The Village Board of Trustees met on December 9, 2009 at 7:30pm. All members were present.
The Mayor began his remarks with a brief financial report. It appears that the Village will run a $300,000 deficit. This is due, in part, to excessive legal expensive as well as the DPW’s possible need for a new truck. While this is unfortunate to say the least, the Mayor continued on to report that New York State now offers an attractive infrastructure debt management program, which will help to reduce costs. He also commented that operating expenses for the Village are right in line with the budget.
With regard to litigation, the Mayor once again expressed his pleasure with the conclusion of discussions with the DEC, which resulted in a signed letter of enforcement. He then reported that the Village has hired the firm of Kirkland and Ellis to defend them in the Donald Hanson lawsuit and that this firm has already managed to eliminate all claims against the individual Trustees as well as Building Inspector John Ledwith. The remaining claims are federal in nature and the Village is continuing to dispute them.
On a positive note, the Village expects to receive $15,000 from Orange County, which was awarded to the Town and the Village for lake management purposes.
Deputy Mayor Report:
Deputy Mayor Jim Hays reported that the Town and Village residents alike had filled the Town Hall on the evening of November 23 for the 2nd Public Hearing on the Tuxedo Reserve development. The Town Board has decided to conduct a public workshop regarding the “Smart Code”, which is a set of zoning standards that has been proposed by the applicant that, if accepted, will create different zoning laws for those properties within development. This workshop, scheduled for January 11, 2010, will aim to educate Town Board members and residents alike. The developer will be flying in an expert to make the presentation and answer questions.
Finally, Deputy Mayor Hays reported that a new organization, headed by Village resident Tom Wilson and called The Tuxedo Land Trust has formed in opposition the development.
As the Village heads into the new budget season, Budget Officer Gary Pompan requested that all Trustee liaisons meet with budget holders in the next couple of weeks for the purpose of reviewing the budget for the next 6 months. Particularly, he requested that they look for and identify any unexpected expenses as well as those expenses that can be deferred. Completing this process will be a prudent step for the Village in looking at next year’s budget. Doing so in the next couple of weeks, will give the Board plenty of time to review and discuss any issues at their January meeting. Officer Pompan hopes to have much of the budget work done by mid to late February.
Chief Sanford reported the following for the month of November:
Criminal Complaints 1
Non-criminal Complaints 47
Property Damage Complaints 5
Speeding Tickets Issued 2
Fire Alarms 2 (both false)
Intrusion Alarms 2 (both false)
Medical Calls 3
Assists Given 3
Assists Received - 1
In addition, 8,505 non-tagged vehicles entered the Village through the front gate.
Trustee Pompan once again raised the issue of speeding in the Village, commenting that the problem is getting worse and is particularly dangerous as this time of year when there is likely to be ice and snow on the ground, which narrows the roads and makes them slippery. He then commented that he has noticed an abundance of pick-up trucks in the Village (more than usual) and that in his view these, as well as delivery trucks, moving trucks and school busses are the biggest offenders. He suggested that the Police Department pursue one of those machines that informs drivers how fast they are going by displaying their speed as they drive past.
Trustee Hays agreed with Trustee Pompan and stated that in his view, drivers crossing the double yellow lines was also a major problem that must be addressed/ He suggested writing tickets for this offense.
Mayor Stebbins commented that possibly the speed limit should be lowered on curvy roads, particularly Tuxedo Road, with new signage to be installed.
Trustee Pompan responded that typically, people pay no attention to signs and that, in his view, issuing tickets would be the most effective manor of controlling the problem,
Chief Sanford commented that he was in agreement with Trustees Pompan and Hays and would work on stepping up the effort to ticket speeders.
DPW Superintendent Jeff Voss reported that one of the DPW trucks may need to be replaced as it has a cracked frame. The truck in question has been sent to the dealer for examination and Superintendent Voss expects to hear back within the next few days as to the status.
Advisory Committee Reports:
Village Improvement Advisory Committee On behalf of the VIAC, Michele Lindsay reported that the committee had met for the purpose of reviewing and prioritizing projects. She and and Alan Heywood will be meeting with John Ledwith in the near future and together they will identify pole numbers for those lamp-posts that are currently not working. The VIAC would like to see the bulbs in these posts replaced with energy efficient bulbs. She inquired of the Board as to how the Village plans to stay on top of the lighting situation moving forward.
Trustee Hanson responded that perhaps the Police Department could make this a part of their monthly patrol.
Moving on, Mrs. Lindsay raised the issue of dead trees located on Village property, specifically those on Tuxedo Road, which threaten to take out power lines should they come down. She further commented that the VIAC would like to draft a letter to residents reminding them of the section of the Village code which makes them responsible for the removal of dead trees and dangerous/overgrown limbs and branches within the first 50 feet of their property line.
Trustee Hays brought up the idea of having the police issue tickets to those residents who fail to remove trees or branches that threaten power lines.
Trustee Hanson suggested that the DPW make a note of those trees that are currently threatening the lines and that those property owners be contacted. He further suggested that the Village send a list of those properties to O & R so that they can come into the Village and remove them.
Finally, Mrs. Lindsay commented that the VIAC is concerned with regard to the number of vehicle tags the Village seems to have distributed. She suggested that perhaps there were too many tags out there, and referenced a landscaper who apparently has a tag on his personal vehicle. She further commented that while the VIAC understood that landscapers had been issued tags so that they could enter the Village through the South Gate during leaf-removal season, that there was no need for any landscaper to have a tag on his personal vehicle. She suggested that either the Board and/or the Village Police Department should look into this issue further.
Tony Mason inquired about the Race Track and specifically whether or not there were any plans for improvements. He commented that over the Thanksgiving Holiday he and his family had attempted to take a walk on the property, only to find the walking path in poor shape with over grown grass and sticks blocking their way. He referenced the bench recently installed by the Garden Club on the property and inquired as to whether or not it was the same bench that used to sit along side the Tuxedo Lake. He stated that in his view, it was unfortunate that the Village could not maintain a simple walking path there and wondered if the Village had set aside funds in their budget for the property. He suggested that private donations could be solicited or perhaps a benefit put together for the purpose of making some basic improvements as in its current state it is an “eye sore”
The Mayor responded that he had visited the Race Track in the month of October and found it in fine shape. He suggested that the winter months were not the best time for walking there. He also pointed out the great strides that have been made on the property over the past few years, specifically the removal of giant leaf and mulch piles and the initial clearing of the walking path. He admitted that the property could use some further attention but commented that labeling it “an eyesore” was a bit harsh in his opinion.
Michele Lindsay informed the Board of an article recently published in the Snowmass Sun with regard to the Related Companies (developers of the Tuxedo Reserve project) and a project they have all but abandoned there. The article specifically mentions Tuxedo and makes a direct correlation between the abandoned project in Snowmass and the Tuxedo Reserve Project. Mrs. Lindsay read the following passage aloud to the Board:
“Much of the pain and suffering we're currently experiencing at the hands of Related is very similar if not exactly on point with what the citizens of Tuxedo are about to face. Failed promises of monetary contributions, mitigation, amenities, failure to live up to construction timetables and failure to honor contractual commitments appear to be Related's modus operandi wherever they go.”
(to read this article in it’s entirety, click here)
Mayor Stebbins suggested that the article be forwarded on to the members of the Town Board. Trustee Hays responded that copies had been sent to each of them earlier that day.
Public Hearing on Local Law Introductory #8 regarding the Defense and Indemnification of Village Officers and Employees While Acting Within the Scope of their Employment:
Board Attorney Rick Golden explained that while a defense and indemnification clause currently exists within the Village Code, the proposed legislation allows for more specific provisions and sets forth clear limitations. He then briefly outlined some of these, including the addition of indemnity for punitive damages, as well as a clear-cut process for the Village to follow when cases arise and the Board discussed them at length.
(A draft copy of Local Law Introductory #8 can be viewed here.)
Following this discussion, Attorney Rick Golden agreed to create a new draft to reflect some of the minor changes that had been discussed and the hearing was continued until January 13, 2010.
Discussion of a Proposal for Designating the “Race Track” as Parkland for Passive Recreation:
Mayor Stebbins opened the discussion by commenting that the Race Track has evolved in a positive direction over the past few years with the removal of debris and re-seeding of native grasses. He pointed out that the property has remained essentially untouched for almost 40 years and that quite a few species of conservation concern have been identified there. Educational facilities such as Columbia and Barnard have used it for study. A report outlining these points in detail was distributed to the Board. In the Mayor’s view, The Race Track is an area of the Park, which over time has become increasingly unique and he recommended that the Board seriously consider turning it into parkland.
Trustee Hays commented that the report was impressive. He expressed some uncertainty as to how the property would be maintained moving forward, commenting that if it is left alone it will surely turn back into a forest which would be a shift in habitat for many of the aforementioned species. He further commented that until fairly recently the property had been more of a wetland and that much of its diversity had come from that habitat, however the Village drained property which has created more of a meadow there. He wondered about how it should and would be cared for 100 years into the future.
Trustee Worthy questioned whether or not the property is an infrastructure issue that has been ignored and or deferred. She pointed out that for years Village drains emptied out there, which created the wetlands habitat. Either way, she commented, condition of the property must be determined and identified and more concrete plans set.
Trustee Pompan thanked the Mayor for the hard work that went into creating the report. In his view, the Race Track is a unique asset to the Village as there are things growing there that cannot be found elsewhere in the State of New York. He would be in favor of designating the property as parkland subject to understanding what needs to be done to maintain and preserve it.
Trustee Hays commented that it would be important to put maintenance procedures in place that could be followed in the future.
Trustee Hanson commented that in his view it is fabulous what nature has done to the property. He believes that a walking path should be cleared and maintained and that the Village should continue to drain the property while letting nature do its’ job. He inquired as to whether or not the intent for turning the property into parkland was to prevent building on it.
The Mayor then outlined two possibilities which included either establishing specific standards for turning the property into parkland, to be overturned only by a majority vote of the Board OR transferring the property to a third party and establishing similar conditions as a part of the sale.
The possibility of putting the property into a land trust and the specifics of what that might entail was discussed at great length. Following this discussion, the Board agreed to table the discussion until January.
Discussion of Elements for a New Local Law regarding Tree Preservation:
Trustee Worthy led off the discussion by commenting that more information outlining specifically what it is the Board wants to see in this legislation is needed before a draft can be put together. Observing that under the current law, residents are permitted to remove up to 4 trees with a diameter of 5’ or more without a permit and an unlimited number of trees with diameters less than 5’, she asked the Board for their thoughts.
Mayor Stebbins proposed that no trees should be removed without a permit. He admitted that this would be onerous, but urged the Board to consider some of the egregious things that have taken place already.
Trustee Pompan suggested that the current law doesn’t make sense and cautioned that the new legislation must consider the impact of tree removal as it is related to new construction, additions and renovations as well as the impact of general tree removal without construction.
Trustee Hanson commented that the environmental impact issues are clear and that the issue at hand is enforcement of regulations and fines for those who don’t comply. He favors the legislation but feels it should be applied by lot rather than by acre. In his view, the current legislation lacks teeth and the new law must provide incentive for residents to abide by it.
Trustee Hays agreed with the idea that a permit should be required for the removal of all trees over 5’ in diameter.
Trustee Hanson disagreed, commenting that if the legislation has the proper teeth residents will do the right thing.
The discussion was then tabled.
The following resolutions were passed:
- Resolution to Authorize Advertising for a Bid on a New DPW truck (conditional upon the need)
- Resolution to Authorize Increased Capital Expenditures for Tuxedo Lake Dam Water Main Relocation and Sewer Plant Projects.
- Resolution to Exempt Certain Village Properties from 2011 OC Taxation
- Resolution to appoint Debbie Matthews, Minority Business Officer
- Resolution to appoint John Ledwith, sewer Inspector
- Resolution to reappoint Charles Jones as Fire Commissioner for the Tuxedo Joint Fire District
Discussion of Repair Options for Wee Wah Bridge:
The Village has received repair options for the Wee Wah Bridge from Village Engineer Rich Messer, however the repairs are proposed are only temporary and the Board was hoping to see a more permanent solution proposed. Infrastructure Advisory Committee Chair Jake Lindsay has proposed two possible options for temporary repair, which will be much less costly for the Village. These were briefly outlined and discussed. Following this discussion, the Board selected one of the plans and voted unanimously in favor of moving forward with it subject to Rich Messers’ approval.