Stony Point Town Board Inching Forward on Master Plan, Zoning Relief Act

BY CHERYL SLAVIN

The Stony Point Town Board made some progress during Tuesday night’s meeting toward implementing two of its longest running initiatives—the FGIS Master Plan which has been under review since 2006, and the Zoning Relief Act which was intended to expeditiously aid homeowners in returning to their Hurricane Sandy damaged properties.

Town Attorney Brian Nugent, who drafted the new regulations, opened the public hearing on the Zoning Relief Act and Advisory Base Flood Elevation Numbers by explaining that this new version was based on the state DEC model changes and the requirements as set forth by FEMA after Hurricane Sandy. The laws would be further amended to allow the homeowners who suffered storm damage to more than 75 percent of their property to rebuild, in compliance with the amended code, on the footprint of their previous home without having to go through the zoning and permitting processes currently required.

The public hearing will remain open until the next town meeting, and the draft regulations will be made available to the public through the Town Clerk’s office. The board voted to accept some portions of the draft in order to refer it to Rockland County Planning for its review to be completed by the October 8 meeting. Supervisor Geoff Finn reiterated that the whole purpose of changing the zoning regulations is to assist homeowners to return to their homes as soon as possible, although almost a year has already passed since the storm.

Town Planner Max Stach and the board also made some final adjustments to the proposed Master Plan. Stach emphasized that the Plan is not law but is advisory only, and also addressed some of the concerns voiced by several members of the public regarding zoning for townhouses, tree removal regulations and accessory apartments. The board discussed the pros and cons of legally recognizing accessory apartments; most of the board felt that such apartments were not in keeping with the nature and character of Stony Point single family home neighborhoods. Luanne Konopko was the lone voice in favor of permitting the apartments, so that they can be regulated as other dwellings already are.

The revised draft will be available to the public on line, as well as the completed environmental impact statement which the town voted to accept. The board will revisit the Master Plan at its October 8 meeting at which time it hopes to be able to vote on most of its provisions. As Councilman James White stated, “We need to have forward movement on these things.”

In other business, Luanne Konopko, chair of the Economic Development Committee, voiced her concern that the poor condition of many buildings on the Letchworth Village property was preventing the town from maximizing the income it could be generating from leasing or otherwise using that property. She proposed that the board look into ways to improve the buildings. Supervisor Finn responded that the biggest obstacle was asbestos abatement for which the town simply did not have the funds. Konopko insisted that there might be some alternative abatement solutions, at least as far as some of the less dilapidated buildings, such as wrapping asbestos insulated pipes rather than removing the insulation. The issue remained unresolved.

Supervisor Finn also revealed that the Town of Haverstraw has brought an Article 78 proceeding challenging the Stony Point building inspector’s interpretation of Town Code to permit the building of a gasification plant in Stony Point. As previously reported in the Rockland County Times, the Stony Point Zoning Board had voted on July 18 to deny Haverstraw’s appeal and instead uphold the building inspector’s findings in all respects, clearing the way for the gasification plant to go forward. Finn stated that he was already in talks with the Haverstraw town supervisor in an effort to settle the issue. The board also voted to authorize hiring special counsel to represent the town for the duration of the Article 78 proceedings.

Stony Point resident George Potanovic Jr. announced that SPACE will be holding a Town Hall style meeting to discuss issues of current concern on Tuesday, September 17, and will also host two candidate debates on October 15 and October 17. There will also be two public hearings with the state Public Service Commission regarding the proposed desalination plant on October 1 and 2. The North Rockland Business Alliance will hold a debate between supervisor candidates in Stony Point and Haverstraw on October 3.

Tuesday’s town board meeting took place during the final two hours of primary elections, a scheduling conflict that many criticized.