Back to the Future

July 25, 2009 Planning Board Meeting

 These meetings are very hard to hear above the background noise.  Hope springing eternal, I request that the new Town Board do something about it.

The Cemetery

This was very interesting.  The cemetery on Mill St. went before the Planning Board, the Zoning Board, and the Planning Board again.  The plan was to build a large office building on the Rose Hills side of Mill St., to put a scattering garden in the wetlands, and to add 1500 gravesites.  There was a mausoleum in the plan initially, but that was dropped early on.

 Mr. Zutt recused himself from this application because they were clients, but he sat in on all discussions.  Bob Lusardi represented the Town, but was not present for this meeting.

 The applicants went before the ZBA for variances.  The size of the building is 50 X 68.  The code allows 50 feet.  The distance between buildings is supposed to be 100 feet.  This is 7.  The open space is already below what the code allows and it is being reduced further.  And the cemetery is a non-conforming use (not permitted in our code), and it is being expanded.


When Mr. Lusardi was talking to the ZBA, it seemed that the case law was clear.  If there have been variances and lawsuits, and expansion of the non-conforming use has not been broached, then the expansion is prohibited.  Expansion had not been raised in other applications.


I have not seen the ZBA decision.  I have only heard it reported. The variance for the size of the building was granted.  As I recall, the new site has already been disturbed and the buildings on the King David side will be removed, and that site mitigated. What the scattering garden looks like and how it impacts the environment will depend on how it is done.  Aside from ash volume, we already know that the ash is environmentally inert.

 The major issues with the current project are the drawing of 900 gallons per day from the stream and the segmentation of the environmental review.  Before allowing a new structure, wouldn’t the Planning Board require a well?  Maybe they will with the segmented future project, Phases II, III, and IV.  This is the new way of avoiding a full environmental review, just like the camp did.  And how is the cemetery expansion functionally unrelated to the updating and expansion of the office building.  I believe that this method of review will catch up with them, and will not be allowed at some point. 

 The other change that has occurred is that, now, expansion has been discussed.

 “For us not to expect that a cemetery wouldn’t be expanded is not realistic.” – Chair.

Is that the legal threshold?

 Cemeteries release toxicity into our groundwater, while contributing nothing to our tax base.

 There are green alternatives, but no one has discussed them. Perhaps if the cemetery became an eco-cemetery now, and restored all the lawned area to natural beauty, we could tolerate their lack of contribution to our town taxes, while their business is thriving.


Two house on Birch Hill Road – there were members of the public present for the public hearing.   The EAF is two years old.  Shouldn’t that have been updated before the neg dec was passed?

 Lee Ave. – an accessory structure on a separate parcel. The lakes associations and the neighbors have come out to express their objections.  I can see allowing a walkway for access, but one of the neighbors talked about erosion caused by raised walkways.  One neighbor said she had never received notification.  As always, I believe that the neighbors need to be brought into the process sooner.  The severe pruning and the removal of 7 trees from the parcel prior to this application are a major source of controversy.  There was speechifying about taking photos and calling the Code Enforcement Officer.

 ….but I remember this call coming into Town Hall when I was working there.  The neighbors did call when he was cutting the trees on the lot.  I gave the information to Irv (Sevelowitz), and either he or JohnAllen went out.  It should be in the building department record.

 And the repeated remarks about strict laws on the assemblywoman’s lake, please ask for her assistance with stricter state laws.

 A response to another speechifying remark that new homes are not polluting the lake, and that old septics are the problem.  New homes create more impermeable surface (as does the deck, shed and walkway, so they do damage the lake, especially in the buffer.  The science indicates that buffers need to be increased.  And Lake Oscawana’s associations (and Lake Peekskill’s Civic Association for their lake) are trying to do something about older septics.  New construction and old septics are not mutually exclusive concerns, and both issues have been raised repeatedly in lake quality reports.

 Putnam Café – Wasn’t Sisyphus the blog comment?  Mostly old remarks – the telephone pole, the internal grease trap.

 But, there is severe erosion around the pipe, and I am wondering why the only moment to address that is a review of the application.  Then, there is the conversation area.  You would think that is important, since they are next to a stream.  No one knows what it means, what the plan is.  And the landscape buffer – what? Where?

 There is no security bond for the sewer connection.  Gutter changes haven’t been cleared with Putnam County.

 You have to admire persistence.


Then, there was open development on Kramer’s Pond Road. They cannot combine the driveway and they need a variance.

The minor revision explanation is worth seeing.  Read the statute.  This whole discussion doesn’t jive with the law.  One James Drive, after the applicant cleared the lot, the elevation of the house was higher than he thought.  Huh? They all agreed.  Watch it.  The applicant is lowering the elevation, and moving the driveway.  The elevation change is an improvement, but it is not minor.

 It was good to see public participation.


August 10, 2009 There has been a change in the Planning Clerk, and a change in the Planning Board agenda. I don’t know if those two changes are interrelated. “Communications” is on the agenda again for 5:30. That means that the Planning Board’s backroom meetings are legally noticed. That is an improvement. However, it does not satisfy the legal requirement that the public be accommodated.
At these backroom meetings, the public is generally me, although in the last few months, I haven’t been able to get there. I arrived at 5:45 for this meeting…. and I was not accommodated. If you’ve never been in there, go in and look at the conference room. There are lots of file cabinets, and a large table with 5 chairs. There are 6 members of the Planning Board. There is a planner; there is an engineer; there is a wetlands inspector; there is a clerk; normally, there is an attorney, although not at this meeting. On this agenda, HYH was being discussed, so there was an additional engineer, and an additional planner. The Code Enforcement Officer was present.
Does that sound crowded?
It was.
 Isn’t this a little ridiculous? Why do they do this? Is the point to evade public observation?
There was a review of Warex – the expansion of the gas station on Bryant Pond Road. Gas stations are prohibited in the ground and surface water protection overlay district. The Town Board just changed the non-conforming use law. That means that the zoning board interpretation of this application is in conflict with the new local law, and there is no approved plan. So it was referred back to the zoning board. Oh, and the DEC monitors the water there because of MTBE contamination from the old Getty station.  
HYH A popular topic, a large project in Roaring Brook. The Planning Board declared themselves lead agent for SEQRA – environmental review. Their representative said that most of the impacts – steep slopes, wetlands – cannot be mitigated. The planner disagreed. There is a great deal of public opposition to this project.
And last, but definitely not least, was a fascinating discussion of Pine Brook Farm. This property got an ag district designation, despite some notable opposition. The Town ended up in court due to the owner’s violations of wetlands buffers, etc. There was an agreement to settle by both parties – a stipulation of settlement. To date, many provisions of the settlement have not been met.
Mr. Keith Staudohar is now the engineer for the project. He has been the engineer for Marsh Hill Road (Emerald Ridge), for the cemetery, and for the gas station.
It seems that they (Pine Brook Farm reps) have met with the Supervisor, and, as I understand it, have been led to believe that if they have a subdivision, they will not have to abide by the stipulation, or that the stipulation will be changed. This legal meandering has been brought to you at taxpayer expense.
There was more public participation than usual at the last two meetings. I was happy to see the public presence. I do not find this to be a public friendly board.
Next Planning Board meeting is Monday August 24, 2009. 5:30 in the backroom.





SEQRA and Segmentation in Putnam Valley

The State Environmental Quality Review Act has become more and more significant in the evaluation of projects in Putnam Valley.

Segmentation is the piecemeal review of a project, so that the full environmental impact is not understood.

Camp Combe has a variety of projects that they would like to build, and it appears that they are already building some.  They have a Master Plan for expansion of the camp.  Currently, the Planning Board has determined that they will not consider the full Master Plan as part of the environmental review.

Rose Hills cemetery is a non-conforming use according to our code.  They have been before the Zoning Board, with Bill Zutt, as their attorney, for multiple zoning variances.  Now they are going to the zoning board for more variances needed to greatly expand their non-conforming use, segmented from prior decisions.

Warex – the gas station at Bryant Pond Road is a prohibited use in Putnam Valley.  Now they want to expand that prohibited use by 50%.

The draft zoning code was proposed in August of 2007 to conform to the Comprehensive Plan, unanimously passed in December of 2007.  A generic environmental impact statement was prepared at that time.  The Town Board has failed to pass the code, preferring to continue the precarious situation of using a zoning code that does not conform to the Comprehensive Plan to approve plans and enforce laws.  To make matters worse, three of the Town Board members are passing zoning code changes piecemeal, with segmented environmental reviews, while the draft zoning code is supposedly still on the table.

With this disregard of state law, do any of the decisions of these Boards have any validity, or are we just opening the doors for more and more litigation?  We already have a significant number of litigations occurring from this method of doing business.

Below are excerpts from the substantial body of information on SEQR and Segmentation available on the NYS DEC website.  For more, google NYS DEC and navigate to SEQR.


“SEQR requires the sponsoring or approving governmental body to identify and mitigate the significant environmental impacts of the activity it is proposing or permitting.

·         Introduction to SEQR – New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) requires all state and local government agencies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making.

·         1. What is Segmentation?

·         In 6 NYCRR Part 617.2(ag), segmentation is defined as the division of the environmental review of an action so that various activities or stages are addressed as though they were independent, unrelated activities needing individual determinations of significance. Except in special circumstances, considering only a part, or segment of an overall action, is contrary to the intent of SEQR.

·         There are two types of situations where segmentation can occur. One is where a project sponsor attempts to avoid an EIS by splitting a project into two or more smaller projects. The second is where activities that may be occurring at different times or places are excluded from the scope of an EIS. By excluding subsequent phases or associated project components from the EIS the project may be more acceptable to the reviewing agencies and the public.

2. How does an agency address uncertainty about later phases?

All known phases of a project should be considered in the determination of significance. If later phases are uncertain as to design or timing, their environmental significance should be examined as part of the whole action by considering the potential effects of total build-out. If, after completion of the review, it can be determined that the subsequent phases will cause no significant adverse impacts or that the impacts can be mitigated, initial phases can be approved and no further analysis under SEQR will be necessary. Later, if substantial changes to the project are proposed, such changes should be evaluated and a new determination of significance made. If an EIS was produced for earlier phases, a supplemental impact statement or revised SEQR findings may be needed.

3. What is the basic test for segmentation?

When trying to determine if segmentation is occurring agencies should consider the following factors:

·         Purpose: Is there a common purpose or goal for each segment?

·         Time: Is there a common reason for each segment being completed at or about the same time?

·         Location: Is there a common geographic location involved?

·         Impacts: Do any of the activities being considered for segmentation (while not necessarily significant by themselves) share a common impact that may, if the activities are reviewed as one project, result in a potentially significant adverse impact?

·         Ownership: Are the different segments under the same ownership or control?

·         Planning: Is a given segment a component of an identifiable overall plan? Will the initial phase direct the development of subsequent phases or will it preclude or limit the consideration of alternatives in subsequent phases?

·         Utility: Can any of the interrelated phases of various projects be considered functionally dependent on each other?

·         Inducement: Does the approval of one phase or segment commit the agency to approve other phases? “

Planning Board

Putnam Valley, April 20, 2009


I am one Planning Board meeting behind, but the April 20 meeting was noteworthy enough to go back to it. 


There is a lot of noise on the tape, and in the meeting room.  Would the Town Board please resolve this problem?


For me, there were three major issues at this meeting – 1) the interaction of this board with the public, 2) making decisions without having all the documentation in hand, and 3) the ever popular White Rock Road. 


1)There were a couple of public hearings, and some members of the public trying to understand the projects.  On most projects, the interested parties are not notified, and the public hearings

are not held until after the board has gone through its full process, and has already made its determination, even though they have not made their formal decisions.  The consultants say that their comments have been addressed, but do not specify what their concerns were.  I would like to see earlier notification to neighbors.  I also think there should be a format for presenting projects to the public that really informs them.  Chairman Maskiell of the Zoning Board of Appeals goes through introductions and instructions at every public hearing.  It is tedious to those of us who regularly follow the meetings, but most people do not, and so everyone should be informed every time.

2)Then, there was the application for a major grading permit on the very wet lot on West Shore Drive.  The Planning Board approved the resolution before having the plan.  I’ve also seen the Town Board approve things before they have all the information.  I’m not a fan of that method.  I think they should have the necessary paperwork in place before approval.

3)And White Rock Road, a favorite.  This was on the next PB agenda too.  This discussion is worth viewing.  The PB is looking to exert some needed control on this project, but the legal miasma probably precludes that.

This project has been going on for what seems like forever.  Imagine what it is like for those living there.  The current contractor (there have been a few) was unable to meet the agreed upon schedule, and the requirements of the controlling resolution.  The project was declared in default, and the bond was taken by the Town Board.  At that point it was the Town Board’s responsibility to finish the road, and restore the wetlands.  (It would be editorializing for me to express my fear of the Town Board in the contractor role.)

It was stated that the Town Board authorized the contractor to continue the work, but I don’t recall a vote to that effect.  I do remember the Town Board releasing part of that bond, even though there is no wetlands mitigation plan in place.

The deadline for that plan is May 15, and the Planning Board wanted it to be met.  The Chair of the PB was expressing dismay that the governing resolution was voided with the default, and the project was left wide open with no oversight.  His concerns seem right to me.

“We’re making this up as we go along.” – Yeah, we can tell.

The applicant wants Certificates of Occupancy for two houses, but doesn’t seem to understand that he has defaulted, and has no right at all to continue.

This project was on the May 4 agenda for an extension, but if the wetlands mitigation is not done in time, the appropriate planting cannot be done this spring.

This is a mess.

The wetlands inspector for the contractor is Steve Coleman.  The attorney for the applicant is Zarin and Steinmetz.

Stay tuned…..




Planning Board

March 23, 2009

I got to the backroom at 5:40.  The illegal meeting was already in progress, with planner, attorney, clerk, and a little later, the wetlands inspector.  They were talking about a neg dec when I went in.  Mr. Mike Raimondi announced in the backroom, that Adorno would be off the agenda and that their escrow balance was negative.  They briefly discussed the “judgment” against Kaspar.  It is my understanding that it was a consent order (agreed to by both sides).  They discussed their ability to make reasonable requirements for farm applications – Adorno and Kaspar have been dealt with as farm operations.

Mr. Raimondi also moved #7 to #3 on the agenda.  Mr. Staudohar, engineer for #1, #2, and #7 requested it in the backroom.  Can you move a review into the midst of public hearings?

And they added a minor revision for Gunther at the end of the agenda.

Still in the backroom, they discussed a memo that Councilwoman Whetsel had circulated requesting their attendance at next Wednesday’s meeting (April 1) about the Oregon Corners plan.  They discussed the Padavano house built on the steam, and the applicant’s request for a CO before planting in the buffer is done.  The bond is to ensure the survival of the plants.  There was a request for release of the bond.  This was not on the agenda.

At 6:12, Mr. Raimondi announced that he was opening the meeting.  He announced the agenda changes.  No vote.

First up was a public hearing on the Woods End Road subdivision.  It was a seemingly routine change in the resolution to correct the bond amount.  However, there was an attorney present from one of the abutting property owners who has not been notified of any of the other proceedings on this application.  He just found out with this notice that he is being asked to accept a 25 foot easement on his property for the road.  While there is no plan to widen the road at this juncture, the easement clearly allows widening at a future date.  Ask the residents on Peekskill Hollow Road what they are facing.  Woods End Road is an overly long dead end road (for a subdivision), and leads to very environmentally sensitive land.  We have been told it is a highway of use, even though it is clearly owned by the homeowners, and we have been told that the town should accept it for dedication.  Then they are supposed to accept the new extension for the subdivision.   The neighbor’s objection to an easement was an interesting development. 

The board took their expected executive session for personnel matters and pending litigation. Specifics of both should be announced in public.  Despite that lapse, I would guess that Raimondo was the litigation discussed, and the ad hoc position was the personnel matter discussed.  It will be April momentarily, and the board is still without an ad hoc.  I volunteered back in January.  It is the Town Board which chooses the member.  Pick me, pick me!  Also, the clerk was in the private session.  Doesn’t that mean that minutes are required?  It does with the Town Board.

The YMCA was on the agenda.  They were also on the Zoning Board agenda for no less than 14 variances, and this is just the first stage.  They are pushing this through because they want to do construction in May.  They are expecting a neg dec on April 6, and would like a quick ZBA decision.  This is not a bad application.  It is updating of a facility that is an asset to the town.  However, it is a bad process, and it should have been done right.  The camp is on the Peekskill Hollow Creek.  Phase 1 of the project was segmented from the environmental review so that this part of the project could be pushed through quickly.  So instead of considering all phases of the project, and handling the environmental review properly, we are supposed to pretend that the other phases might not happen.  However, at the ZBA meeting, the camp’s owner said under oath, that they are absolutely doing Phases II, III, and IV.  This means that the project should be considered as a whole, and the impacts should be dealt with in totality.  Abandoned buildings should not be retained for impervious surface trade-offs.  That would not happen if the review was proceeding properly.  That said, is there any way to use a permeable surface for the parking lot?

I am wondering about the lack of environmental review from the ZBA.  They are supposed to do their own SEQRA analysis or else a coordinated review with the PB.  That has meant no review, or acquiescence to the PB review.  It doesn’t seem like the way to proceed.

At the end of the meeting, there was a discussion about a minor revision request for the Gunther property of artesian well note.  They were excavating, and hit an artesian well, and ended up with sediment flowing freely into Lake Oscawana.  Some have commented that this should not have been a surprise.  There was been a couple of attempts to clear away the environmental mishap with a minor field revision.  This revision is to raise the house by 1 foot so that all the water in the basement does not go into the house.  The Planning Board will make a threshold determination as to whether or not this is a minor change, but the law does not require that part of the process.  This applicant has been through a lot, and I sympathize, but it doesn’t really seem like the place to build a house.

Those were the major topics, and they will do this again on Monday night April 6, 2009.  Come early for the illegal meeting.  Just proceed to the back room on the right.

HYH, up on Pudding Street, is on the agenda.  That ought to get your attention.  They need to move forward now, while we still don’t have a Comprehensive Plan conformed zoning code.












There was no quorum

 for an illegal backroom meeting until 5:44.  The PB Attorney was not present in the backroom.   It was announced back there that “Adorno” would be off the agenda.  They discussed the Gair application and the apartment above the garage.


There were three public hearings.  No one from the public spoke at any of them. 


Masotti on Shopis Drive is building a 2 story addition, with an accessory apartment, on a 1.09 acre lot in an R1 lot.  This is a zone that should no longer exist in the zoning code.  This would properly have been a non-conforming lot if the code conformed to the Comprehensive Plan.


I would like to see the size of the existing structure on the agenda description.  These descriptions  have improved tremendously.  I would also like to see a full presentation at the public hearing instead of the consultants just saying that their comments have been addressed.   It is also my belief that SEQRA requires a real presentation of the consideration of the environmental concerns that are addressed before there is a negative declaration of environmental significance.  And if we could just get those signs, marking parcels with planning or zoning considerations.


The engineer for the second application on the agenda (O’Leary – Sunset Hill Rd.) did a much more thorough job of presenting the plan.  I had some questions, but he gave a good overview of what is there, what is planned, and what has occurred in the process.  This is a one story addition on 2.17 acres.  Elevations were presented, and they were beautiful.  I believe that this was the two parcels that are not merged.  I did not ask.


Raimondo was on for public hearing for work related to mitigation of violations.  There were still outstanding comments to be addressed from the town consultants, so it was adjourned to the March 23 meeting.


Mr. Gair, on Peekskill Hollow Road, wants to divide his property with two houses into 2 lots.  There is a garage apartment that has been present for quite awhile.  Mr. Gair says it was there in 1939.  The code was written in 1938, so the apartment may not be pre-existing non-conforming, it may be only non-conforming.  Mr. Gair gave a speech about how long his family has been here, but he needs to provide proof about when the apartment was added.  Actually I don’t know why he wouldn’t have to conform in order to move forward with a PB change.


The Velez application is on Tanglewylde Road.  The house was destroyed in a fire.  Even though it is a .37 acre lot on a steep slope, the code allows rebuilding.  They have requested a higher  basement and another floor.  The zoning board of appeals has already granted an area variance.  There is no room on the parcel for a septic expansion field, not a particular area of concern for me.  I understand allowing a rebuild after a fire, although if insurance would pay for another house, that would be preferable.  And I can understand the basement.  But I fail to see that rebuilding the house as it was is a hardship that warrants a variance.  This parcel is too small  for well and septic.  It is an unbuildable lot that is buildable only because it was built on when the code was not as careful.  The size of the house that burned down was what they bought.  If it no longer meets their needs, they can sell it, and purchase another home.  They cannot meet all the requirements of the ground and surface water protection law.  They were given exemption from the tree law.  I was wondering what the difference was between their tree plan argument, and Mr. Kisslinger’s.  It seems as though some people are treated as if they will be building their house, while they are going through the planning process, and others are treated as if it is questionable.  Is Mr. Kisslinger’s lot more questionable than this one, or say the Gunther lot?  When discussing the tree plan waiver, they discussed Rose Hills as if they had been given a waiver from the tree plan.  I remember the discussion, but I don’t remember any formal decision regarding that parcel.  They also waived the topography map of the undisturbed area, and granted sketch approval.


There was a Peekskill Hollow Road parcel on the agenda, listed as Rodrigues.  This is the Rippolon parcel that has DEC and town wetlands, and required a lot line change.  The parcel has a covenant on it for land trusting.  The proposed house that backs up against the wetlands has five bedrooms, and a five car garage. 


Lastly they discussed the Anakin subdivision, and granting a building permit for the last house without completion of the road.  The road gets torn up in the construction process.  They discussed Timberline Court, and some of the issues that the highway superintendent has with their drainage system.  The residents want the town to take over maintenance of their road.


The next planning board meeting is March 23 at 6PM.  Illegal meeting in the backroom sometime between 5:30 and 6.  The agenda is on the town website, and PVRC sends it out as a courtesy to its members.  There are three public hearings, Michener, MacDonald – PHR and Raimondo.  Sketch plan approval for David and Adorno.  Review of  Feldman – Lee Avenue and Camp Combe.  A decision on Anakin, and an informal discussion of Higgins on Lake Shore Rd.


Town Board meeting this Wed. at 7PM.  We’ll see if there are any more fireworks.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
























Rose Hills Cemetery– this is an expansion of a use that does not conform to our zoning code.  There have been numerous prior variances, and the environmental review did not include this expansion.  That constitutes segmentation under state law – SEQRA – State Environmental Quality Review Act.  This is the cemetery on Mill Street and Peekskill Hollow Road.


White Rock Road – this is a subdivision off Barger Street that has been ongoing for years under three different contractors, with drainage, wetlands, and blasting problems.  The applicant failed to complete the road project within the Planning Board’s timetable, and so the project was referred to the Town Board.


There is still no Planning Board ad hoc member.


Putnam Valley Planning Board

February 23, 2009


I arrived at 5:40, and three Planning Board members were already having their illegal pre-meeting in the backroom.  It still says 6PM on the agenda.  Other members and professionals came in at various times.  They talked about Rose Hills Cemetery, with no attorney present.  They talked about a bond reduction for Michener, and the project’s engineer came in to present a reworked bond calculation.  The Town engineer mentioned White Rock Road.  The applicant is completing the work that he did not complete within the agreed upon Planning Board timetable, and the bond will be refunded to the applicant when complete.  There was a Town Board Executive Session at the end of the last Town Board meeting to discuss the status of White Rock Road.  I don’t understand why that is privileged information.  And I don’t understand why the Planning Board went through their whole timetable and default process when all that happened was that the applicant is doing the work, and taking longer anyway.  Seems like a waste of everyone’s time.


It was announced in the backroom meeting that Rose Hills Cemetery would be on the agenda first before the public hearing.  That had the effect of leaving the Planning Board without counsel.  Mr. Lusardi, the town’s attorney for this project, arrived after the Planning Board had made its decision.  They denied sketch so that the applicant will go to the Zoning Board of Appeals.  I am somewhat confused about this zoning board referral process as it is not done as proscribed in State Law, and the Town Code.  But back to the cemetery, a cemetery is a non-conforming use in our Code, so this expansion would require a use variance, and this plan is segmented from the environmental review done for other variances which the cemetery has received.


Then the PB had a public hearing on a lot line change for a single family house on Williams Drive.  I tried to ask my question about the merging issue that the county would not approve, but I had the wrong application.  It’s a different lot line change for which the DOH is waiting for the PB lot line approval.  It’s hard to hold your questions for a couple of months until the public hearing.  I remembered the question, but not the applicant.  For this applicant, everything was approved.


Rima Adorno, the application across from the Town Park, was deleted from the agenda.  They are withdrawing their plan to process firewood (that operation would be considered industrial).  This application is on the next Planning Board agenda.


On Peekskill Hollow Road – the MacDonald application, the Planning Board approved sketch despite outdated wetlands flagging, and no wetlands inspector present.


For Raimondo, the Board requested that the outstanding comments be addressed.


For Michener on Woods End Road, there was a public hearing set for bond reduction. This seems to be merely a correction.


The Planning Board is still ad-hoc less.  Mr. Tendy would still prefer no one to me.



Wordsmiths February 24, 2009

I’m sorry Putnam Valley.  I didn’t go.  I seem to have lost my motivation to attend these meetings, even though it is the only level of transparency in this process.  I don’t respect this process at all, and it is merely political posturing.  Whatever Mr. Tendy’s political intent, he’ll do it whether or not I’m there.  Friends have congratulated me on the decision.



PVPB 2/9/09

I watched the Planning Board meeting.  I did not attend.


Someone at the meeting referred to “this plan that we were discussing before the meeting.”  That seems to indicate an illegal pre- meeting.


Mr. Zutt read a quote. “A project has been improperly segmented if the segmented project has no independent utility, no life of its own, or is simply illogical if viewed in isolation.”  I don’t know what the source was for the quote.


Aside from specific Town Board activity, this relates to two current zoning and planning projects – the YMCA Camp Combe and Rose Hills Cemetery.


Segmentation is a term used when an environmental review is divided into pieces rather than consideration of the impacts of the whole project.  It is illegal because one aspect of the project may not have a lot of impact, but when considered in its entirety, the environmental damage might be significant.  For example, building one house may not do significant damage, but building five may.  So in a subdivision review, all five houses in the project would have to be reviewed and all environmental impacts reviewed and mitigated, rather than looking at them one at a time.


The quote is supposed to explain why reviewing the camp’s 1st phase of a master plan is not segmentation.    That certainly is confusing.  Let’s see, some decks on cabins, 2 treehouses, a bus turnaround, and a parking lot improvement.  That can stand in isolation on its own, right?  One of the treehouses is fifty feet high and forty feet wide.  Sounds neat, but not without environmental significance.


To further complicate this segmentation of the environmental review, there are stormwater issues, an area where segmentation is significant, biodiversity – there are timber rattlesnakes, and needed variances – prior construction predates current rules, so new construction needs to be exempted from current zoning.  Now would be the time to clean everything up.


The other segmentation issue is different.  As I understand it, the expansion of the cemetery would be segmented by virtue of prior approvals.  This is a large expansion that is planned – more than 1000 graves, a mausoleum, an office building, and a scattering garden. 


The cemetery is a pre-existing, non-conforming use under our Town code.  It is, therefore, no longer a permitted use.  It was there when the code was passed, and so it has been allowed to remain.  Now that the owner is planning a large expansion, the problematic use must be addressed.


The Issues

1) This is not a permitted use in our zoning.   2) Because cemeteries do not pay property tax, the community benefit is in question.   3) The properties are owned by several different entities.  4) There are wetlands and steep slope restrictions.  5) The building is longer than allowed by the code.  6) The environmental review for the project is segmented by virtue of multiple previous zoning board reviews without consideration of expansion. 


Additionally, there is a question about the impact of a cemetery on groundwater, the source of our well water.


The Woods End Road project received two 90 day extensions. Masotti, a 2 story extension on 1.09 acres received sketch approval contingent upon ZBA approval.  Shouldn’t they wait until the D&O is completed and signed?


They went into executive session to seek advice from counsel and discuss pending litigation.  The second is a reason for an executive session.  The first is not.  The topic was Adorno.


This looks like an apparent industrial operation, with some farm animals to make it an agricultural use.  The parcel is across from the Town Park.  It is steep and would require major grading.  It is very rocky.  The owner’s husband wants to import fire wood, and hay for processing to make the operation profitable.  The parcel is 8.02 acres.  The zoning is R3 – 3 acre residential.


There was some further activity on the parcel, and presumably a stop work order issued.  This town’s experience with the state agricultural district, set up by the county, has shown serious flaws in the process.  We need to change this process.  Our public officials need to pay some attention.


Keep in mind with this and any other environmental classifications, that if a project is given a Type II SEQRA classification, no environmental review is needed.  The Planning Board, or other agency, determines from the State’s listed cirtieria whether a project is Type I, Type II, or unlisted.  That determines how the review proceeds.  Type II – no review.


There will be a public hearing scheduled on a one story addition on Sunset Hill Road.  There was some issue about the septic system on a different parcel, and no merging of the two parcels.  There wasn’t enough information presented at the public meeting to really understand the issue.


A deck and other structures on a Lee Avenue parcel.  There are environmental concerns.  It was unclear if this parcel was associated with any other parcel with a main structure. 


The videotape was very noisy from this point on, and it was difficult to hear.


A new subdivision possibility was discussed on Canopus Hollow Road, with a shear driveway existing.  The applicant wants to waive the wetlands screening, by acknowledging the presence of wetlands, and moving to the next step.


Raimondo is moving forward with a plan to mitigate violations.


The next Planning Board meeting will be on February 23.  Rose Hills Cemetery, Adorno, Raimondo, and Woods End Road will all be discussed.














Planning Board, January 26, 2009

I had been told of a 5:15 closed meeting before the illegal Planning Board pre-meeting.  I have no idea if there was anything like that.  I didn’t arrive until 5:45.  The ad hoc- less Board and consultants, minus Tom Carano were already ensconced in the backroom.  Plus Bob Lusardi.  It was standing room only.


Mr. Lusardi was present because he is representing the Planning Board in the application for the Rose Hills Cemetery to expand.  It is a non-conforming use and there are questions about segmentation.  Bill Zutt has recused himself in this application because he has recently represented the cemetery, but stayed in the room for the discussion.  I’m sorry that this wasn’t a taped discussion.  Mr. Lusardi is representing the town in other litigation matters, and I thought that his presentation of segmentation issues was impressive.  I’m sure that there are those in the Town who would appreciate some familiarity with him.


As well as I understand it, he said that the intent to expand the cemetery in the future isn’t enough to justify a separate request for expansion, that the previous applications for variances and approvals should have included future plans.  He brought up the Syracuse Aggregate case as the precedent, and said that there are 8 criteria to determine the issue of segmentation, among them common purpose or goal, same ownership or control, functional dependence, and cumulative impacts.  At the regular meeting, he asked the attorney for documentation that there was past intent for expansion, as well as prior ownership and prior use.


The applicant will need 3 variances from the zoning board of appeals, two area variances and a use variance.  The proposed building length is longer than allowed at 68 feet, the open space is already less than permitted, and is proposed to be lower, and the cemetery use is not a permitted use.


The last expansion of the mausoleum, office, and graves, and the tree-cutting was in 2004 and the application did not go to the zoning board of appeals.


The rest of the backroom meeting was essentially a review of the agenda.


The cemetery was discussed first after the meeting was opened. 


Later in the meeting item number 8 the Camp Combe application came up.  The cemetery discussion was relevant also to this application because of a 4 phase expansion.  The Planning Board declared themselves lead agent in the environmental review of Camp Combe, Phase I of 4 phases.  In light of the earlier discussion on segmentation, the approach to this application is confusing.


Second on the agenda was a house on Seifert Lane.  The elevation of the house is wrong.  They need escrow.  The driveway was built on the neighbor’s property, a cousin.  They need an updated wetlands mitigation plan.  The grade of the driveway is 20% in some places. They need to supply the paperwork for the property transfer. There is an outstanding violation that they are trying to remedy.


Third was a house on Shopis Drive.  The applicant wants to put a two story addition on a house on a 1.09 acre lot.   A SEQRA review is triggered because of proximity to the Taconic and the NYC watershed.  They need a watershed mapping and the limits of disturbance.  They will be on the next agenda for sketch approval.


Williams Drive is an old application on 8.86 acres.  The applicants are requesting a lot line change.  The size and footprint of the house have been reduced.  The Department of Health won’t review until the lot line is changed.


There was an executive session about Raimondo, White Rock Road, and Kisslinger.


Mr. Kisslinger was there for a review of his wetlands mitigation plan.  It was only for the wetlands.  The Planning Board wants a plan for all the trees cut down.  The applicant does not want to replace the trees that will be removed if the house is approved, but Mr. Tom Patterson explained to him that he needs to have a mitigation plan in place whether or not his application is approved and whether or not there is complete replacement of the tree. 


The Oscawana Heights application was on for an amended resolution, requiring bonds to be posted by the future property owners rather than the current owners.  This was discussed at a previous meeting, and granted at this one.


There had been discussion of TTLV as an abandoned application, but the applicant wishes to move forward.  The delay is the Department of Health.  They expect a response by Feb. 28.

Keith Staudohar is the engineer.  The project is on Eastern Road in Wildwood Knolls.  The issues are wetlands, steep slopes, and a paper road in the wetlands buffer.  The project needs a setback variance.


The Planning Board will also be the lead agency for the environmental review for additional gas pumps on Bryant Pond Road.  The site is in the ground and surface water protection district, where this use is prohibited.


Cook is a withdrawn application.  I do not know anything about the proposed project.


Raimondo,  reviewed to be considered abandoned, would like to proceed with their application.  There have been violations for wetlands, tree cutting, major grading, and erosion and sedimentation, as well as a lot of controversy.  There was supposed to be an inspection Tuesday AM, with the Planning Board Chair, Code Enforcement Officer and the Town Engineer.  Reportedly, an accessory apartment has been removed.

There is an emergency meeting of the town Board today at 5:30 to discuss litigation, and a Zoning Board meeting with some interesting topics.  The agenda is available on the town website, on the calendar.







Putnam Valley Planning Board – 1/12/09

Putnam Valley Planning Board
January 12, 2009

There was a short illegal pre-meeting to discuss the court order on the Simon application, the “minor amendment” on the Brazee site, and some amendments to the Warm resolution, as well as an announcement that there would be an executive session about litigation on White Rock Road, Adorno, and Kisslinger. I don’t know if there is litigation about White Rock Road. It would be better if the pre-discussion was legal and public.

The Board voted in officers – the Toms, Tom Patterson as Vice Chair and Tom Carano as Secretary.

First on the agenda was the Rennalls application, 78 Oscawana Lake Road, a 3 lot subdivision, on for sketch approval. This is an old application. It is an 8.91 acre parcel in an R1 (one acre) zone that would not exist in the new zoning code. It does not conform to the Comprehensive Plan. There is one house on this lot; there are steep slopes and wetlands. The septics would be higher than the houses (doesn’t that sound like fun when the septic backs up). There were two activities of concern on the parcel: filling in of wetlands, and a pipe from the pond that dried out some of the land.

There was no stormwater mitigation on the plan. It is not ready for sketch approval. The board is referring the applicant to the building department for a determination of whether minor or major grading is needed for soil testing. Minor grading gets a permit from the building department. Major grading goes back to the Planning Board. If the permit is issued, the wetlands inspector will test the soil to determine where the wetlands have been filled.

This project is not a good idea. A wetlands mitigation plan will be necessary for this site.

The same engineer was working for the first three projects on the agenda.

There was a long discussion of the next proposed project – a single family house on ½ acre on Pudding Street. There was a court order requiring that a site plan be presented, which is a necessary step for a wetland mitigation plan. There has been filling in the wetlands, thus the violation which took the applicant to court, and resulted in the court order.

This ½ acre lot resulted from a 1949 subdivision. The house on the plan presented is in the wetlands and the wetland buffer. The septic would be in the wetland buffer. The applicant’s partner says that he removed trees and filled the holes, and put in trees that he wanted. The Board and consultants were patient. They tried to explain that cutting the trees was a violation, that houses are not built in wetlands. The partner disputed the stream’s existence, saying that it is intermittent, and the wetlands, saying that the culvert under the road dumps water on the next parcel, and creates wetlands that would otherwise be dry land.

He was advised to start work on the mitigation plan, and to consult the Department of Health about whether a septic permit is a possibility.

Mr. Barber, the wetlands inspector, talked about a riparian corridor of trees and plants that create a buffer for the stream. I wish that Mr. Tendy would talk to him. It is difficult to enforce rules against landowners, when they are disregarded by the Supervisor. “The wall” and its concurrent plantings did not consider the value of and need for a riparian buffer on the Peekskill Hollow Brook. Mr. Tendy’s plans for the Oscawana Brook and his walkways, also ignore this riparian buffer concept. When Mr. Tendy rips out brush that is growing next to the stream, he is committing the same act as this applicant or a defendant on Peekskill Hollow Road who took brush and trees out of the wetlands and buffer on his property. Mr. Tendy needs to set an example when others in the town are trying to enforce the rules.

Next up was a “minor amendment” – again, if you want others to follow the rules, you need to set an example. The house is being moved 20 feet back and 20 feet over, with no public input. This site is on Ridgecrest Road, a steep area at the top of Lake Peekskill. The approval went through when Ross Keating owned the parcel, then it was sold to James Brazee, who is applying for the “minor amendment.”

Rita Warm, an applicant from Oscawana Heights Road, requested changes in the resolution approving her subdivision, so that the requirements are fulfilled by the people who are purchasing the parcels. Is the real estate market good enough for all these people to keep on keeping on?

Then, there was a long, long executive session.

I’m not sure that the White Rock Road discussion shouldn’t have been public. The outcome, however, was surprising. The developer was required to have a renewal of his letter of credit by January 1. He expressed confidence in December that there would be no problem. By the time of this meeting, the letter of credit had not been received, and so the project is in default, and the bond taken by the Town. This has been a bad project for a very long time. This owner seemed to be making a sincere effort to clean up the mess. I did not see the cost effectiveness of this subdivision, and apparently, this was the time to fold. The Town will use the bond to finish the needed drainage improvements, and I hope, to restore the wetlands.

Mr. Adorno on Oscawana LakeRoad was the last topic, and the agricultural district, once again, rears its ugly head. This parcel was purchased from the owner of Cimarron Ranch. The interpretation is that the ag designation goes with the land, even though this land is not 10 acres, and our code specifies 10 acres as the minimum for ag zoning. So he gets to say he is a farm, even with the problems associated with the rest of the acreage, and a shaky ag designation.

I found it interesting that the applicant discussed was Mr. Adorno. It had always been clarified before as Mrs. Adorno.

You know this piece of land. It is the one across from the park that was suddenly being cleared one day. The Planning Board has requested that the applicant conduct a traffic study, since there can be very high traffic in and out of the park for various activities. The senior center is also located at the back of the park.

It was an interesting Planning Board meeting, and our Planning Board did well.

A note about Wordsmiths: I said in my last post that the meeting dates conflicted with the Town Board meetings. Sam pointed out that the Town, Planning Board, Zoning Board Attorney and Wordsmith, William Zutt would need to be at the Town Board meetings. When he asked, it didn’t seem that there had actually been a meeting last week, or that there was any real intention of a meeting in the near future.

This isn’t working. It was a really bad idea. Let’s pass the draft zoning code and move on to other ideas of import. Only one man of courage is needed. Councilwomen, please put it on the agenda. Who knows what will happen!

Town Board work session is Wednesday, January 14 at 6 PM. They are going to accept the bid for the weed harvester, and who knows what other topics of interest they will find. This agenda and the reorganization meeting agenda have not been posted on the website. The announced meeting for the Wordsmiths is the same, but I don’t suspect that will be happening.













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