jutting out into the road?

Nicholson - We have a natural fence of bushes and where you enter, there is a gate with a lock.  They are not physically capable yet to undo that.

Barlow – You would not object to access and egress in the back, because that is what you already have, correct?

Nicholson – Correct.

Stephens – Is Hill Street a paper street?  Is it privately owned or is it owned by the Village?

Oks – It is owned by the Village.
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Stephens – If Hill Street is to be used a variance from the Code would also be required.

Rolnick – Do you use Hill Street now for parking?

Sarbin – Yes.  That is the parking.

Stephens – But, that is not your property?

Deborah McCarthy, Village Board Liaison – Unless a street is dedicated, it is a paper street.  It has all kinds of legal implications, so we need to check this out and the surrounding property owners and their rights.  But, I do not know if the Village owns it.

Rolnick -  What is the Code that governs the number of kids you can have at one time.

Sarbin – It is determined in the office of family services, it is based on the number of adults.

Rolnick – So where does the number 25 come from?

Sarbin – We were basing it on the number of adults as does the family services.  Technically, 28 children would be possible under the current license.

Rolnick – But, you will be under a new license, so we do not know what that number will be.

Nicholson – But, we do not have the room for more.

Rolnick – So, if this number (25) were to be a condition you would be comfortable with that?

Sarbin -  We brought you a statement from the parents with respect to this application.  They are in favor of this application.  Everyone, seems to need a couple of months for this process and we are anxious to proceed as quickly as humanly possible and not to delay it, but of course we need to comply legally.  We are just letting you know that we have a lot of support for this application.

Stephens -  I personally would need to know who owns that street.

Sperber – I will personally find out for you.  Deborah McCarthy’s comments make sense.  I have been by the lot recently and there is clearly nothing being maintained there by the Village, so I will check the ownership out.
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Oks – It has been used as parking for at least 10 years and it goes back even before the “Bennett House”.

Sarbin – It has also been used by the neighbors not just us.

Barlow – But, if parking is required you would need to be sure that you have it, because if you ever lost it, you would lose the school.

Sapir – How many employees do you have?

Sarbin -  Three full time teachers and consultants.

Stephens – When you convert it to a school you will also need a nurse, correct?

Nicholson – No. We are also trained in CPR, etc.

Sapir – We also need to discuss the area variance, which is substantial.  I would think that the reason people would require three acres is for the neighbors, so when the kids are playing.

Sarbin – We have excellent support from our neighbors.  Their kids come to our events.  We did speak to the neighbors on both sides and they were happy for us and support our application.

Oks -  Three acres is what is required for the use as a school for 150 children.  That is also another thing to consider.  There is another school that is a day care service and they do not have three acres.  They have at least 30 children.  We will have approximately 24 kids that will not require three acres.

Stephens – But, that is a day care, not a school.

Sarbin -  “Children’s Space” uses Dobbs Park for a playground area..  School hours are 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.  and 3:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M.

Sapir – How does the use of the park work during baseball season?

Nicholson – We are not affected, because we do not use it at that time.  September thru June we use the field, not in the summer.

Sapir – Does the fact that you will be a school mean that there will be more indoor activities?  Are they being taught as opposed to play?
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Sarbin -  We want to be accredited and registered, so people can use it as an alternative.  We were speaking to Robert Elliott, Village Mayor, regarding working with children with special needs or some kind of assistance.  It would really serve everyone, if we could be a school.

Sapir – What do you mean special needs?

Sarbin – Mild dyslexia, ADD, learning disabilities, etc.

Sapir – You mean behavior issues?

Sarbin -  It would be something the district could benefit from.  We also have different areas delineated outdoors that they can play in.  

Sapir – Does everyone go out at the same time?

Sarbin – No.  It is possible, but because of the size, it would not be comfortable.

Sapir -  You have four different groupings?  

Nicholson – Three.  Three, four and five year olds.

Sarbin – We have a morning program and an afternoon program.

Sapir – Half day or full day?  How do they register?

Sarbin – Mostly for the year.  Then there is a September thru June deal.

Sapir – Summer Programs?

Sarbin -  Not right now, we are not ready for that right now, maybe in the future.

Stephens – Would you be able to allow for speech services for children who need special services as well as P.T. & O.T?

Sarbin - If we had the school, the staff, and the time, that would be possible.

Nicholson -  There would not be much to change, it would be simple to accommodate for wheel chairs, etc.

Sapir – Any other questions?
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Rolnick – What is the impact of what you are doing on the immediate area?  Three acres is required versus what you already have.  But, that will change, because you will change your operations.  Can you not give us for the next meeting a summary of what the school will be like under the new permit.

Sarbin – Agreed.  Do you want it written or spoken?

The Board requested a written statement.

Sapir -  If you are allowed to operate as a school will it be limited to age, or will it then become a high school?

Sarbin – If we are given a charter for pre-school and then we say we want a middle school, we would need another charter.  Logically, this school will not work for more than pre-school or kindergarten. As an organization, yes, but probably not in that same building.

Sapir -  But, once this variance is granted, that will run with the building.  So, if Mr. Oks wants to sell the building, he can say I have a High School here, but the variances we give you might not be appropriate for high school.  Do you see going beyond second grade?

Nicholson – The space works for young children, it is a home and it is small, anything else would not really work.  We would never get rid of that age group that we have now or pre-school education.

Oks - One more thing, is the issue of timing.   We need the Board to understand our situation.  If the school is to start in September, we need to advertise two or three months before and we need to get the permit from the town and state first.   So, we are really running against time and if we do not meet the timing we will have no school in September.

Sarbin – January is tight, it will be difficult for us to wait longer.  January is when we need to let the parents know.  Is it possible for you to grant a variance contingent upon the Village Boards approval?

Sapir – We could grant it contingent upon other Boards approvals.

McCarthy – First we are going to need to change the Code and then you will need your application for the permit.  I am not sure that you will get in by January for the Village Board.  We need to give a thirty-day notice.
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The Zoning Board agreed to place the applicant on the agenda for a hearing on December 10, 2003.

Discussion Closed.

Respectfully submitted,

Janice Fuentes
ZBA Secretary


Richard Albert has applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, requesting a variance from Section 193-1(A) of the Village Code with respect to sprinkler systems and a proposed Site Plan dated 6/7/01.

The property, at 2 Croton Point Ave., is located in a LI District and is designated on the Tax Maps of the Village as Section 79.17 Block 1 Lot 6.

A public hearing having been held after due notice, this Board from the application and after viewing the premises and neighborhood concerned, finds:

The applicants building is a commercial structure consisting of 2,100 square feet on three floors for which a sprinkler system is required by section 193-1 (A) of the Village Code for the safety of the occupants.  The Board finds that the sole basis for seeking the variance is to avoid the expense of a sprinkler system, which the applicant states will cost approximately $38,000.00.  The applicant states that the fair market rental value of the building ranges from $18.00 to $22.00 per square foot.

In considering the safety aspect of the sprinklers and the cost of a sprinkler system over the anticipated life of the building, the Board finds; it is not so burdensome as to permit the excusing of the installation of a sprinkler system, which may save lives in case of fire.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the application is hereby Denied as follows:

Stephens – Made a Motion to Grant a Variance from Section 193-1(A) of the Village Code with respect to its requirement to install a sprinkler system in the commercial use structure proposed by the applicant.

Rolnick – Second the Motion

Vote:  0-3   VARIANCE DENIED - Stephens, Rolnick, Barlow – Nay
                                                       Sapir – Abstained

According to Section 230-76 (D), “Unless work is commenced and diligently prosecuted within one (1) year of the date of the granting of a variance or special permit, such variance or special permit shall become null and void.”