Town Board Opposes Bill to Give Developers Stronger Property Rights

Special meeting called to adopt resolution

By Kevin Foley

The Philipstown Town Board called a special meeting on Friday, June 10 to consider a resolution opposing legislation by State Senator Greg Ball (R, C 40th) seeking to create a six-year pilot project in the counties of Putnam, Dutchess, Westchester, Rockland and Orange to study the effect of granting developers broader vested property rights on job creation and economic development.  The legislation (S4554B-2011) would, among other things, protect developers (with building permits or applications pending at the time of enactment) for six years from any changes by local municipalities in zoning, building codes and other regulatory matters related to property ownership.  At present, a developer with a building permit has two years to proceed (under the regulations in force at the time the permit was granted.)
       The four Town Board members present all objected to the legislation as too pro-developer and an encroachment on the longstanding prerogatives of local communities “to balance the desires of developers against the pubic health, safety and welfare of the community and the environment,” as stated in the resolution. They voted unanimously to send the resolution to Ball and the leaderships of both the state Senate and Assembly. Supervisor Richard Shea said swift action was needed because the bill could be taken up this week. The legislature is slated to adjourn for the year around June 23. It is not known if the bill has a chance to pass.  It was first introduced in April according to a list of legislation on the Senator’s website.  However, no press release was issued. According to Shea, the Town Board and many other groups were caught unaware of its existence.  “We only found out about this legislation four days ago. I don’t know why our Senator didn’t bring it to our attention, since it involves comprising municipal home rule,” said Shea. “We didn’t spend five years working on the zoning
       The statewide Association of Towns and environmental groups, such as Riverkeeper, have also joined in urging opposition to Ball’s legislation.

Other board discussions
The Board referred to the Town Planning Board the work of revising the part of the new zoning code regarding ridgelines and hillsides to make it easier for property owners to determine if their property is part of the view shed and therefore subject to the relevant rules. Any revision would be subject to a public hearing before adoption.
       Optimism was also expressed about someday consolidating all the town and village justice courts in one secure courtroom at the former Butterfield Hospital site.

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