Posted by: Dawn Powell | March 14, 2009

Town Board – yelling and more


Putnam Valley Town Board

Work Session – March 11, 2009


Guys, you missed a good one, and there is no videotape since Mr. Robert Tendy does not see any reason for transparency in his government.  He was in a foul mood, and yelled at three of the Board members, who objected to 7 amendments to a 4 item agenda.  He didn’t want to put off his discussions for “a technicality” like open government,   So he yelled at them, then called an executive session and yelled some more.  Even though it’s a closed session, his yelling came through the door.  And when he came out, he did that ‘badgering the witness’ thing, where if someone disagrees with him, he challenges every word out of their mouths.  I doubt that it’s an effective legal technique.  It’s certainly not much fun at a town board meeting. Thank you to Gene, Priscilla and Wendy for at least raising the subject of transparency.  Next time, stick to your guns.  

This meeting only exists in my, and Eileen’s imaginations, or existential realities, so what we say goes, although our versions will differ, not on substance, only in tone.  You would think that my posts would be enough incentive for Bob to tape the meetings, but he just keeps handing me material.  Town Attorney William Zutt is setting the agenda for the town these days, and tonight was no different.  Personally, I find Mr. Zutt to be personable, and he loved his dog.  That goes a long way with me.  But still, I do not care for his agenda, nor do I support his setting it.  I live here.  He doesn’t.   I vote here.  No one here elected him.  Even though the Dems are in the minority, they could have had an impact equal to that of Bob’s when he was a constantly disaffected minority.  Instead they are reactive.  But then again, so are the Republicans. 

There is a settlement proposal in the Kaspar litigation.  The Town Board authorized that.  Since this was the number one problem in Putnam Valley at this time last year according to Mr. Tendy (it was pushed aside for the monster wall), you would be think we might be kept in the loop.  When the Adorno stipulation of settlement was authorized, the alleged offending activity was still ongoing, so I admit that I never have much confidence in the current administration’s way of doing business.  I was impressed, though, that at least they voted on the settlement, since they never seem to vote to authorize litigation.

Mr. Zutt discussed eminent domain.  They were considering proceeding against a resident on Shamrock Road.  He says that the process takes 9-12 months, is cumbersome and expensive.  Make a note of that, Peekskill Hollow Road residents, if the county is planning to take your property away from you.  The resident says she never got the communications from the town, and she has some objections to what they are proposing on her property.  At this point, the project won’t proceed unless the FEMA deadline is extended.

Then they talked about the beaver dam at the Barger Pond outlet, that is causing flooding.  They seem fixated on whether or not the town had legal responsibility, and completely missed the issue that beavers and waterbodies have DEC regulations.  The residents should not be advised to just take matters into their own hands.  At one point, Mr. Tendy suggested that the residents were better off if the town wasn’t responsible, because then they could deal with the situation themselves.  But that is justnot the case.  And our public officials are bound by laws which they are supposed to uphold.  Perhaps a consultation with the wetlands inspector would be in order.

Maybe we could use BB’s on them (that was Mr. Tendy’s goose solution).  I have been told that Mr. Tendy went to a goose control presentation, so perhaps he can come up with a better solution for the geese.  We could have helped him, but he doesn’t talk to us.  It seems that he is just as stuck regarding solutions to beavers.  My problem with this inability to consider the humanity of living with creatures is the promotion of unacceptable solutions.  Recently, a cat was rescued, injured and battered, with BBs under his skin, and obvious pain. Someone had taken this type of solution to heart.  Mr. Tendy told us that BBs wouldn’t hurt the geese.  And so that way of coping is endorsed.  As with the cats, dogs, and geese, the beaver conversation showed that Bob doesn’t get it.  He mocked Priscilla’s compassion for the wildlife.

I almost forgot!  Mr. Tendy announced that there would be two people interviewing for the ad hoc planning board member.  It’s now March 14, and that position is still empty, despite one person who wanted to interview for the regular member (solicited by Mr. Tendy himself), and my interview for ad hoc.  Later Mr. Tendy said that Mike found these two men.  They didn’t show up…. 

There’s always me, Bob. I wil post a summary of my interview  soon.  What is clear at this point is that Mr. Tendy is not looking for an ad hoc member, he is looking for a point of view.

They talked about the law for the zoning map.  It makes no sense to adopt a map that does not conform to the Comprehensive Plan, but Mr. Zutt wants to.  Town Board member Wendy Whetsel tried to ask why we would adopt a map with the old zoning code, but Mr. Zutt does not see this as a problem.  His Wordsmiths group has finished with their secret code changes, and now they are waiting for Mr. Crowder to write it all down, so that it can be revealed to us peons who just happen to live here.  For some reason, Mr. Zutt and Mr. Tendy are content to piecemeal a zoning code that does not conform to the Comprehensive Plan.  They have done it for years and it works for them, if not for the rest of us.  There was no updated map available, so they had to table it.  What really surprises me about this piecemeal process is that there is no vision.  As an issue arises, they change a law, or propose to, like the Floradan law, ripe for challenge, the incentive zoning law, the ag district law.  These are reactive, short-sighted changes. Mr. Z has said several times, and again on this occasion, that he can only guess what the framers of the draft code had in mind.  Here’s a novel idea, ask them.  (Wasn’t he there?)

Wildwood Knolls – the Bill Kneuer property is not in the district, and he wants to be.  He has been using the beach and having his garbage picked up for years (since 1948 actually) without the accompanying tax burden.  This came up before, and they will rehash the research, because we go around and around and around….

Then we had a slew of Mr. Zutt’s proposed laws.  He sets the priorities, writes the laws, then tells them what to do.  His version of the ag law – a floating zone that embraces state ag regulations.  While we have an obligation to pass a right to farm law, I’m not sure that I see the advantage to conforming our zoning to the lousy state ag district law.  I’d rather try to change that law.  I’d have to go back to the draft code to see how they solved this dilemma. 

BZ part 2. A restriction on properties coming out of the ag district.  This was suggested by Legislator Oliverio, and investigate, and apparently it is too restrictive of the right to farm.   I don’t believe that you can restrict ag land, in opposition to town base zoning, once it leaves the district. Town Board member Wendy Whetsel had an interesting idea of an overlay district of already mapped prime farmland, along the lines of wetlands or steep slope districts.  Bob tells us that farming is a hobby in PV.  Perhaps we can use Wendy’s idea for some sort of incentive zoning.  I did like BZ’s explanation of the state ag law – it provides protection from enforcement of zoning laws.  Oddly enough, Mr. Cinque, the other Bob, didn’t recuse himself from these discussions.  Remember when he said that he would not participate in agriculture discussions.  The Ethics Board told him that it was a potential conflict.  He represented the Cabots when they were selling the land, and favored the sale to Alex Kaspar, for less money than the Trust for Public Land was offering.  That property was already involved in a conflict over agricultural and non-agricultural uses when Mr. Cinque was the attorney.  So why was he there? 

Non-conforming uses and non-conforming structures, and non-conforming uses in the overlay districts.  This would have been entirely different if the zoning code had been passed in a timely manner.  I am angry at all the Town Board members and the Town Attorney for their shoddy manner of dealing with the moratorium, the zoning code, and the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan.  They all share in the blame.  And this issue, and the gas station issue would have been altered completely with the passage of the code.  Since there are only two gas stations in the town, and the zoning board of appeals (three of them anyway) lacks the motivation to adhere to the overlay district, the point regarding that is moot.  Mr. Zutt actually said, “what we are doing here is patching up” and that is a big part of the problem.

Incentive zoning – Bob yelled again.  Wendy and Priscilla don’t agree with him, and so they must be wrong, and he must be right.  Why try zoning or vision, when we can throw it away?  Mr. Tendy, himself, pointed out that the Town Board can change zoning any time they want.  And because of Route 6, we can’t listen to anything Nick Bianco (Yorktown Councilman) has to say.  I’m sure that Nick appreciates the mention.  That may have been Bob’s best comment of the night.  He also said that they could use incentive zoning to encourage cluster zoning.  Uhhhh…..cluster zoning is mandated by the Comprehensive Plan, and the draft zoning. 

 And road dedication – Bill clearly wants the town to take some roads.  The argument that it was implied that the roads would be accepted by the town does not hold water.  Timberline Court does not have a drainage district.  They have a homeowners’ association, so none of them anticipated town responsibility for the drainage district or the road when they bought their houses.  To impose that burden on the rest of the town now that they are unhappy with their choice, and when significant modifications must be made to their drainage system is unconscionable.  Bob talks about some unspoken agreement.  I remember the spoken words that conflict with his point of view. 

And then, there is the Woods End Road extension.  Does that mean they have already accepted the private part of the existing road?  Do I have to dig out the legal cases again?  Did they make a public decision?  And this applicant knew that the Town Board was considering not accepting subdivision roads for the town to take over.  So the argument is bovine scat.  This is just a sham to promote acceptance of these roads.  Who is representing the residents’ interests?

Wendy wants a calculation of the costs of taking over their roads.  Gene mocked her.  I thought it was the responsible way to proceed. 

The Councilwomen did raise good questions.  They just ask the wrong people.

Bill will write a resolution.

Wendy commented about a whole packet of Mr. Zutt’s memos in her file, supplied by Bob’s secretary.  The thing is, if Mr. Zutt had computer skill, these memos could be online, and each Town Board member could have a file or files according to topics, or better yet, they could have a shared file.  That would mean that if they wanted to look up relevant information, they could do a computer search, instead of thumbing through copies of memos.  Can we at least progress to the space age?  And we would save about a million trees!

The agenda for the regular meeting is posted on the website.  The meeting is this coming Wednesday, March 18, 2009.  You can watch the post discussion of Mr. Zutt’s vision for Putnam Valley.  I’m sure that Mr. Tendy will be better behaved for the camera.  There is also a decision on creating a senior clerk position in the assessor’s office.  Was this budgeted?  Has it been considered with an overview of the functioning of town hall personnel?  And they will be setting a date to tell us what they are going to do to Oregon Corners……




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