Village Board of Trustees Meeting September 17, 2008

The Village Board of Trustees met on September 17, 2008 at 7:30pm.
Board member Charlotte Worthy was absent.

During his Mayoral report, Mayor Stebbins presented the following ideas for new initiatives and possible new legislation:

  1. A littering law
  2. Revision of the Village SEQRA process, which is outdated
  3. Amendment of the Village Code in order to allow the Design Guildelines to become usable as guidelines.

Regarding the D.E.C. enforcement action on the Tuxedo Lake Dam, the Mayor reported that a lot has occurred over the course of the past month. Drillers have taken samples from the embankment and ultrasonic pipe-testers have taken a look at the sewer lines. The results have proven to be positive for the Village and will be used to facilitate the D.E.C. action, the deadline for which is next month. The D.E.C. has hired an expert to evaluate this new data as well, but that expert is currently on the Gulf Coast and has been detained by the recent hurricane, so in all likelihood, the October deadline will be extended.
The Town Board will hold an important meeting on Monday, September 22 at which representatives for the Tuxedo Reserve Development will present their proposed amendment to the Special Permit. Residents are encouraged to attend.
The Village has purchased new software for water billing and the Mayor has asked John Ledwith to present the Board with a summary of past due bills.
Finally, the Mayor announced that moving forward, each trustee would be asked to update the Board with regard to their various responsibilities and tasks at meetings on a monthly basis.

Deputy Mayor Jim Hays reported that the Town Relations Advisory Committee (T.R.A.C.) held their first meeting on Sunday September 14. Currently, the committee consists of two members, Meg Vaught and Mary Graetzer. New members are welcome and encouraged to join. The group is working on their mission statement, which they hope to have ready for approval by the October Trustees meeting.
The Deputy Mayor also met with Town Supervisor Peter Dolan concerning the amended Special Permit for Tuxedo Reserve. He stressed the importance of the September 22 meeting and outlined some of the major changes laid forth in the proposed amendment. Most notable of these is the decrease in the number of single-family homes and the subsequent increase in the number of multi-family units. If approved, this change will create more of an urban development than originally proposed. In addition, the amendment includes a new “smart code,” which, if adopted, will supercede many of the laws and standards laid out in the current Town Code.
Finally, the Deputy Mayor reported having spent time with DPW Superintendent Jeff Voss touring the Sewer Building, which is in need of repair.

On behalf of the Village Police Department, Chief Sanford reported the following for the month of August:
Criminal Complaints – 0
Non-criminal Complaints – 56
Speeding Tickets Issued – 9
Fire Alarms – 6 (all false)
Intrusion Alarms – 2 (all false)
Property Damage Complaints – 2
Medical Calls - 2
Assists given to the Town Police – 4
Assisted by the Town Police - 3

12,336 non-resident vehicles entered the Village through the Front Gate.

Additionally, Chief Sanford reminded residents that school is now in session and more caution must be used on the roadways as a result especially with regard to speeding.

Acting DPW Superintendent Jeff Voss was not present, however Mayor Stebbins made the following announcement on his behalf:
Portions of Tuxedo Road and West Lake Road will be resurfaced during the week of September 29. The portion of West Lake Road between the Regna residence and Duck Hollow will be closed on September 29 as a result of the work. (signs to this effect will be posted at both gates as well as Maxwell’s Corner) Also, hydrant flushing will take place in mid-to-late October.

Trustee Tinka Shaw

Following up on the Orange County Department of Health’s report that only 65% of production coming from the Water Plant is reflected as metered water sales, Trustee Shaw reported that outdated reports were used by the Department of Health resulting in faulty information. However, there are a few places where water is not metered (specifically a pipe in the Water Dept. itself) and the Village will make an effort to put meters in these spots. In addition, the Department of Health has asked the DPW to estimate the amount of water used during hydrant flushing.

– On behalf of the Village Improvement Advisory Committee, Alan Heywood began his report by expressing appreciation to the Board for filling and resurfacing the gutter/gullies along Tuxedo Road. He also thanked the Village DPW for their hard work on this project. He continued to report that the VIAC had met several times over the summer and was continuing to meet on a regular basis. Of particular concern to the group is the situation with Village streetlights, roughly 60% of which are not working. Orange and Rockland has been supplied with replacement bulbs but has failed to take any action to address the issue. Despite the lack of working fixtures, Orange and Rockland has been billing the Village a fixed rate for streetlights. The VIAC would like to see the Board make some progress with this situation especially before winter when the roadways become more hazardous.
Responses to the committee’s survey pertaining to street signs and dangerous intersections within the Village were minimal. Those residents who did complete the survey expressed concern with the signage at the intersections of Clubhouse & Tower Hill as well as Tuxedo & East Lake Roads. The committee would like to investigate improving signage in these areas. There is also some concern over the direction of traffic on Clubhouse Rd from its junction with E Lake Stable down to the junction with Fox Hill and the committee has discussed the possibility of making the road one way. They would like to submit a survey to residents in that area.
There are still fallen trees in both Tuxedo Lake and the Wee Wah and the committee recommends the Board take action to remove some of them before winter.
The Tuxedo Park signs located at the Gateways to the Village are in poor shape and the VIAC would like to have them refurbished if possible or replaced. They seek permission to spend up $1000 on these projects.
Finally, Mr. Heywood reported that the group has completed and submitted their mission statement to the Board for approval.

In response to Mr. Heywood’s comments about Village Streetlights, Mayor Stebbins reported that Orange and Rockland has been provided with a map detailing streetlights in the Village, however the map is insufficient because it only provides a count of the poles with lighting fixtures attached to them and Orange and Rockland requires a count of all poles (with and without fixtures) before they can commence work. This issue has been resolved and the Mayor expects work to begin shortly. With regard to the fixed charge for lighting, the Mayor commented that he was actively working on obtaining a credit from Orange and Rockland.

I.A.C. – On behalf of the Infrastructure Advisory Committee, Jake Lindsay reported that Westin and Sampson has submitted proposals for the following:

  • Sewer System Evaluation System (required to remain in conformance with the required DEC upgrades to our system.)
  • Repairs to the Sewer Plant - Soil borings to determine the extent and type of corrections required for the foundation settlement and to prepare contractor Requests for Proposals to complete the type of underpinning required.
  • Repairs to the Chlorine Building – Preparation of performance specifications for the repairs and replacements to existing equipment and corrections to the ventilation system

In addition to these items, the committee is working to prioritize infrastructure projects.

Building permits for Beard, Granito and Gwathmey were discussed and unanimously approved.

On behalf of the Elene De Saint Phalle Irrevocable Trust, Christopher Isles expressed his frustration with the lack on information provided to the Trust by both the Village and the Tuxedo Club with regard to the DEC action against the Tuxedo Lake Dam. The Trust owns roughly 270 sq ft of the dam property and as such has been named by the DEC as part owner. Specifically, they are seeking access to an engineering report that was prepared by Westin & Sampson earlier this year. Mr. Isles complained that the Village had denied their requests for the report. Mr. Isles commented that the Trust is willing to pay their fair share of the cost however they feel that the 1/3 being asked for is far too much considering the amount of land they own.
Mayor Stebbins responded that an attorney for the trust was present at a meeting in January 2008, where an interim engineering report was presented and discussed. Further more he commented that it was his understanding that the Elene De Saint Phalle Irrevocable Trust is currently in discussions with the Tuxedo Club regarding the possible sale/transfer of their portion of the dam and that because these discussions are on going the Trust has not been privy to the reports.
Mr. Isles responded that there have been some discussions between the Trust and the Club regarding possible sale of the land, however in his opinion these discussions are irrelevant to his request for information. The Trust is currently part of the action, and Mr. Isles feels they are entitled to the information in the reports.
The Mayor then stated that the Trust has been asked to pay 1/3 of the costs because they are 1 of 3 parties named by the DEC in the action. He commented that technically, the Village doesn’t own any of the dam property, but they are still liable to the DEC.
Mr. Isles stated that he disagrees with this interpretation.
Trustee Hansen stressed the importance of cooperation among all three parties.

Mary Graetzer suggested that the Board consider holding separate meetings for legislation as the monthly meetings have been dragging on until all hours of the morning. She commented that often there are items towards the end of the agenda that members of the public are interested in hearing about, however because the Board does not get around to discussing these items until 11pm or later, when most of the public has gone home and misses the opportunity to inform themselves.
She then went on to inquire as to what plans, if any, the Village has to obtain legal council for the purpose of analyzing Tuxedo Reserve’s new proposal. She commented that there are many substantial changes to the plan that will directly affect Village residents and as a result, it might be wise to hire council on behalf of the Village.
Mayor Stebbins responded that in the past, private citizens have banned together to form resistance groups and that these groups generally seek council.
Mrs. Graetzer responded that while such a citizen’s group would be a good thing, the Village can not count on this and that they should not wait too long before seeking legal advice of their own on behalf of the entire Village community.
Trustee Hays agreed with these comments and commented that such legal advice will be very important for the Village.


Local Law Introductory #6
The Public hearing for Local Law Introductory #6 regarding noise was opened.
Bill Westby commented that in his opinion the proposed legislation is unclear as to who can perform work on Saturdays. In its current form, the law states that property owners may perform work. Mr. Westby inquired as to whether or not his teenage son, who is not technically the property owner, would be allowed to perform work as well. He further commented that the term “noise” is not clearly defined.
Finally, Mr. Westby questioned the section of the proposed legislation, which makes an exception for leaf removal in the fall, commenting that this section was also unclear and suggests that leaves can be removed at any time during the fall months. He questioned the logic in making an exception for leaf removal in the fall and not snow removal in the winter.
Trustee Hansen responded that the intent of the legislation was to prevent commercial landscapers from performing noisy work on weekends and holidays but to allow “residents living at the property” the right to do work if they want to. He defined noise-bearing work as that which is audible beyond the property line and listed the use of commercial lawnmowers, weedwackers and leaf-blowers as examples of work that would not be permitted under the proposed law. He commented that Mr. Westby raised a valid point with regard to snow removal, commenting that often times this noisy work must be done late at night or very early in the morning. With regard to the leaves, he stated that the intent behind the exception was to give landscapers a window of time in the fall to remove leaves on the weekend. He further commented that rain can drastically affect the amount of work involved in leaf removal and the exception allows the Village to provide for that.
Lesley DeVore inquired as to whether or not construction work would be permitted on weekends under the proposed law.
She was informed that noisy construction work would not be permitted.
Letters to the Board from Joe McCann and Chris Sonne were discussed.
In his letter, Mr. McCann expressed concern with weekend leaf removal.
Mr. Sonne inquired in his letter as to whether or not he and his son could do yard work together on the weekends. The answer is yes.
Peter Regna asked if contractors entering the Village on weekends or Holidays would be stopped and turned away.
Trustee Hansen replied that contractors would not by turned away. Under the proposed law they will still be able to work on weekends so long as their work does not produce noise that is audible beyond the property line. He used weeding as an example of this type of work. He further suggested that if adopted, the gate should distribute copies of the new legislation to all contractors entering the Village in an effort to make them aware of the new regulations. After the law has been widely distributed first time offenders should be issued a warning with the second offense punishable by a ticket.
Francine Rauch commented that the Village must make residents aware of the new legislation so that they can take the responsibility of informing their workers.
The Public Hearing for Local Law Introductory #6 was then closed.
The Board briefly discussed the comments they had just received and decided to remove the portion of the law allowing for weekend leaf removal in the fall. In addition, they decided an exception should be made for snow and ice removal as well as certain other emergency situations such as the removal of fallen trees.
Village Attorney Rick Golden will draft a new version of the legislation to be presented at the next Board meeting.

Local Law Introductory # 5
The Public Hearing for Local Law Introductory #5 regarding a building moratorium for ridgeline and precipice areas was opened.
Alan Stenberg expressed his opposition to the moratorium and commented that in his opinion it is a direct attempt to prevent one applicant, Heibel, from building a home on their property, which is located on Camp Comfort Road. He furthered commented that the real reason the moratorium is being considered is that some Village residents don’t want to look at a new house on that property and that in his view, this is outrageous. He expressed anger and embarrassment that the Village would behave in this maner. He continued on to say that there are only 4 or 5 remaining build-able lots in the Village and that the Boards should be working together with the residents who wish to build on them rather than doing everything in their power to prevent growth. He suggested that if an applicant was not going to be allowed to build a home on this property, the Village should have purchased the land rather than to collect taxes on it as a build-able lot. Finally, he stated that constitutionally it would be next to impossible for the Village to prevent the Heibels from building on their lot and he would hate to see tax dollars thrown away on the fruitless litigation that is sure to result should the moratorium go into effect.
Mayor Stebbins responded that the issue of ridgeline and precipice building is one that that the Village has been struggling with for years. Currently, Village Code prohibits building in these areas altogether. Due to the number of variance requests before the Zoning of Board of Appeals however, it has become apparent that the Village needs to move away from prohibition and set different sets of criteria for dealing with this issue. If adopted, the Moratorium will only be in affect for a maximum of 9 months and this time will allow the Zoning Board of Appeals the opportunity to closely examine the issue and hopefully determine the aforementioned criteria. The Mayor suggested that the Heibels would be able to continue the Board review process during the moratorium for other areas of the project.
Kathy Norris questioned this logic and inquired as to why an applicant would want to spend time and money going through the building process if they would not be eligible for a building permit. She further commented that because the outcome of the moratorium is uncertain, it would be very difficult for an applicant to plan ahead. Finally, she expressed concern that if adopted the moratorium would render certain properties, currently listed as build-able lots, valueless until it was lifted. She suggested that if the Village does not intend to allow future building on these ridgeline/precipice properties, they should condemn them and purchase the property for the Village.
Village Attorney Rick Golden responded that as there is currently a total prohibition on ridgeline/precipice building, properties would not be devalued under the moratorium any more than they currently are. The main difference would be that currently under the Village code an applicant can appeal to the ZBA for a building variance and should the moratorium be adopted, there will be a 9-month time-out on these variances.
Joan Alleman commented that she has owned property along the Wee Wah lake since 1975 and has been unable to subdivide and sell it as a result of the sewer moratorium, which was adopted in 1985. Should this moratorium be adopted, her property will be under two moratoriums. She reminded the Board that were it not for blasting and building on ridgelines, the Village of Tuxedo Park would not exist.
Mayor Stebbins retorted that many of the houses in the Village were built before the Zoning Code was put into effect.
Mrs. Alleman then inquired as to how many build-able lots actually remain in the Village and whether or not a moratorium was worth it for a small number of properties.
An attorney for the Heibels presented the Board with a letter objecting to the proposed moratorium, which had previously been sent to Village attorney Rick Golden. He commented that should the moratorium be enacted there is no guarantee that variances will again be granted once it is lifted and therefore, the moratorium could possibly serve as a vehicle for preventing variances altogether. He also questioned the validity of a Public Hearing, which was called for 7:30pm but did not actually begin until 9:30pm.
Peter Regna provided the Board with a brief history, explaining that in the 1980s ridgeline/precipice building trends in the Village showed that houses were being constructed closer and closer to the edge of their properties. It was in an effort to curtail this sort of building, that the original restrictions were put in place and they have remained in effect for years. Mr. Regna stated that the purpose of the proposed moratorium is to clarify a long standing law that is foggy and confusing in way that prospective builders will know exactly what their rights are. He continued on to comment that some restraint must be shown when building homes in these highly visible areas and that new houses must be properly integrated into their surroundings. To this end, he is in support of the proposed moratorium, although he believes it should be as short as possible and Shopes it will not take 9 months to complete the task at hand.
Kathy Norris states that she believes the law can be clarified without having to enact the moratorium,
Mayor Stebbins responded that it would be impossible for the ZBA to focus their efforts on establishing clear ridgeline/precipice building criteria if they also had to listen to and consider variance requests concurrently.
Francine Rauch commented that in her view the moratorium will allow the Village to potentially create some flexibility for ridgeline building where there currently is none. She further commented that she hopes this process takes 6 months instead of 9 and wished the Board luck with the endeavor.
The public hearing for Local Law Introductory #5 was closed.


The Mayor announced that the Budget Advisory Committee and the Finance Advisory Committee has merged and is now the Budget & Finance Advisory Committee. This committee is chaired by Alan Barnett.

The Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses) has requested permission to access the Village for the purpose of visiting residents door to door to conduct their work. The Village will grant them this access. The visitors will be required to use normal business hours. (9am-5pm) Residents who do not wish to receive a visit from the Watchtower Society should provide their name and address to the Village Office.

The Board discussed St. Mary’s request to hold an outdoor service at the Wee Wah Beach Club on October 5, 2008. The service would be in honor of St Francis and would include the annual Blessing of the Animals followed by a sponsored walk around the WeeWah with children, adults and their dogs.  The money raised from this event would go to support the Warwick Valley Humane Society.
Trustee Hays commented that while he felt it was a nice idea, because St. Mary’s is technically a part of the Town and not the Village he was concerned about the precedent allowing the service might set. He expressed concern that if the Board allowed St Mary’s to hold a service at the Wee Wah, they would not have the right to turn away other religious organizations in town that might seek the same thing.
Trustee Hanson commented that St. Mary’s does not have any hardship that prevents them from having the service on their own property and that in his opinion the Beach Club property should be used seasonally for the Beach Club only.
Mayor Stebbins responded that because the church is inside the gates, the Village of Tuxedo Park has a unique and historic relationship with St. Mary’s, and that this should grant them some privilege above and beyond other institutions that may make similar requests.
Village Attorney Rick Golden commented that while the Village does have a unique relationship with St. Mary’s, legally they must pay very careful attention to what permissions they grant them as they may not be able to deny a similar institution the same request.
Mayor Stebbins made a motion to approve the request, however it was not seconded.

Finally, Westin and Sampson contracts for the SSES (Sewer System Evaluation System) Sewer plant repairs and Chlorine Building repairs were reviewed and discussed.
The Board voted unanimously in favor of accepting the contract for the Sewer System Evaluation System for a total cost of $29,900.
The Board then voted unanimously in favor of moving ahead with part one of the repairs to the Chlorine Building (part two will be discussed at greater in length in the future) for a total cost of $5,910.
Finally, the Board voted unanimously in favor of moving ahead with the contract for repairs to the sewer plant at a total cost of $19,900.
Discussions on the contract pertaining to the Wee Wah Dam were tabled.

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