Goals: Reduce Park Use & Improve Maintenance
BY ROBERT KNIGHT
Orangetown adopted a new fee schedule for the use of its 24 town parks Tuesdayevening, aimed at keeping the parks free for town residents while charging outsiders up to $25 per day or $250 per year for visits.
The new fee schedule is expected to be enacted immediately by the town’s Parks and Recreation Department, and will be enforced through the hiring of part-time park rangers who will patrol the various facilities and either ask non-residents to leave, or summon police to eject them if they fail to comply.
The issue became a hot button item in Orangetown this spring, when residents and officials noticed a large influx of residents from Ramapo, Clarkstown and New Jersey suddenly showing up in town parks. Some used them for recreational and organized sports events, others merely for strolling, picnicking or other leisure activities.
When the outside invasion began overtaxing Orangetown’s multi-use parks, and crowding out its own residents, town officials began searching for solutions. Two criteria were considered essential: Orangetown parks should be reserved for Orangetown residents, and any solution should not burden local taxpayers to meet higher operating costs.
The five-member Town Board and park officials quickly surveyed the situation and found what they felt was the best answer from neighboring Clarkstown. With the growing popularity of a new 2.5-mile walking trail around the perimeter of Congers Lake, that town banned non-residents from using it, most of them coming north from Orangetown. To effectuate the ban, Clarkstown posted a park ranger at the site and required users to prove town residency, be the guest of a resident, or purchase a non-resident park pass.
What’s good for Clarkstown should be good for Orangetown, officials decided, as they held a series of meetings and public hearings to discuss the problem, and hopefully come up with a solution of their own.
The solution was adopted unanimously on a 5-0 vote Tuesday, with nothing more than applause from the appreciative audience of about 25 town residents.
Under the new ordinance, only Orangetown residents have the right to use town parks for recreational purposes. No special identification will be given them, as was done in Clarkstown, but residents will be advised to always carry identification with them in the parks, in case they are challenged by a park ranger. Non-residents can purchase a park permit, with the cost varying based on age.
Answering the most common question and complaint by residents, the board also included a provision allowing residents to have “guests” accompany them to town parks, with no limit as to the number or the reason, as long as the “host” is a verifiable Orangetown resident, and is present with their “guests.”
When rangers begin patrolling the parks, proof of Orangetown residency, possession of a permit, or being the guest of a town resident who is also present will be sufficient to continue use of the facility, officials explained. Park users who don’t meet any of the three criteria will be asked to leave. If they refuse, police will be called and they may issue summonses for violation of the new ordinance, returnable in Orangetown Justice Court.
Daily permits will range in cost from $15 for children under 12 and senior citizens over 65, $16 for children between 12 and 18 and $25 for adults 18-65. Annual permits for unlimited park use will be $150, $165 and $250 for the same age groups respectively.
Veterans with proof of their veteran status will be exempt from the regulation entirely, and will be permitted full free use of all Orangetown parks, regardless of their residency.
Orangetown also broke down its 24 parks by the funding the town used to acquire and/or develop each facility. Any parks that were bought or developed with any state or federal assistance at any time are exempt from the fee schedule, under the acknowledged premise that such grants require the facility to be open to all residents of the state or nation, and not just Orangetown.
Town officials called that the “strings attached” provision municipalities are required to accept in return for accepting state and federal grants.
Parks where the fee can be charged to outside users include Veterans Memorial Park and Independence Parks in Orangeburg, Pilgrim Court in Pearl River and Stoughton Park in Tappan.
Parks where the fee cannot be charged include Nike Park and Tackamac Park on Clausland Mountain in Blauvelt, Braunsdorf Park and Borst Park in Pearl River, the Joseph B. Clarke rail-trail throughout Orangetown and all “Town recognized memorial areas.”
Parks that are partially exempt for portions of their acreage include Sparkill Memorial Park, Depot Square parking area and Veterans Memorial Park in Sparkill and all athletic fields when their use is permitted under the town’s field use policy.
Another ten parks have not yet been fully researched as to their acquisition history, and will be added to the appropriate category once that has been established.
Non-residents may purchase park use permits from the Parks and Recreation Department at its headquarters in Veterans Memorial Park in Orangeburg, located in a Dutch sandstone house that is at the end of the first driveway off Hunt Road.
Orangetown used to have a staff of part-time park rangers, but gradually laid them off as part of an annual ritual of preparing a budget for the coming year.
Supervisor Andrew Stewart said one advantage of the new fee schedule would be that it will allow the town to re-hire at least one park ranger from the fees paid by non-residents. That way, the town will be able to patrol and monitor its 24 parks once again and enforce its various rules and regulations, at no cost to Orangetown taxpayers.
Besides monitoring the parks, the rangers will improve safety in the various facilities and help prevent vandalism, littering and other undesirable activities.
In other business at Tuesday evenings’ Town Board meeting the council:
- Offered a moment of silence, led by Police Chief Kevin Nulty, to honor the ten police officers murdered throughout the United States in the past two weeks. A wreath, trimmed in black and containing the names of the deceased officers, which served as the centerpiece of the service, willbe moved afterward from the Town Hall auditorium to the police memorial in the hall’s front lawn.
- Held the first public hearing on a proposed new law that would require site improvements for any new religious institution or school proposed for any commercial or residential property in Orangetown. Such improvements would include sufficient parking spaces for all congregants and students, sufficient interior space to meet all building and safety requirements, sufficient acreage for the proposed use and other restrictions aimed at preventing such facilities from being improperly located in existing buildings.
- Agreed to renew an expiring lease with AT&T for the utility’s use of a cell phone tower located at the Town Hall in Orangeburg. The new lease will require the company to pay Orangetown $2,900 per month to use the tower, which is owned and maintained by the police department for its communications system. The new lease will run for 15 years, with a rent increase of three percent each year.
- Granted tax certiorari lawsuits against the town by two commercial property owners who claimed they were over-assessed and thus over-taxed. West Shore Plaza at 580 Route 303 in Blauvelt will receive refunds for 2015 overpayments of $13,987 from the South Orangetown School District, $4,598 from Orangetown and $1,650 from Rockland County; while Mehl Electric at 72 South Main Street in Pearl River will get similar refunds of $10,367, $2,686 and $1,088 respectively for the same year.
- Agreed to hold a public hearing on Sept. 13 at 8:10 p.m.to change the zone on a single-family home in Pearl River from commercial to residential. The home, at 227 Manor Boulevard, was originally in a residential zone, R-15, requiring a quarter-acre of land. The town mistakenly rezoned it CO, for commercial office use, several years ago, apparently because of its closeness to North Middletown Road, a commercial highway. The owner was recently denied a building permit for an improvement to the home, which is not allowed in a commercial zone, and applied to have his property re-zoned again back to the original R-15. The September hearing will be to gather public input on whether or not the change from CO back to R-15 should be approved or denied.
- Agreed to accept a $350,000 grant from New York State to reconstruct a drainage tunnel beneath Route 303 in Orangeburg. The tunnel carries the beginnings of the Sparkill Creek beneath the state highway, near the Bel Ans artists’ center, and is required to alleviate flooding in the area according to Highway Superintendent James Dean, who will supervise the project. Under terms of the grant, Orangetown must provide 25% of the cost, which Dean said will be done by providing “in-house” services such as engineering, planning and supervision.”
- Agreed to accept a similar state grant of $370,000 with a similar 25% town share to construct a brine recapture system at the town Highway Department garage off Route 303 in Orangeburg. The brine collected from salt storage there will be recycled into liquid salt, which the department will then spread on streets before snow and ice storms each winter. Dean said it is considered superior to sand for clearing streets after such storms.
- Authorized several Orangetown Police Department officers to attend various specialty training schools throughout the state in the coming months.
- Hired Claire Tracy to become a probationary radio dispatcher for the police department.
- Authorized Receiver of Taxes Robert Simon to impose a fee of $20 on the account of any property owner who pays their taxes with a check that bounces because of “insufficient funds.”
- Adopted a new base proportions adjustment schedule of all residential and commercial properties in the town. The schedule is used annually to determine the tax rate to be paid by commercial and residential property owners. This year’s change is so small that it will have only a tiny impact, but the change does swing slightly in favor of residential taxpayers, officials said.
- Granted use of the town’s “Showmobile” for Piermont PAL’s music festival on Sept. 8and Rockland Lodge of the Sons of Italy’s Italian festival in Blauvelt Sept. 15-18, with each organization paying the town $400 for use of the trailer/stage.
- Approved a contract with Johnson Controls of Hawthorne, N.Y. for $26,000 to upgrade and maintain the HVAC equipment in town buildings for the coming year.
- Authorized the town Parks Department to sell at auction 26 items of surplus equipment from the town’s two golf courses, Blue Hill and Broadacres, since the town no longer operates the courses but instead leases them to private operators. The items include golf carts, plows, tractors, blades, dump and pickup trucks, sprayers, mowers and related equipment.
- Authorized Highway Superintendent James Dean to purchase a new heavy-duty truck for $306,471 from Gabrielli Truck Sales of Jamaica, N.Y., a new street sweeper for $227,837 from Trius, Inc. of Bohemia, N.Y. and a new sidewalk snowplow for $270,194, also from Trius, the lowest qualified bidders.
- Authorized the issuance of registration certificates to Ross Brothers of Northvale, N.J. and Keystone Landscaping of Pearl River, to perform residential and street sewer repair work within the township.
- Established a new staff position of seasonal clerk in the Parks and Recreation Department, replacing a similar part-time position that had been abolished, and appointed Leslie Doran to fill the new position.
- Appointed Lisa Hastings as court clerk in the town justice department, at an annual salary of $85,000.
- Amended a resolution from last year, creating a new position of deputy town clerk. The amendment authorizes that the new deputy is empowered to act in place of the town clerk, which was accidentally omitted from the original resolution.
- Authorized Supervisor Andrew Stewart to sign a contract with Coventry Health Care to provide managed care services for disabled town employees under workers compensation.
- Authorized Stewart to also sign an agreement with the CSEA Employee Benefit Fund to provide town retirees with extended vision coverage, at their own expense for the cost of the insurance.
- Authorized the appointment of Ellen Fordham as secretarial assistant in the Department of Environmental Management and Engineering (DEME).
- Adjourned the meeting in memory of eight Orangetown residents who died recently, including Nora “Marie” Galli, Brendan J. Malley, Angela D. Mattei, Grace Buhl Meyer, Mary Holt Moore, Josephine Sheridan, Ann F. Wright and Cathy Pederson, and in honor of the 10 recently slain police officers from throughout the nation.