TOWN OF SARATOGA PLANNING BOARD

MINUTES OF THE CEDAR BLUFF SUBDIVISION WORKSHOP

 

October 10, 2017

 

 

Chairman Ian Murray called the meeting to order at 7:33 p.m.

 

Planning Clerk Linda McCabe called the roll: Chairman Ian Murray present, Laurie Griffen present, Patrick Hanehan present, Robert McConnell present, Joseph Lewandowski present, Brandon Myers present, George Olsen present, Alternate Christopher Koval - present.

Also present: Town Engineer Ken Martin, Attorney Justin Grassi, Attorney Libby Coreno, John Witt, Kevin Hastings, Katie Gehl, Donna Hladik, Barbara Faraone, Sharon Urban, Gary Squires, Madison Squires, Jim Jennings, Terri Korb, Russell & Lauren Kirkwood, Paul Murphy, Randall Odell, Kate Miller, Tom Yannios, Edith Rubinson, John Cashin, Sergei Nirenburg, Walt Borisenok, Jennifer Koval, Karen Bellhouse, Marjorie McShane, Susan Johnson and other interested persons.

 

Chairman Ian Murray stated the workshop is being held to reorient the Board on the proposed Cedar Bluff subdivision, as the Planning Board hasn't been involved in this for a number of months now. He has been reviewing this application with Town Engineer Ken Martin and thought it best to hold a workshop meeting with the Applicant for a general overview, so the Board can ask a few questions, take the information home with them, review it, generate questions for the Applicant and pick it up again at the regular October meeting.

 

Chairman Ian Murray then reviewed the flow chart for this application with the Board and all those in attendance. He handed extra flow charts to those present who indicated they would like one. He stated conceptual approval for this project was given several months ago, right now the Board is at the preliminary plat phase with this project. Preliminary plat has not been approved to date and we are holding this workshop because a few issues have not yet been resolved or completed. Tonight the Board will seek Lead Agency status for SEQR, in order to begin the SEQR clock and go forward. There will then be a public hearing on the preliminary plat and the goal is to hold the public hearing at the October meeting, so public participation will be welcome at that time. Between the October and November meetings Chairman Ian Murray will schedule a SEQR workshop; generally SEQR is not taken up at a regular meeting because it is a long document and takes a long time to go through. SEQR determination will come next and we are unsure if that determination will happen in November; could be December or beyond. There are a few steps to SEQR; it could be a negative declaration, a positive declaration, a draft EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) or an incomplete application until the Board gets more information to finish reviewing the application. That is how SEQR progresses. Then the Board will approve the preliminary plat, with or without modifications, or disapprove the preliminary plat and subdivision with findings. If approved, with or without modifications, it would then go into final plat submission review. At that point, the Applicant would submit final plat, Board would go through that for a period of time, then another public hearing and then approval or disapproval of the findings on the project. That is the time line for this project.

 

Attorney Justin Grassi stated that the Chairman described the order of steps accurately. To summarize, the Planning Board is required and intends to give the public the opportunity to give input. There are certain times where the Board is required to do so, and times where the Board has the express choice to allow public input or not allow public input. For example, there is no requirement for a public hearing for SEQR, but the Board has decided to hold a public hearing to permit the public to give input on the potential adverse environmental impacts.

 

Attorney Justin Grassi then stated that it was brought to his attention that there has been correspondence directly to personal email accounts of some of the Board members. He's advised the Board not to respond to those. The mechanism to correspond with the Board is to either speak at public hearings, write a letter and submit it to the Planning Board Clerk, or email the Planning Board Clerk. The purpose for this is so the Board can efficiently and effectively digest the materials before them without having to respond to the public, until the point where the public is involved, and also so the public's comments aren't missed. We know there have been situations where correspondences have been emailed/mailed to personal Board member's accounts and addresses and there is a possibility, although unlikely especially with this Board, that it draws only the attention of one Board member. We want to make sure that all comments get to the entire Planning Board, not just one member. He reiterated that all correspondence from concerned citizens are to be submitted to the Clerk for the Board.

 

Chairman Ian Murray stated that all submissions thus far are in the file.

 

Chairman Ian Murray then introduced the Applicant's attorney, Libby Coreno of Carter Conboy Attorneys & Counselors at Law.

 

Attorney Libby Coreno appeared on behalf of the Applicant. She introduced Applicant John Witt, along with Kevin Hastings and Katie Gehl of Witt Construction. She proceeded with a power point presentation of the Cedar Bluff subdivision, stating this proposal is for a 32 lot conservation subdivision with open space; 31 new homes and one existing old farm lot. The location is east and west of Hill Rd. She then reviewed the lots, the Town of Saratoga Conservation Subdivision, 400-14, et seq., open space, 400-14(H)(2), Right to Farm law, 231, et seq., and the guide of the Town's Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 2-3 and Chapter 1-2. She stated there is a total of 111.6 acres, with 18.6 acres that are unbuildable. There are 93 acres of buildable land, a total of 54.27 acres of open space (22.8 acres on the west side and 31.47 on the east side) and the proposed lot coverage, (including right of way and existing farm lot), will be 58 acres or 31 buildable lots. After reviewing the project history she reviewed the Applicant's responses to the technical questions of the Planning Board; map labeling comments, sewage disposal system, road specifications, Archeological Phases I - II, open space, the farmland lot, open space, forestry, lots 9 - 11 no build line, a sample of the lot clearing plan, proposed selective lot clearing, steep slope protection, and stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP).

She stated they've completed Archeological Phase I & II and Phase III Archeological will not begin unless determined by the Board and only if they go forward, otherwise there is no reason to disturb those soils unnecessarily.

 

Chairman Ian Murray asked if there were any Board questions.

 

Patrick Hanehan questioned if stormwater retention ponds will be located in the open space areas to the west of Hill Rd., as the orchard is scratched off the project.

 

Kevin Hastings stated there will be no disturbance as previously discussed as they will be keeping it along the roadway.

 

Chairman Ian Murray then stated this is a workshop meeting, not a public hearing, but offered to entertain a couple of general questions from the public.

 

Thomas Yannios asked if he could take photos of a couple of the slides presented.

 

Attorney Libby Coreno replied yes and brought the specific slides up for him to photograph.

 

Chairman Ian Murray stated this presentation is also in paper format so if anyone wants to, they can come in and review it or FOIL it.

 

John Cashin asked who the farmer is that will maintain the farm or will it be cleared for other purposes.

 

Attorney Libby Coreno stated open space of the subdivision speaks to a multitude of things that can be used in the open space. It is clear that this Town is a right to farm town and it's critically important that they look at the ways in which they can encourage farming on large tracts of land. That is not to say that any use under the sun out there will be considered. This restriction clearly says that's not true. Open space is clearly defined under 400-14(H)(2), so they're not putting a Hannaford in; that wouldn't be possible even if they clear-cut the entire space.

 

Mr. Cashin then said he was looking at the Comprehensive Plan of the Town and questions if this is consistent with that plan.

 

Attorney Libby Coreno replied that the Comprehensive Plan is a guiding document, whereas the laws that have been sited under Open Space, Right to Farm and Conservation Subdivision, are actually the standards that they have to meet legally, whereas the Comprehensive Plan is an aspirational document. She has thoroughly read the Comprehensive Plan numerous times and it is clear this is a farming community and it wants to enhance and preserve the right to farm. That does not mean it is the singular and only issue for the community. Other laws have been passed in this Town also. The Right to Farm, Open Space Regulations and Conservation Subdivision regulations are actually the standards they are trying to meet and she believes they have done so. The requirement to have a farm in place is not subject to the open space regulations; it can remain as forest, it can remain historic preservation, 4-H outdoor education, all kinds of things are available as uses. The point of the Open Space is to maximize a swath of land and to use it as defined within the code. The Town Board set forth what it sees as appropriate for open space and they are trying their best to do that.

 

Attorney Justin Grassi stated that Attorney Coreno was accurate in her explanation and that the Comprehensive Plan is a guide - kind of a bird's eye view that the Town Board adopts and the Town Code is designed with that bird's eye view in mind. The Planning Board is required to meet the Town Code set forth by the Town Board and it is up to the Planning Board to determine which option is most desirable for the Town. The Planning Board's hands are tied to the Town Code/Law; they have no purview to modify that code/law but they do have the right to set buffers, etcetera, but as far as interpreting the code, that is up to the Code Enforcement Officer.

 

Edith Rubinson said they had been told their water will be analyzed but that has not been done. She also said at one of the community meetings she was told the cul de sac would stay and that was final, now it sounds it may not.

 

Chairman Ian Murray stated that was a statement made by the developer at one of the community meetings, it wasn't agreed to by the Board. This hasn't gone through the complete process yet. The Board discussed it, but Chairman Ian Murray said he never stated it would definitely be a cul de sac; nothing was approved at that time and still hasn't been. He cannot guarantee it will remain a cul de sac at this point; preliminary plat has not been approved yet and they haven't gone through SEQR. We still have a lot of issues to work through; SEQR, archeological, SWPPP, and the clearing plan. Those all have to factor into the final design of this project. He then stated they've had numerous communications from the Hill Rd. residents throughout this process, with questions the Board still cannot answer fully until these issues get resolved.

 

Attorney Justin Grassi stated at this point they do not have a complete application yet.

 

Chairman Ian Murray then stated concerning the testing of the water. The Board has NYSDOH standards they have to follow, the Applicant has his consultant and the Board has hired a consultant as well, to help the Planning Board respond to the Applicant's consultant. He stated he has been consulting with Town Engineer Ken Martin and is hoping they may be able to finalize, at the October 25th meeting, the number of wells to be drilled, where they will be drilled, what the testing procedure is and how to move forward with that. They haven't gotten there yet, but it will be reviewed and it will be a few months process.

 

A questions was asked if that will be a condition of preliminary approval.

 

Chairman Ian Murray replied it does not have to be a condition of preliminary approval. That is an onus on the developer, if you can't get a well developed and proved, you can't get a building permit. It's a risk the developer takes. The Board will make sure the quality and quantity are there and then move forward.

 

A question was asked on the size of the lots.

 

The answer was 1.5+/-acres with 150' of frontage for the majority of the lots. There was a controversial discussion concerning the old farm lot with some members of the public, and discussions on roadside swales, easements, and clearing issues.

 

A question was asked what prevents people from clearing their own lots.

 

Chairman Ian Murray stated they've discussed this before and had this experience with previous developers and subdivisions in the Town. The Board has developed a lot clearing plan and as Attorney Libby Coreno stated earlier, the Applicant has proposed one, and at some point the Board will merge those two plans together, come up with a document and procedure that works best for the Town. One thing with this development is the Board will go a bit further and deed restrict the lots to no further cuts. They've talked with Counsel about possible mechanisms they can put in place so it's not necessarily only on the plats, but in the deeds per lot of the subdivision.

 

Attorney Justin Grassi added it also allows the property owners the ability to enforce the restrictions on their neighbors and the Town the ability to enforce the restrictions on the subdivision. The Planning Board does not determine if a violation exists, that is up to the Code Enforcement Officer.

 

Thomas Yannios questioned if this goes with the timber harvesting law.

 

Chairman Ian Murray replied not necessarily. This is a little different as this would be approved through the Planning Board, because the clearing for the infrastructure, as you asked us for before putting the infrastructure in itself, and the proposed clearing plans for the house lots, will

first have to be inventoried and identified. They will have to submit a cutting plan and Code Enforcement will review that plan at that time and make any changes needed prior to issuing any building permit, on a lot by lot basis.

 

The Clear Cutting Law and the proposed Timber Harvesting Law are two different documents.

 

Thomas Yannios said then the homeowners who purchase, will be restricted by that and not the clear cutting law.

 

Attorney Libby Coreno replied correct. There are two specific core values with the clear cutting law; first, it is for lands 2 acres or larger - the Applicant's already articulated the lots are 1.5 acres so they are exempt, secondly, it exempts any Conservation Subdivisions as approved by the Planning Board. Homeowners will be held to the governing documents of the subdivision.

Attorney Justin Grassi agreed.

 

Chairman Ian Murray asked if the Board had any questions or concerns; there were none.

Chairman Ian Murray asked the Board to please review the documents in hand and write down any questions and bring the documents and questions to the October 25th meeting.

 

Laurie Griffen stated this was a good workshop and has gotten the Board up to speed with the project.

 

Chairman Ian Murray then stated in regards to the earlier SEQR comments, the Board needs to declare Lead Agency to go forward.

 

A motion was made by Chairman Ian Murray, seconded by Patrick Hanehan, to seek Lead Agency status for SEQR. Chairman Ian Murray aye, Laurie Griffen aye, Patrick Hanehan aye, Joseph Lewandowski aye, Robert McConnell aye, Brandon Myers aye, George Olsen - aye.

Carried 7 - 0

 

Chairman Ian Murray stated the next meeting will be held on October 25, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. He thanked the Board for full attendance at the workshop.

 

A motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:35 p.m. was made by Robert McConnell, seconded by Laurie Griffen. Chairman Ian Murray aye, Laurie Griffen aye, Patrick Hanehan aye, Joseph Lewandowski aye, Robert McConnell aye, Brandon Myers aye, George Olsen - aye.

Carried 7 - 0

Meeting Adjourned

 

The next regular meeting will be held Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 7:30 PM.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Linda A. McCabe

Planning Clerk