Floodplain Map Changes Save Homeowners Money; Orangetown residents voice approval Tuesday

BY ROBERT KNIGHT
CITY EDITOR
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES

Several Orangetown homeowners learned Tuesday that their properties have been removed from the town’s official floodplain map, saving them an average of $5,000 annually in their insurance rates.

The amendment to the town’s official 1982 floodplain map was approved unanimously by the five-member Town BoardTuesday evening, acting on the recommendation of Building Inspector John Giardiello.

About eight confused homeowners showed up at the meeting to inquire about the change, saying they heard it was going to be discussed, but about which they had no specific information as to how they might be personally affected.

Changes Explained

Giardiello said the state and federal governments require all municipalities to update their floodplain maps every few years, which in turn allows property owners to obtain flood insurance at reduced rates.

Those whose homes are within the floodplain districts, meaning they are prone to flooding during severe rain storms, hurricanes and similar disasters, normally cannot obtain flood insurance without having to pay exorbitant rates. If the municipalities certify that the properties are within the district, however, they can obtain that insurance at a lower, subsidized rate. If they are outside of the districts, they can easily obtain insurance at normal rates, with no premiums.

Orangetown last updated its floodplain map in 1982, Giardiello continued, and included, many properties that were close to the Hackensack, Pascack, Cherry Brook, Sparkill, Muddy Creek, Nauraushaun and other streams which flow through the township, typically from Clarkstown and Ramapo southward into New Jersey.

As a result, those homeowners have been paying higher insurance rates than their non-floodplain neighbors in the same hamlets of Pearl River, Blauvelt, Orangeburg, Tappan, Palisades and Sparkill; as well as the villages of Nyack, South Nyack, Grand View and Piermont.

Flood Prevention Works

Over the past dozen or so years, however, Orangetown has won several large grants to improve drainage throughout the town. Those public works improvements, coordinated by the town’s Highway Department under the leadership of Superintendent James Dean, have greatly reduced the amount of flooding along some of those streams, with the largest concentration being along the Sparkill, Pascack, Nauraushaun, Muddy Creek and Pearl River streams.

The maps were never upgraded to show those changes, however, Giardiello explained, so the affected homeowners continued paying the higher insurance rates needlessly. As a result of the two hurricanes last year, however, he said the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation instructed Orangetown to amend its maps, and either add or delete properties as appropriate.

And because of the improvements, most of the changes were deletions from the official map, Giardiello happily told the council and the audience, meaning those homeowners previously listed as living within the district were now outside the official boundary lines, and thus subject to lower insurance premiums.

Based on a preliminary and brief survey, he estimated many homeowners could save as much as $5,000 on their annual insurance bills once the new maps are officially filed with the DEC in Albany. Following unanimous board approvalTuesday, that filing should happen within days or weeks, he added. Affected homeowners can check with his office to see if their listing within the floodplain district has been affected, he said, and can then contact their insurance agents to have their premiums adjusted accordingly.

Two Streams Unaffected

The only people who probably won’t be affected, Giardiello added, are those living near the Hudson and Hackensack Rivers, where flooding has not been improved because those are not town streams, and protection improvement measures have not been made.

Severe damage was reported to many areas along the Hudson from those storms, particularly in Piermont within Orangetown, at further north in Stony Point.

Giardiello showed copies of the new maps to the homeowners who showed up Tuesday, and was met with both relief and thanks when they learned they had been removed from the floodplain districts, and were thus probably entitled to immediate insurance relief.

For those living near the affected streams who remain unaware of the changes, Giardiello said they can contact his office and refer to Chapter 14B of the town code, which is the official designation of floodplains in Orangetown.

Tax Refunds

In other financial news Tuesday, the Town Board approved the settlement of seven lawsuits again the town filed by property owners claiming their tax bills were too high last year, and should be reduced accordingly. The lawsuits are called tax certioraris, and in each case the town, Rockland County and the appropriate school districts must give refunds to the property owners for the amount that had been improperly collected during the contested periods.

The seven property owners, and the amount of refunds they will collect, include:

  • Palisades Presbyterian Church, which will receive nothing from the town or the county, but will get $7,771 from the South Orangetown School District.
  • Dominion Financial Corp., which will get $5,384 from Orangetown, $2,166 from the county and $24,309 from the school district.
  • Middleforest LLC, which will get $8,673 from the town, $2,709 from the county and $43,844 from the school district.
  • Hamil Paul Corp., which will get $2,001 from the town, $773 from the county and $12,624 from the school district.
  • Pearl River Realty Corp., which will get $1,806 from the town, $700 from the county and $11,397 from the school district.
  • Ascent Media Property Holding LLC, which will get $9,039 from the town, $3,233 from the county and $30,994 from the school district, and finally,
  • Good Samaritan Hospital of Suffern, Inc., which will get $6,235 from Orangetown, $1,943 from the county and $18,283 from the South Orangetown School District, for a professional medical office building in recently purchased at 101 South Dutch Hill Road in Orangeburg, formerly called the Langerman Medical Center and more recently Lab Corps.

Other than the church and the hospital, the locations of the other properties, and the school districts in which they lie, were not identified during the Town Board proceedings.

Other Business

In other business Tuesday the Town Board also voted unanimously to:

  • Renew their annual contract with the New York State lobbying firm of Wilson Elser to lobby on Orangetown’s behalf with state officials in Albany, concerning both state grants for various programs and projects and for assistance in the town’s acquisition of addition land and buildings at the former Rockland Psychiatric Center campus in Orangeburg, and assistance with remediation and marketing efforts for land and buildings it already owns there, having been purchased several years ago.
  • Submit an application to the Rockland County Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) for a 2014 grant of $10,000 to permit the purchase of several programs and projects to assist elderly fixed income residents of the Dowling Gardens not-for-profit senior citizen housing complex on Route 340 in Sparkill, owned and operated b the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill. According to Sister Ursula Joyce, chairperson of the town’s CDBG advisory committee and a Dominican nun herself, Dowling Gardens consists of 111 assisted living apartments with a median age of 88, of whom 15 are over 95.

Stray Dogs

  • Renew its contract with the Hi-Tor Animal Shelter in Pomona to accept stray dogs and other animals this year for an annual fee of $26,520, payable in four quarterly installments.
  • Schedule a public hearing for Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 8:05 p.m. at Town Hall to consider amending the Chapter 39 of the town’s vehicle and traffic law, acting on a recommendation from the town’s traffic safety advisory board. Details of what the changes are were not available at Tuesday’s meeting.
  • Accept a bond in the amount of $193,430 from Todd Cable Construction LLC and Zayo Group to insure the total restoration of town streets for the firms’ proposed installation of new underground cables to serve the new Bloomburg LLC data storage facility under construction in Orangeburg, south of Orangeburg Road. The cable firms need to dig up portions of Western Highway, Bataan Road, Dutch Hill Road, Orangeburg Road and Veterans Memorial Drive to get the power and communications cables from existing high tension towers to the new facility. The bonds will guarantee the firms fully restore the roads to the town’s satisfaction when the project is completed.
  • Authorize Sewer Commissioner Joseph Moran to arrange for preparation of a through wetlands location map for the vacant land at the north-west corner of Route 340 and Oak Tree Road in Sparkill. The land is owned by the John M. Perry Post of the American Legion, which is allowing the town to use a portion on which it will construct a new commuter parking lot. The new parking will be to alleviate tight commuter parking now existing in downtown Sparkill, where Red & Tan coach buses take commuters to and from jobs in New York City. The new lot will be adjacent to an existing Legion baseball field used by local Little Leagues, and will be used for league parking on weekends when it is not needed for commuters. The town will construct the lot with grant funding it received from New York State. Part of the Legion property lies within a floodplain of the nearby Sparkill Creek, and the completion of the map is required to ensure that the town does not encroach on that wetland.

Conferences

  • Approve the attendance of Sewer Department worker Keneck Skibinski at a state sewer conference in New York City on Feb. 4-6 at a cost of $1,212.
  • Approve the attendance of another sewer worker, Vincent Matthews, to attend a required training seminar in Morrisville, NY on Feb. 24-March 7 at a cost of $2,225.
  • Approve new rates for the use of the town’s Blue Hill Public Golf Course for 2014. Rates for Orangetown residents and non-residents alike will either remain the same as last year or increase by $2, depending on several variables, with the goal of making them remain both reasonable and competitive with those at nearby courses.
  • Appoint Lizabeth Buck permanent senior clerk/typist in the town justice court, at no change in salary from her current position.
  • Appoint Keith E. Trojan and Thomas D. Roeder to the position of temporary police officers in the town police department, pending their attendance at and graduation from the Rockland County Police Academy. They will then become provisional police officers and will become permanent officers upon completion of their probationary period.
  • Authorize police Sgt. James Sullivan to attend the 35th annual FBI hostage negotiations seminar in BaltimoreFeb. 11 & 12, with his tuition and lodging being paid for by the Rockland County Regional Entry & Counter-Terrorism Team (REACT).
  • Accept a revised copy of the Police Department’s General Orders Manual for filing in the Town Clerk’s office.

Close Accounts

  • Close seven inactive capital project accounts in the town’s budget, and transfer the remaining $300,000 in those accounts into the town’s general fund. The accounts included those for Tappan hamlet improvements, highway vehicle purchases for 2006 and 2009, sewer vehicle purchases for 2006, highway machinery and garage renovations, CDBG funding for sidewalk improvements and flood mitigation and construction of a rail trail along the Sparkill Creek.
  • Authorize itself (the Town Board) to serve as the lead agency in the application of Columcille Inc. for a conditional use permit to construct a fitness and training center on LIO zoned land on the east side of Blasdell Road, located between a former bar and now a church and the New Jersey border in Orangeburg. Such a facility is not permitted in that zone, and the firm is seeking a conditional special use permit to exist there on what is now vacant land and had previously been farmland.