Public Hearings on Unsafe Waterfront Buildings and Zoning Amendment for BU District Concluded at Stony Point Board Meeting

BY CHERYL SLAVIN

The Stony Point Town Board concluded two public hearings at its meeting Tuesday night. The first concerned the demolition of unsafe waterfront buildings damaged by Hurricane Sandy; the second concerned a proposed text amendment to the zoning code to allow outdoor retail space in the BU (business) zoned district.

The proposed text amendment would provide that under certain circumstances, with oversight from the Planning Board, retailers could apply for permission to utilize outdoor space for “local convenience commercial use.” This would permit certain businesses, such as supermarkets and box stores, as well as smaller “mom and pop” retailers, to display and sell certain items on the sidewalks or in the parking lots immediately adjacent to their stores. It would not permit some businesses, such as gas stations, to do so. The amendment also specifies strict requirements as to usage, space, type of business, buffers and mediation, and parking availability.

Tractor Supply Co., a large retail chain, is looking to lease a space in the Aldi shopping center on the condition that it could also use a portion of the parking lot for retail and display. The amendment would definitely benefit that company’s plans, but its attorney, Ira Emmanuel, pointed out that the amendment would also benefit many businesses in Stony Point, and that it is not site specific. He also addressed Rockland County Planning’s letter containing that agency’s proposed modifications to the amendment. He urged the Board to overrule them, as most of the County’s concerns appeared to be site specific rather than directed at the amendment as a whole.

Town Counsel Brian Nugent also addressed the Board and conveyed planner Max Stach’s similar take on the County’s concerns. Ultimately, the Board agreed, and proceeded to approve the amendment to the code.

The Board also held the final session of the public hearing on the damaged waterfront houses. Previously the Board had resolved to remove the structures if their owners did not demolish or repair them according to FEMA specifications. The owner of 7 Fourth Street, along with her attorney, appeared at the hearing. The lawyer noted that his client contests Building Inspector William Sheehan’s assessment that the house sustained damage totaling more than 50 percent of its market value and thus was subject to the stricter, and far more expensive, FEMA repair requirements. He offered to provide to the Town, within 30 days, documentation and estimates that would show the true amount of the repairs necessary. The Board asserted again that it is not in the business of taking people’s homes away, and that as long as there is a paper trail demonstrating a commitment to action, it will not immediately remove the structure. Supervisor Geoff Finn also stated that the Board had now heard from every homeowner affected by the demolition resolution, except the bank-owned houses, so that progress is being made. The Board then closed the public hearing and passed a resolution to proceed, at its discretion, with demolition or repairs on the subject properties. Finn noted that the Town was also making progress in its efforts to get FEMA to cover the cost of demolition.

During public input both Susan Filgueras and George Potanovic, Jr. addressed the tax certiorari being brought against the Town by U.S. Gypsum. They stated their view that if the company does eventually receive a refund from the Town, that it should be earmarked towards cleaning up the environmental hazards that USG created on the site. Potanovic also pointed out that if the site were not cleaned up, the Town would be left with an unmarketable piece of property with no rateables. Filgueras also noted that USG was still receiving lucrative air emissions credits even though the factory had not been in use for the past eight years.

In other business, the Board passed two non-binding resolutions supporting the efforts of Genting America, Inc. to build a casino in neighboring Tuxedo. Genting had reached out to the Town with the idea that if the casino were built, they could engage in cross-marketing for the Patriot Hills Golf Course.

Supervisor Finn also expressed continued frustration with the Article 78 proceeding brought by Haverstraw in opposition to the proposed gasification plant in Stony Point. So far the Town has had to spend more than $26,000 to defend against what Finn characterized as “a crazy waste of energy,” and he publicly called on Haverstraw to stop the madness. He also announced that Finance Director Jennifer Sciscente would be retiring in August, and thanked her for her hard work on behalf of the Town for the last 8 years. He appointed Karen Cappabianca as the new Finance Director.