Putnam Valley Town Board – July 16, 2008
Playing to the Camera
I still find it noteworthy that when most of the audience sits on the left side of the courtroom, due to the excess noise of the video equipment on the right, Mr. Tendy addresses his remarks directly to the camera on the right. It’s odd to be in a room where the speaker never addresses you. One of the extra cameras has been directed so that Mr. Tendy can look directly at it when there is someone at the podium and it will look like he’s talking to the person at the podium. This is a known technique for making tv viewers feel like the speaker is speaking directly to them. For those of you out there in tv land, does it work?
Both Councilmembers Whetsel and Yetter were absent.
There were some interesting items on the agenda.
Mr. Tendy was shocked to find that there are rv’s in use on Lake Oscawana. For the resident in Oscawana who has been writing letters for 2 years, and Mr. Zutt, who has been talking about this for 2 years, I guess we’re glad that Mr. Tendy has noticed.
The Chase program, tabled from the last meeting, for a more efficient voucher process, will have to wait longer for contract corrections. There’s an irony in that.
The County Leg passed the domestic partner registry. This is a good thing.
Changes to the zoning map, correcting 49 lots to a code classification that isn’t in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan seems ill-timed. Where’s that moratorium when you need it?
A letter from PVRC (Putnam Valley Residents’ Coalition) – Can someone post it here? They are requesting that the Planning Board post a descriptive summary of projects on the agenda, and that documents be filed in a format that can be posted electronically. I admit to some jealousy recently when I saw a posting on this blog for a project in Southeast. All the documents were available. Good letter from PVRC.
Mandatory minimum sentences for littering – Mr. Tendy says that community service cannot be mandated and again raised the issue of liability. So I again wonder what the liability issue is for our annual Town Roadside Litter Pick-up.
Septic Maintenance Law – Mr. Tendy and Steve Axinn want mandatory septic pumpouts. Can we mandate pumpouts without a septic district? Doesn’t a septic district require a referendum? And since mandatory pumpouts won’t solve the problems, what will we be doing to help homeowners to solve the problems? Apparently there is a “smell test” for septic systems, as well as building permit hardship waivers, and Mr. Tendy likes it as much as Mr. Cinque.
Civil penalties for post-construction variances – Why are “we” talking about this? Our Code Enforcement Officer pointed out that application fees jump $175- to $750- if construction is completed without permits and without variances. Mr. Tendy tells us that mostly it’s innocent but we should have civil penalties. Was this a problem that wasn’t there? Is it an oxymoron?
Minor Site Plan Changes…..still. Too vague, no public notice…..they’ll set another public hearing and probably pass it.
Zoning Board and employee appointments – no public notice. Mr. Tendy doesn’t seem to understand the problem. And what was that about civil service law and continuous recruitment exams?
Odds and Ends
District budget meeting – preliminary, Aug. 23, and final Sept. 6.
Pooper Scooper law – A few years ago, Mr. Zutt told us we had this covered.
LOAC wants weed removal guidelines reviewed and set by the Town Board. Mr. Crowder was apparently made secretary of the zoning code committee when they should not have been meeting. I found his letter to be much more difficult to understand than the Comprehensive Plan and either code, existing and draft. We will have an opinion on the notice needed from the Committee on Open Government this week.
John Cohen gave excellent commentary on the need for Board interaction with the public on agenda items. Mr. Tendy said thank you.
Sam D. commented substantively on several agenda items, thereby proving Mr. Cohen’s point.
I requested that Ms. Keresey’s letter about Mr. Tendy’s SOTT address be re-read. That would be a nice post here too. It was well researched and well written. Mr. Tendy should not represent his personal opinion as representative of the Board. I would appreciate it if Ms. Keresey could use those skills to explore the mechanism for the use of district property – in this case Lake Peekskill.
Mr. Kaspar’s business operation was again raised.
The best line of the night – Mr. Cinque announced open mike night. He told us that you don’t have to be that talented. When he got a big laugh and it continued, he said, “It’s not that funny.” I think some of us have been to open mike nights and thought it was very funny. That said, I do applaud anyone’s courage in putting themselves out there.
Putnam Valley Town Board – May 21, 2008
Spin and Budgets
Spin – it’s an amazing thing. If you want to see how it works, you can watch the auditor’s report on Wednesday, May 14, and then on Wednesday, May 21. The Town board used $700,000 of fund balance to balance the 2007 budget instead of cutting some items or raising the taxes to cover it. Fund balance is meant to cover unexpected expenses, tax shortfalls, or reduction in the mortgage transfer tax. It should be 15-20% of the budget. The year was ended at $541,000 in the fund balance, approximately 9%.
At the second auditor’s report, instead of a dangerously low fund balance, we have now given $700,000 back to the taxpayers.
Give me a break, guys!
There was no mention in the second report of the management letter referring to the chronic problem in the Justice Court.
Within the constraints of the budget passed and despite some serious emergencies, Marianne and Sam managed the budget well. I am not surprised.
Given that information, consider that in the first month of this year, Mr. Tendy decided to spend $5000 more than budgeted for the Town Attorney, $5000 more than budgeted for another employee, has plans to spend more than budgeted in litigation against 2 individuals, authorized unbudgeted engineering fees for a property that the Town has decided not to acquire, is talking about renovating the existing firehouse. Mr. Tendy is telling us that commercial development will help us out of this mess. It won’t, of course.
Toward that goal of bringing in more development, Mr. Tendy brought a developer to the meeting, actually two. The one who is buying the property behind Big Blue wants to put in senior housing. I thought that maybe the seniors should go to the Trump building on Route 6. I heard that only 16 units out of 200 were sold. Senior housing is the latest proposal for this land which appears to be unbuildable. The last idea was a self storage unit. Anyway, the developer, who has met with Mr. Tendy, didn’t seem to like the idea of commercial development in Putnam Valley at this time. He cited the difficulty that Mr. Santucci has had in renting out his stores, once intended as professional space. This is the gentleman who wants to test the sewer outflow at Oregon Corners “for free”. It seems that this was always tied to a development proposal, unlike Mr. Tendy’s prior representation. Mr. Yetter, an engineer, pointed out the problems with those calculations. Rain runoff goes into the sewers and needs to be calculated in. There are empty stores. The figure needs to include all peak use over a full year. His estimate of total capacity for the corners was 130 residential units. If we subtract everything there, that’s not much. And there are serious environmental constraints. That doesn’t take into consideration the effect of pumping all that water out of the aquifer.
Smurfs, Ti-D-Bol and Blue
Patty V. asked a question and referred to the “Smurf Building.” Without intending it, she really got Mr. Tendy’s goat. His anger was a bit strange. That building is routinely referred to as “Ti-D- Bol,” and Mr. Tendy’s hostility about popular reference won’t change the public attitude. (By the way, there’s a great bagel place there run by a wonderful PV family, so if you’re in the neighborhood, check it out.) I wish Mr. Tendy would get as angry about the erosion on the slope behind it.
Mr. Yetter also pointed out the problem of proceeding without an engineer on the DEC violations. He’s right. This Town needs more engineering, not less. Apparently there was a presentation by Steve Kalka on that problem. Was there a special session? Did I miss it? When was that presentation? Is it on videotape? Does anyone else from the public know the answer?
And then, there was the other developer who came to visit, having already met with Mr. Tendy. It seems that the plan before the Planning Board is for 8 houses and a 50,000 square foot commercial building with a footprint of 25,000 square feet plus parking at Bryant Pond. The footprint is the amount of area on the ground that the structure will take up. This project was given a positive declaration of environmental significance by the Planning Board. Usually, after that a project is scaled back. But, after a meeting with Bob, this project is now 13 homes, a 100,000 square foot footprint, and 2 Little League fields, plus the unrealistic hint of a swimming pool. The building would be an indoor soccer field. I don’t play soccer. Maybe I haven’t noticed the pressing need. (But then, I haven’t figured out why we need another bank at Oregon Corners.) I was a big critic of Councilwoman Whetsel’s private meetings and deal with Val Santucci on Emerald Ridge, and the result, but at least her negotiations, unlike Bob’s went in the right direction. This whole process was an odd event. These kinds of discussions usually go on at Planning Board meetings. The Town Board really does not have the authority to approve these kinds of plans. While I value the public nature of the meeting, I’m not sure what the meaning of the presentation was. And I would like to see the zoning code passed, and some other needed modifications, instead of continuing along without a congruent Comprehensive Plan and zoning code. I believe the Fieldstone Project (Bryant Pond) will be on the 6/2 Planning Board agenda. That’s the place to watch it. Watch the Bank proposal at the Zoning Board this Thursday.
Minor Field Changes
There was a discussion about my favorite “minor field changes”. It seems to be getting bogged down in paperwork. Why don’t we just leave it the way it is?
There was a conversation about conservation easements. A small parcel was being donated to the Town. This, like “minor field changes” was an amendment to the agenda, and the Town Board did not seem to have the paperwork, or the opportunity to review it. In this instance it wasn’t significant, but generally, I think it’s a bad practice.
Councilwoman Whetsel wins this one. She brought up the need for a private land steward. Putnam Valley is accepting conservation easements with development plans, and unless there is someone to actually look at that land periodically, and make sure there is no prohibited use, it has little meaning. This issue has been raised again, and again, with different projects, and should be corrected now.
Another note about employment opportunities. They should be posted on the website and in the case at Town Hall, as well as noticed in our official paper. If there is a civil service title and exam, hiring should be done from the list. Clerk is a continuous recruitment title, and hiring should be done from the civil service list. The explanations for why Putnam Valley doesn’t bother with that just don’t work anymore. And a temporary appointment should be for 3 months and no longer.
Lake Peekskill has been the subject of much blogging activity. Mr. Tendy has decided to have a party on one of Lake Peekskill’s district beaches, for which the community pays their own taxes. When anyone objects to this idea, they are told that they hate children, a time-honored accusation for at least two of the sitting council members. So the issue of who can use district property has been hotly debated, with Mr. Tendy believing that he can, and that if he can’t, he will appoint new people to a debatable committee, and do it through them. This “committee”, run for years by a local Independence pol, has been running events for the Town there for years, including some kids’ parties and arts events. There are issues of liability, existing statutes, Department of Health issues, emergency services, parking, and admission. Mr. Tendy tells us that we won’t be able to require beach tags. And he says that he is going to do this no matter how we feel. It’s an interesting approach.
Who is “us”?
Mr. Tendy, whose half hour monthly monologues aren’t enough for him, has decided to schedule another speech to tell us “our plans for the future.” He didn’t tell us who “us” is. I wonder if he’s read the Comprehensive Plan.
You really should come to the TB meetings. They are lots of fun.
June 11 – Work Session including a meeting on the Draft Zoning Code
Putnam Valley Work Session, April 9, 2008
Unfortunately Putnam Valley work sessions are not taped. This week’s work session had many issues and discussions of real importance to residents. One of the problems for residents is that Mr. Tendy will not allow discussion of anything, and by the time of a public hearing, he has already made up his mind, and will not listen to any input. (At Wednesday’s public hearing, the law in question had not been posted on the website.) By not allowing questions or comments at work sessions, and by not allowing questions or comments on agenda items, the only opportunity for public feedback is at public comment. By then, decisions have been made without benefit (or annoyance) of the public’s expression of its desires. This allows Mr. Tendy to be completely unresponsive to public input – the hallmark of his administration. He did state for the Journal News that limiting public comment is one of his goals.
During the public hearing, a vague law allowing the Town Board to waive or reduce building fees for personal, financial hardship was presented. The standard is to be “the smell test”. I am not making that up. That one’s on tape. They will pass it.
On the work session agenda was the Cahill Bill. Sam Davis has been working on school tax reform, and has been requesting support of this bill for the last two years. The bill gradually shifts cost to an income based system. It is gratifying that all of the Board members are coming around to see the value of Sam’s work, and agree with him.
They have also resurrected Sam’s solar photovoltaic panels and that’s very good news for the Town. Sandy Galef is willing to work to secure the remainder of the funding, which amounts to less than $3- per resident, one time. Mr. Tendy was still complaining about solar energy. His published remark that global warming is a scam may impact that opinion. But the Councilwomen are pursuing it, and they will only need one more vote. I am grateful that all the hard work that Sam and I did to pursue this grant may still come to fruition. This is a win for Putnam Valley.
Of great importance to the Town is the plan for the new fire department building. The new construction on Oscawana Lake Road will provide larger bays for the trucks, and for ladder trucks, office space, a radio room, showers, bunkrooms, a gym, TV lounge, poolroom, and a training facility, with an estimated cost of $9.5 million. There was a lengthy discussion of the proposal and the Town Board’s next move. It is an important issue for the Town and I really think that it should have been televised.
Also discussed was the retention of a second attorney to handle litigation. That is on the agenda as hiring Special Town Counsel. I prefer the division of Attorney between the ZBA, Planning, and Town Board. As we have seen with the issue of 14 Morrissey Drive, the issues of the Boards are not necessarily in synch. On this issue however, Mr. Tendy was a bit misleading when he informed us that Mr. Zutt was doing the whole job for less money, while he was raising the budgeted amount by $5000.00 – One more item of budget mumbo-jumbo.
One of the litigation issues that has recurred is the agricultural district designation. Sam Davis and Dell Jones testified in 2006 before the County Legislature about the problems that have been occurring at the local level with agricultural designations. The law is a state law, and it is administered at the county level. The Town has no control, but still has to deal with the problems. In Putnam Valley, this has resulted in costly litigation. The only County Legislator who was responsive to these concerns was Tony Hay. Perhaps Sandy Galef will consider changes at the State level. Unfortunately, changes at the state legislature take a very long time but more and more litigation is not the answer for a small Town. This is a topic that requires much more exploration and explanation. It is costing too much money.
Entergy wants to install a siren on Town property in Lake Peekskill. I have heard that they are underwriting the fireworks for a very corporate Town Day. There does seem to be some conflict of interest here, or at least the appearance of impropriety.
Mr. Tendy wants to exempt cemeteries from the tree law.
He also wants to require that boats not on boat racks be removed from beaches after the season. Lake Peekskill has expressed the desire to have Skip et. al. work on some inexpensive boat racks rather than passing a new law. We really do not want the boats removed since the reintroduction may increase the risk of invasive species. So far Mr. Tendy is not listening to Lake Peekskill.
The Town Board meeting is on April 16, 2008 at 7PM.