Special Village Board of Trustees Meeting April 22, 2009

The Village Board of Trustees met on April 22, 2009 at 7:30pm.
Trustee Hays was absent

Donald Hanson Lawsuit:
Mayor Stebbins opened the meeting by proposing an extension period of roughly 90 days for Donald Hanson to fulfill the conditions of his Building Permit. Back in January, the Board granted Mr. Hanson conditional approval based on his ability to comply with three specific conditions as follows:

  • Mr. Hanson’s Storm water and Erosion Management Control Plans must be reviewed and accepted by the Village Engineer. This includes: Both a pre & post construction analysis plan (to ensure plan
    Compliance) An interim plan to take effect ASAP
  • A N.Y.S. licensed engineering firm must certify that the concrete wall poured in November is safe for the purpose intended
  • The Building Inspector must provide certification of code compliance based on a review of the site table/site calculations as provided by the applicant and the Village code.

Mr. Hanson is in various stages of complying with these conditions. The litigation brought against the Village by Mr. Hanson is currently at a 60-day standstill, which will expire in the month of May. The Village attorney has advised the Board to grant Mr. Hanson this extension because once he has met these conditions; the basis for the litigation will be eliminated. The Board voted unanimously in favor of extending Mr. Hanson’s conditional approval through July 31, 2009.

Final Report from Precipice & Ridgeline Advisory Committee:
Precipice & Ridgeline Advisory Committee chair Chiu-Yin Hempel presented the Board and the public with a detailed summary of the precipice and ridgeline study, as completed by the committee over the last several months. A complete copy of their report, along with a map detailing those area’s affected by the proposed legislation is available for review in the Village Office. Following Mrs. Hempels’ presentation, Kathy Norris inquired about obtaining a copy of the map for the purpose of showing prospective property owners where the affected areas are. There was some discussion as to whether or not reproducing the map for the public would be possible as some of the information was obtained from the latest Government Information Service topographical map. No final determination was made.
On behalf of T rustee Hays, Nancy Hays expressed admiration and gratitude to Mrs. Hempel and her committee for their hard work in analyzing an awkward section of the Village Code objectively and presenting it in a very clear manor. The Board unanimously echoed these sentiments.
Trustee Shaw inquired as to whether or not properties containing sections labeled as ridgeline and precipice areas on the map would be entirely subject to the proposed standards or if just those specific sections would be subject. Mrs. Hempel responded that only those specific sections labeled on the map would be subject to the proposed standards and processes.

Board Comments on Proposed Draft of New Local Law Introductory #7 0f 2009:
Based on the findings of the Precipice & Ridgeline Advisory Committee, Village attorney Rick Golden has put together a draft version of a local law, which encompasses many of the recommendations put forward by the committee. The intent of the law is to enable the Board to lift the current prohibition on ridgeline and precipice building and replace it with a set of standards for building in those areas. Directly following the presentation, the Board moved on to review and discuss the proposed draft of new Local Law Introductory #7 of 2009 relating to Village Code section n100-13 regarding precipices and ridgelines.
Trustee Hansen commented that it is clear that the current prohibition on ridgeline and precipice building has “no teeth” due to the number of appeals that have come before the Zoning Board, however, it is important to consider what is in the best interest of the Village before proceeding. He questioned whether or not moving ahead with the proposed legislation would be taking a giant step away from what made the Village of Tuxedo Park such a great place to begin with. He exemplified this point by referencing Pierre Lorilard and several of the original estates, most of which are built directly on ridgelines or precipices. He further commented that in his view the proposed legislation has everything to do with placing restrictions on building and not much to do with the Village’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places. He inquired of Mayor Stebbins whether he would prefer to limit building in the Village or encourage it.
The Mayor responded that he would like to encourage intelligent building. He also commented that what exists currently in the Village in terms of build-able lots is not nearly the same thing as what existed when Pierre Lorilard first came here. In his view, it is crucial that we safeguard the few remaining build-able lots in order to protect them and the proposed standards make good environmental sense as they would be striking a balance between preserving what exists and encouraging intelligent building.
In response to Trustee Hansen’s remark regarding the Village’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places, Trustee Worthy commented that historic space includes architecture within a landscape and therefore houses and landscapes need to be treated and protected equally. In her view, the Village’s landscape is just as important to many of its the residents as the homes are. She further commented that this country has so few places like Tuxedo Park and that this uniqueness makes the Village extremely vulnerable to change, especially given the current economy. The Village is at a “tipping point” and Trustee Worthy feels that its residents need to do what they can to protect it before it is lost. “We all live in this place” she stated “and we are the ones who are responsible for protecting it.” Many Village residents, however, don’t want to be overprotected, and therefore, in her opinion, the proposed legislation is a reasonable balance.
These comments were met with a round of applause from the audience.
Trustee Hansen commented that he fears that the restrictions will cause people to build the least common denominator when constructing homes and that many residents and potential residents will simply choose to go elsewhere rather than to deal with the onerous construction process being proposed for ridgeline and precipice areas.
Trustee Worthy responded that in her view, Trustee Hansen is selling people short with this remark. She believes that the proposed standards will bring about creative solutions and encourage smart architecture.
Mayor Stebbins commented that some people might actually be attracted to the Village because of its strict regulations.
Trustee Hansen expressed concern that residents will be discouraged and not want to make changes and improvements to their homes because of the restrictions.
The Mayor responded that he does not share this concern, commenting that the residents enjoy the benefits of living in an usual spot and desire overall preservation of the community.
Trustee Shaw commented that there must be clarification regarding the fact that only those specific sections labeled on the map would be subject to the proposed standards and processes and not entire properties. She expressed concern that residents might become confused between the proposed Ridgeline and Precipice District (RLP District) and the Gateway Overlay District and the various different regulations that apply to each.
Trustee Hansen inquired about a section of the proposed legislation that refers to unpaved pathways and specifically whether or not these pathways would have to be kept in a natural state. He wondered whether or not the Board of Architectural review would have the authority to make an applicant alter his plans should they include the use of one of these pathways as a driveway, for example.
Mrs. Hempel responded that purpose of the legislation is to encourage creative thinking while creating the least amount of land disturbance. While the unpaved roads should be preserved to the greatest extent possible, it would depend on the specifics of the application as to whether or not the Board of Architectural Review would require the applicant to alter his plans. She further commented that the proposed legislation has so many variables that it is important to try and view them in conjunction with one another rather than to break them down one by one.
Trustee Hansen responded that in his view the proposed legislation would create a multitude of issues for applicants that would ultimately make it very difficult to construct a new home.
Mayor Stebbins countered that the restrictions would only apply to certain areas and that the process would remain exactly as it is now in all non-ridgeline and precipice areas.
Trustee Hansen then expressed concern over a portion of the legislation, which suggests that applicants building on a ridgeline or precipice must site their home on the lowest point of their lot, which is not visible from the road. He commented that many of the original homes in the Village were sited specifically for their sweeping views and that the proposed legislation would remove people’s ability to have views. He also expressed concern over the proposed maximum building height, commenting that the unintended consequence of this would be flat rooftops. Finally, Trustee Hansen stated that the portion of the legislation, which states that no part of any structure shall pierce the skyline from any public road way is too restrictive, especially in combination with the other proposed restrictions.
Trustee Shaw expressed concern over the portion of the legislation that relates to cutting down trees. The law states that no trees can be removed from the RLP district without specific approval. She inquired as to why a “tree law” was necessary.
Mayor Stebbins responded that a tree law already exists within the Village and that the proposed restrictions are important in the ridgeline and precipice areas because these are environmentally sensitive areas where it is necessary to preserve the trees.
Trustee Hansen questioned the proposed lighting regulations and inquired as to whether or not there is an existing issue with lighting in the Village.
Trustee Worthy responded that lighting in the Village is currently all over the map and that the guidelines will be helpful to everyone.
Trustee Hansen suggested that the lighting regulations should be placed elsewhere in the Village Code so as to apply to the entire Village and not just the RLP district.
Mayor Stebbins recommended that adopting the proposed regulations as part of Ridgeline and precipice legislation would be a good starting point. When and if the Board chooses to adopt them Village-wide, the Code can be amended.
Following this discussion, the Board voted unanimously in favor of setting a Public Hearing for Proposed Local Law Introductory #7 for May 13, 2009.

Continuation of Public Hearing on Local Law Introductory #5 of 2009:
The Public Hearing for Local Law Introductory # 5 of 2009 relating to proposed changes to zoning code in terms of non-conforming uses, non-complying structures, and substandard lots was continued. Zoning Board of Appeals Attorney Mike Donnelly gave a basic overview of the proposed legislation, the purpose of which is to clarify and liberalize current language in the Village Zoning Code. Three specific aspects of the proposed legislation were the focus of this review:

  • When the Village Zoning Code was initiated, a great deal of non-conformities were created due to the 4-acre zoning requirement. Under the current code, if any of these non-conforming homes were to be damaged by more than 50% (i.e. fire) they could not be rebuilt without the issuance of a variance from the Zoning the Board of Appeals. Local Law #5 proposes grandfathering these non-conformities and allowing property owners a period of 10 years in which to rebuild their non-conforming homes without the need for a variance.
  • If a property owner wishes to add on to a home that is currently noncompliant, they must seek a variance to do so and once that variance has been granted, that noncompliant building looses its grandfathering privileges. Therefore, variances must be granted for all other non-complying aspects of the building.
  • The current code dictates that if a property owner, who owns less than 4 acres of land purchases a contiguous lot, those two lots are merged to create a 4-acre lot. At the request of the ZBA, two versions of the proposed legislation were drafted; one with this merge provision in tact and the other with it removed.

The Village Zoning Board applies these procedures currently. The proposed legislation simply clarifies the language in the Code.
There was a great deal of discussion amongst the Board regarding the proposed 10-year time frame for rebuilding damaged structures. Trustee Worthy suggested that the evolution of streetscapes and volumes in neighborhoods makes 10 years too long a period of time for rebuilding and recommended it be reduced to 3 to 5 years.
Trustee Hansen commented that in his view there should be no time limit for rebuilding as a time limit forces property owners to put up a home in order to avoid the loss in property value.
Trustee Worthy responded that a lot can happen in a 10-year period and that given the way in which the Village Boards rotate, a shorter 3 to 5 year period would be advantageous in terms of preserving memory on those Boards. She further commented that compared to other municipalities, this is an extraordinary amount of time.
Mayor Stebbins commented that 10 years is a long period of time and that while he would personally like to see it reduced, because total loss of a home due to fire or other destructive elements is such a rarified event, he would be willing to agree to the 10-year period so as to move forward with the legislation.
Following a somewhat lengthy discussion regarding non-complying use of structures, the Board voted unanimously in favor of continuing the public hearing until May 13.

Local Law Introductory # 6:
The Board voted unanimously in favor of setting a public hearing for Local Law Introductory #6 regarding joining the National Flood Insurance Program as mandated by New York State for May 13.

Fence Report Recommendations:
Planning Board Chair JoAnn Hanson presented the Board of Trustees with recommendations from the Planning Board with regard to the proposed fence law.
As the five-year “test period” for erecting deer fences without a permit has long since expired, the objective of the proposed fence legislation is to clarify permit requirements and issue deer fence regulations (materials, colors) while adding incentive within the Village Code to make it more attractive for residents to erect permanent decorative fences. This will provide a greater clarity for the practical aspects of enacting the law.
Following a relatively brief discussion with regard to the definition of “perimeter fence” as well enforcement policy, it was agreed that the Planning Board will make some revisions to their draft and resubmit for review.

Village of Tuxedo Park Incentive Compensation Program:
Mayor Stebbins proposed the idea of an incentive compensation program for Village employees who are receiving longevity payments to take the place of current informal arrangements. Trustee Hansen commented that he thinks it would be a good idea, however he would like more time to review the proposal before voting. The Board unanimously agreed to table further discussion until May 13.

Wee Wah Beach Club:
The Wee Wah Beach Club has requested permission to extend club membership to include members of all three Tuxedo Fire Companies. Specifically, this would mean the inclusion of the Eagle Valley and Sterling Forest companies. The Board voted unanimously in favor of approving the request.

Appointment of Election Inspectors:
The Board voted unanimously in favor of appointing Nils Gerling and Theodora Darling as inspectors for the Village elections to take place on June 16, 2009.

Building Permit Fees:
The Board discussed the current costs for building permits in the Village. Village Code calls for an applicant to pay 3% of a projects’ overall cost in order to obtain a building permit. In some cases, this resulting in exuberant fees in terms of overall project scope.
Trustee Hansen suggested changing the rate to either 1 % or 2% and with a cap $5,000. Mayor Stebbins suggested 1.5%, with a minimum payment of $600 and a cap of $6,000. The Board voted unanimously in favor of this suggestion.

Seasonal Dock Request for Tuxedo Lake:
Greg Beard has requested permission to install a seasonal dock at his residence on Tuxedo Lake. The Board granted preliminary approval subject to approval by the Architectural Board of Review.

Public Hearing for Local Law Introductory #4:
The public hearing for Local Law Introductory #4 of 2009 regarding clean hands was opened. As there were no comments from the public, the hearing was promptly closed. The Board voted unanimously in favor of approving the legislation.

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