Public Hearing Supports Tree Board

DEC says ‘no’ to coal tar meeting

By Michael Turton

Public hearings on two local laws were held as part of the Tuesday (Dec. 2) meeting of the Cold Spring Village Board; one all but assures the creation of a volunteer board to manage village-owned trees, while the other paves the way for changes that will affect residents applying for building permits.

The Public Tree Law has been in the works for many months as a volunteer committee chaired by Jennifer Zwarich drafted both the proposed law itself and a management plan for the care of trees on village-owned lands. On Tuesday, the SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) “negative declaration” was passed, a mandatory step confirming that the new law poses no environmental threat, an ironic requirement for a law that strives to protect trees.

Mostly support, few objections

A strong majority spoke in favor of the new tree ordinance. Seven residents either did so in person or submitted letters to that effect. One of those in attendance, Richard Franco, who served on the committee that drafted the proposed law, supported the legislation overall but said he opposes having the village operate its own tree nursery. Tony Bardes, who also served on the committee, even though at various times seeming opposed to furthering its work, suggested that if the new board could not generate its own funds it shouldn’t exist.

Mayor Ralph Falloon clarified that the village already budgets for tree maintenance and that while the new board could request funding as any committee can, the Village Board reserves the right not to fund projects. “But to say that we must fund or must not fund (the new tree board) would be unfair to both sides,” Falloon said.

Carolyn Bachan was not a supporter, describing the tree ordinance as “premature” and the management plan as “inadequate” and “very sketchy.”

Speaking in support of the new law, Mike Armstrong referred to Cold Spring’s publicly owned trees as an important part of village infrastructure. He suggested the group be named a Tree Advisory Board in order to improve its standing when applying for outside grants. Trustee Michael Bowman disagreed, arguing as he has in the past, in favor using the term “Tree Advisory Committee” as indicated in the draft law. He was outvoted 4-1 as Armstrong’s suggestion prevailed. The law will also be revised to indicate that the manager of the tree nursery will be a volunteer, not a paid village employee.

As a result of the wording changes, village attorney Mike Liguori advised trustees not to vote on the Public Tree Law until next week’s meeting.

Residents will soon have more time to complete work approved under village building permits, and renewals will be less frequent when more time is needed to complete a project. Under the revised local law approved Tuesday, building permits will now be issued for a period of two years. Two one-year renewals will be permitted. Under the old law, the initial permit was good for six months, with a limitless number of three-month renewals. The new law is expected to come into force in 30 days. The old law will remain in effect for building permits issued prior to the new law taking effect.

DEC says ‘no’ to public meeting

Falloon reported that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) turned down his request for agency officials to come to Cold Spring for a final public meeting on the cleanup of coal tar in the area of the Cold Spring Boat Club. In October, the club requested that the village ask DEC to encapsulate the toxic material rather than excavate it. The DEC’s Record of Decision (RoD) remains in effect and calls for the latter approach, a method that will require razing the Boat Club building.

In his letter to Falloon, DEC Project Manager David Chiusano said that 30 percent of the design work for the project is now complete and that by January that figure will have doubled. Falloon said he will compile a list of questions that remain unanswered about the project, including those of the Boat Club, and that he will bring them up in a meeting with Chiusano.

Ethics Board generates interest

Six residents have applied to serve on a new Village Ethics Board. Applicants include Frances Murphy, Susan Peehl, Tom Campanile, Carol Herring, Coreen Palmero and Denise Murphy. The committee would examine complaints of alleged misconduct by village boards and committees. The authority to create an ethics panel is enshrined in the Village Code, but one has never been established despite numerous discussions over the years. At the Oct. 21 meeting of the Village Board, former Trustee Matt Francisco again called for the creation of such a board, and subsequently a call for volunteers was authorized.

The Ethics Board must include at least three members, with one being an elected or appointed village official or an employee. Frances Murphy serves on the Recreation Commission and Herring works for the village as a crossing guard.

Interviews will now be conducted, but the Village Board has not decided how many members the new board will include.

County to run March election

March 2015 will mark the first time that a Cold Spring election will be run by the Putnam County Board of Elections. The village clerk has acted as chief election officer in the past, however the Village Board approved the change, both as a cost-cutting measure and to lighten the clerk’s workload. The village spent $5,054 in running the 2014 election. County officials quoted a price of $4,872 to handle the trip to the polls next March.

If the village moves its elections to November, the county would pick up the full cost. While the savings is enticing, trustees have been reluctant to align the local vote with the national election — and the party politics that entails.

Tuesday’s meeting was Liguori’s final appearance as village attorney. He announced his resignation several weeks ago. The Village Board will now conduct interviews for an interim replacement as well as for long-term legal counsel.

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