Town of North Salem
Comprehensive Plan Committee
March 20, 2008
7 p.m., The Annex
MEMBER ABSENT: Katherine Daniels
OTHERS PRESENT: Liz Reeve, Town Board Liason
Cynthia Curtis, Planning Board Chairwoman
Janice Will, Recording Secretary
Chairman White opened the March 20, 2008 Comprehensive Plan Committee meeting.
The Chairman went over the meeting agenda. Then he stated for the record that, in keeping with Supervisor Paul Greenwood’s expressed desire for open government, the CPC meeting was being video-recorded. One at a time, he called on the Members present to say a few words about themselves.
Chairman White stated that the law requires a group like the CPC to have at least one member who is also a member of the Planning Board, and Charlotte Harris is on the Planning Board. He commented that the CPC might wish to ask the Town Board to appoint more members in the future. The Chairman said that Liz Reeve will be the CPC’s conduit to the Town Board.
Administrative Items/Schedule Dates & Times
The Chairman said the third and fourth Thursdays of the month were originally chosen as meeting dates because the Annex is available then, but he added that he can meet any time, days or evenings.
Drew Outhouse and Pam Pooley said they would like to meet during the day, but Martin Aronchick said he would not always be able to do so, although he thought he could attend a Friday meeting.
Liz Reeve said she would have to make arrangements to be available during the day.
The Chairman suggested one evening meeting and one daytime meeting each month, and the Members liked the idea. It was agreed to meet on the third Thursday of the month at 7 pm and on the fourth Friday at 9 am.
Mr. Outhouse said he would be taking some vacation time during the summer, and the Chairman replied that he will circulate a meeting schedule for comments.
Chairman White stated that he will be in the Planning office all day on Thursdays, either seeing consultants or working.
The Chairman commented that he would prefer to have CPC meetings with the Members seated around a table, something he would look into. He stated that all meetings will start right on time.
Pam Pooley said the library has a meeting room with a table and room enough for members of the public to be present also.
Chairman White said brainstorming will take place in phases. He added that it is better not to comment while people are offering ideas and suggestions. Later in the meeting he would hand out forms, on which the Members would be asked to list their top 9 issues with regard to the Comprehensive Plan.
The Chairman explained that he had printed many copies of the form, intending to hand them out to members of the public for additional input; however, there were no members of the public present at the meeting.
Mr. Outhouse asked how many people would be expected to attend CPC meetings, and the Chairman said he wasn’t sure, although there had been a big crowd at the Town Board meeting on February 27 when he made a presentation about the CPC. He went on to say that Supervisor Greenwood suggested a public forum every 6 weeks to share what the CPC has found and to get reactions.
Chairman White said he and Cynthia Curtis had met with Joel Russell, a planner they hoped to use, but he was not able to take on the responsibility. Mr. Russell did offer to do one training session for the CPC, so the Chairman wanted to get some dates from him and see how many CPC members would be able to attend such a session. He commented that the Planning Board also requires training, so they might be interested in attending a meeting with Mr. Russell.
The Chairman said the CPC is on the Town website under “2008 Comprehensive Plan Activity”. He said the site will include contact information, and the CPC may also post documents on the web.
Budget and Consultants
Chairman White stated that he made a presentation to the Town Board on Tuesday, March 18 regarding the CPC budget. He explained that there was no money in the budget in January. The Chairman said he tried to pull together a description of activities and associated costs.
Regarding the CPC’s desire to have Dr. Michael Klemens do a biotic study, the Chairman said Dr. Klemens conducted the Northeast Corridor study. For North Salem, it is proposed to have Dr. Klemens do a study from the Titicus Reservoir northward. A contract for $20,000 has been approved by the Town Board.
The Chairman commented that the County has opportunities for grant money, and their extensive mapping is a useful too.
As Joel Russell will not be available, the Chairman said he recommended Vincent Ferrandino/Ferrandino and Associates, Inc. as planning consultants to the CPC. This budgetary request was also approved by the Town Board.
Chairman White said that on Friday, March 28, a town tour will be conducted for the planner, and all CPC members are welcome to go along. The group will meet at 9 am on the Town office campus, but there will just the site trip and no meeting.
Mr. Aronchick asked what the focus of the tour will be, and the Chairman responded that it will serve to show Mr. Ferrandino the Town, and give the CPC an opportunity to point out existing problems (wells, traffic, etc.).
Mr. Outhouse asked to be reminded of the date and time of the trip, and the Chairman asked the secretary to send out e-mail reminders the day before all events and meetings.
Chairman White said he asked the Town Board for funds for an investigative phase first. He said once the CPC is actually writing the Plan, it will be looked on as Phase 2. A budget of $50,000 was approved for Phase 1.
The Chairman said there is a copy of the Chazen Companies’ municipal groundwater study in a file in the Lobdell House conference room, along with other documents relating to the Comprehensive Plan. He invited the members to look through the file and borrow the groundwater report, and he asked the secretary to look into getting additional copies for the CPC “library”, which also includes the old Comprehensive Plan and the 2007 Update. The Town Board approved the continued use of the Chazen Companies by the CPC, and a representative will attend the next CPC meeting on Thursday, March 27.
Chairman White said the Town Board also approved funds for a traffic consultant and further training.
The Chairman handed out the prepared forms to the Members. He explained that one planner he met was accustomed to writing plans for municipalities; but in North Salem, they know what they want and have their own vision about what needs changing. He asked the Members to take 5 minutes to write down their ideas and then share them.
When everyone was finished, the Chairman started by asking Mr. Outhouse what were the most important items on his list.
Mr. Outhouse said quality-of-life issues like traffic and taxes were important to him. He stated that he was also concerned about how to keep North Salem’s young people in Town and how to attract/keep volunteers for emergency services.
Ms. Harris agreed that keeping people in Town was an issue, and she said she was concerned about traffic, too. She cited issues of light pollution and deer/deer-fencing as being important and added that other visual concerns like sight-line/height issues and walls/fences mattered to her.
Pam Pooley was next to comment. She mentioned traffic patterns relating to rush-hour, ground water drainage/water issues, housing development, preserving woodlands and wetlands, water quality, and agriculture. Ms. Pooley also expressed concern about roadside vegetation that is invasive/climbing on trees and trees in danger of falling.
Mr. Aronchick listed preservation of rural quality, protection of water quality/water management, limiting traffic, managing the tax burden, preservation/creation of open space, acceptable community development, historic preservation, and how to satisfy affordable housing requirements.
Peter Wiederhorn said he saw the comprehensive plan update as needing to deal with conflicting goals and issues, i.e. do people want the Town to be more commercial or more private, more traffic control or less. He said people see plusses and minuses of agricultural use of land. Mr. Wiederhorn commented that there are both large properties and neighborhoods of very small ones in close proximity to each other in North Salem, which he said is unusual. He added that everybody in Town, owners of large properties and small alike, seems to want to keep the Town’s rural character.
John White said bicycles on Route 116/all roads are another example of conflict, because while he likes bicycles, there are safety issues involved with bicycling on a road that has no shoulder.
The Chairman read from a list provided by Katherine Daniels that she was concerned about protecting the water supply, preserving nature, protecting open space for recreational use, protection of the economic viability of local agriculture, coordination of community efforts toward public education, balancing future growth with adequate community services, and safer roads.
Chairman White said traffic should be looked at regionally and not just within a small focus. He stated that the CPC needs to be able to formalize their visions and effectively communicate their points. He said he thought services and facilities shared with other towns was an important topic, citing as an example the traffic to and from Mt. Lakes Camp when day camp is in session.
Mr. Wiederhorn suggested that the effect of housing development on services is important, and the Chairman said housing in general is an issued that should be covered.
The Chairman pointed out how some of the Members’ suggestions were naturally clustered together and said he needed some sub-chairs for groups based on the CPC’s opinions about what are important issues. The following were decided upon:
Martin Aronchick: historic preservation
Pam Pooley: visual issues
Drew Outhouse: people
Peter Wiederhorn: commercial/housing development and agriculture
John White: water quality
Charlotte Harris: open space
Mr. Outhouse commented that there are only horse farms in Town now, whereas North Salem was once a community of 150 farms like dairies and orchards. He said he wondered what will happen when all the land is sold and developed, and the Town is “full”.
Chairman White said the town is full now and has been for 25 years, as there has been no population growth in that time and a low rate of change.
Ms. Harris said more land has been converted for use in that time.
Ms. Pooley said she was concerned about knock-downs, and Ms. Harris said she wondered what will become of 2 very large, essentially undeveloped parcels in Town.
Mr. Wiederhorn asked if there is any issue regarding what it is appropriate to try and legislate/govern.
The Chairman said zoning is based on principles contained in a comprehensive plan, but it is still appropriate to ask if the zoning ordinance is a good one. He stated that a change to all 4-acre zoning would need to be justified, but small-lot development may require sewers. He commented that the consequences of large-scale development would need to be considered ahead of time. Chairman White said it is possible to get a sign ordinance, adding that there is one in place for fences already.
Regarding the local schools, the Chairman said they need more playing fields. He said the choices are to pay for artificial turf fields or to look for places for new grass fields.
Cynthia Curtis asked what the CPC wants to consider regarding commercial vs. private development.
Mr. Aronchick said they can identify what would be acceptable commercial development.
Ms. Curtis asked why they would ask that, unless people want more services in Town. She explained that most people think they need commercial development for a boost to the tax base, but she would like to see proof that commercial development does broaden the tax base/lower taxes for residents.
Mr. Aronchick agreed, saying the CPC should see if there is any demand for services in Town.
Ms. Pooley mentioned that the Supervisor suggested taking roads back from the County, which she didn’t know could be done.
The Chairman commented that it would give the Town more control over what is done.
Mr. Outhouse said Somers is a good example of a town that has allowed commercial development (IBM) and large-scale residential development (Heritage Hills) that have not benefited the town.
With regard to commercial development, Chairman White said the necessary infrastructure (highways, etc.) is not in place to support it in North Salem.
Mr. Wiederhorn stated that if a property-owner donates land for open space, it is not developed and it keeps the taxes down. He added that property tax on houses doesn’t cover the cost of what residents use in roads and services.
Ms. Curtis said the CPC should ask how to provide housing for people in the future, adding that it should not be left up to developers. She said a variety of housing styles and sizes is needed, and they should see how they can make that happen.
Chairman White asked, if it costs $25,000 per year for a student in North Salem schools and a family has 2 school-age children, how to tax to cover that expense. He added that if the schools are not big enough in the future, it will be expensive to enlarge them. The Chairman said the CPC needs to decide what is wanted and plan accordingly for the future.
It was commented that more and more people are able to work at home and do not commute and that the current housing crisis could affect North Salem too.
Ms. Harris expressed concern about the cost to North Salem of having students from Southeast in North Salem schools.
Chairman White responded that North Salem schools would lose too many students without the inclusion of those from Southeast. He explained that a tax equalization formula ensures that owners of a $500,000 house in Southeast pay the same school taxes as the owners of a $500,000 house in North Salem.
The Chairman said he would take responsibility for sewer/septic and traffic as well as water. He explained his desire to hold a public meeting in 6 weeks and another one 6 weeks after that.
Chairman White reminded the CPC members that they will meet with the water consultant on Thursday, March 27 at 7 pm, and the Town tour will be on Friday morning. He then closed the meeting.
Janice Will, Recording Secretary