BY CHERYL SLAVIN
The Stony Point Town Board passed its 2015 budget by a vote of 3 to 2 Wednesday night. The final budget included changes proposed by Councilman James White to shave another $100,000, mostly through reductions to overtime allocations, and an increase in projected mortgage recording taxes. According to White, this budget will now result in a 2 percent overall decrease in homestead taxes, and an approximate 6 percent increase in commercial taxes.
Supervisor Geoff Finn voted no, primarily based on his belief that it would be better to budget for overtime up front than pay for exigency needs later on out of the fund reserve. He also expressed concern about the current $90,000 shortfall the town is already experiencing in mortgage filing taxes, a position backed by Director of Finance Karen Cappabianca. White, however, remained firm in his position, explaining later that he believed home sales were on the rise and thus so were mortgage filings.
Cappabianca also informed the Board that reducing overtime by the amounts suggested by Councilman White would bring those allocations back to 2009 amounts. Regardless, the budget passed. Councilman Tom Basile was the other negative vote, in part because he would not support mid-year raises for elected officials.
The Board also heard from planner Max Stach about the proposed Zoning Law changes intended to facilitate development of the Letchworth Village property. Some of the possible environmental impacts Stach outlined in the environmental assessment form include: visual impacts of development upon the unique and historical character of the property; impact on the historic preservation of the buildings not listed on the state register; possible loss of recreation resources if property currently designated for recreational use is developed otherwise; possible “sky glow” light pollution; and permanent alterations in sharp contrast to the surrounding area.
Stach emphasized, however, that each of these possible impacts could be mitigated with proper provisions in the zoning code. Thereafter, on the planner’s recommendation, the Board declared itself lead agency, adopted the planner’s three part EAF, and set the date for the public hearing for the first Board meeting in January.
The Board agreed to the Planning Board’s request for a joint meeting on January 8, 2015, at which time the developer of the proposed waste-to-fuel gasification plant would be making a presentation and also answering questions from the public about the project. George Potanovic of SPACE noted during public input that the process of getting approval for a project of this size and impact on the community should be highly transparent, and urged the Board to make all project documents available to the public through the website or in hardcopy. SPACE had previously signed a letter supporting the original idea of a green biofuel plant, and Potanovic pointed out that the organization continues to keep an open mind while at the same time insisting upon thorough public information.
The Board further passed a resolution to appoint a nine member planning committee for the Town’s sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary celebration. The festivities would cover an entire year long series of events starting in March 2015. Those interested in participating should contact Finn or Basile to find out more about how to be nominated. Susan Filgueras, president of the Stony Point Historical Society, and Dylan Skriloff, editor of the Rockland County Times, have both previously offered the Board ideas for the celebration.
Additionally, the Board passed a resolution, originally drafted by Filgueras, which states unequivocal opposition to the Champlain Hudson Power Express being installed through Stony Point on land. Filguras reports that Haverstraw has also signed on, and that she hopes to have Rockland County, other municipalities, and sister cities in Canada add their voices in opposition to the project.
The Board also heard an impassioned plea from resident Margaret Fonseca for help in resolving the situation with her neighbors, the Pezzementi family, who are running their Northern Tree Services business out of their residential property. She stated that she no longer feels safe in her home, as she has been continually harassed and threatened by the Pezzementis, and requested that the court order fining them and mandating that the equipment be removed from the home be enforced by the town.
Another neighbor, Fred Marino, also told the board that Pezzementi directly lied to the court on November 3 by asserting compliance with the order to remove the trucks when in fact all he did was move them temporarily to another neighbor’s property. According to the order, if Pezzementi does not comply, the fine goes up to $10,000. Finn and the Board assured Fonseca that if Pezzementi does not comply by the new date of December 1, they would follow up.
However, according to the Fonsecas an official from the prosecutorial team failed to appear at a criminal hearing against Pezzementi recently, and charges against him for alleged criminal mischief pertaining to vandalism against the Fonseca’s property were dismissed.