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Town Board Minutes 9/26/06


        Others present:  Helen Kopke, Town Clerk; Eric Dickson, Town Attorney; Paul Sebesta, Comptroller; Kathy Matern, Town Planner; Stan Fiminski, Police Lieut.; Frank Gavin, Superintendent of Highways; Richard Pollock, Superintendent of Water & Sewer.

        A public hearing was held regarding amendments to the Comprehensive Plan 2003 regarding the addition of a Safe Routes plan which would provide a pedestrian/bikeway “Safe Routes” for non-motorized traffic within the Town to connect all Town residents with each other, schools, recreation, work and shopping.
Kevin Walsh, member of the Planning Board, and Chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Committee gave a presentation on this amendment and Safe Routes. The benefits of a Safe Routes plan are improved health and fitness, better air quality, reduced traffic congestion, enhanced sense of safety for children and adults, and more opportunity for community interaction.
        The town will 1) use its Geographic Information System (GIS) to update the Safe Routes map to help identify new sidewalks, bikeways, and pedestrian path; 2) develop a greenway plan and incorporate it on the Official Map; 3) use the Safe Routes map as a guide to the planning process for land development and community transportation; and 4) amend the Town Code to require the review and incorporation of the Safe Routes Plan.
10192006_104527_0.png, was informed that this affects only bike and hike trails within the Town.  

10192006_104527_0.png, co-chair of the Safe Routes Committee, thanked Kevin Walsh and the Comprehensive Planning Committee for their work in getting this amendment incorporated into the Code, and thanked the Town Board for their wanting to do this.  This is a great thing for Niskayuna and in years to come it will be looked upon as a very good project.
Mr. Wells, and the entire Safe Routes Committee, was thanked for their hard work.
        Councilman Chapman noted from a newspaper clipping that government has been recommended to approve zoning and land use laws to give people more chance to walk or bike to the store or work and local government should set aside more money for sidewalks.
        Supervisor Smith noted discussions have been held with G. E. and hopefully a connection to the soccer commons will go through.  In putting this in the Comprehensive Plan we do not have to wait to create pedestrian routes.  The Plan memorializes it, so that in the future it will be in the future plan for Planning Boards to guide developers in getting safe routes.  
        There being no other members of the public who wished to be heard, Supervisor Smith closed the Public Hearing.

        The minutes of the Special Meeting of August 29, and the Regular Meeting of September 5, 2006 were approved as presented.

Cerone-Paulson Subdivison Court Decision:       Town Attorney Eric Dickson gave the Board a brief description of the recent developments regarding the Lori Drive, Cerone Paulson subdivision.  The developer had brought an Article 78 proceeding against the Town and County and alleged that the Town may not change the subdivision in light of the County’s refusal to grant a curb cut which was a condition of the Planning Board upon subdivision approval.  
With respect to the County, they alleged that failure to grant the curb cut was without a rational basis and that the County should be directed to grant the curb cut.  The court dismissed the petition against the Town saying that the applicant had not stated a claim against the Town and granted the petition against the County, finding that the failure to grant the curb cut was arbitrary and without a rational basis and directed the County to grant the curb cut.  The petition against the Town was dismissed.  The developer also requested that in the event the County prevailed in their attempt to deny the curb cut, that the Court directs the Town to change the plan and eliminate the cut through.  
        Supervisor Smith stated that County Attorney Gardiner has stated that they will appeal and he hopes that he will reconsider this action and will not continue this at taxpayer expense.  The fact that the judge found it arbitrary and capricious should leave them with the determination that there is no reason to go forward.  He is considering writing a letter to the County Legislatures, on behalf of the tax payers, requesting that they not proceed with an appeal.  He invited other Board members to sign this letter with him.  The County has 30 days after the order is filed in the County Clerk’s office to appeal.         
Stanford House Editorial:   Regarding a recent editorial regarding the Stanford House, Supervisor Smith is receiving calls from residents who believe the Town has the power to stop the redevelopment of the House.  He believes these residents think the Town has an arbitrary right to stop development.  The property is zoned for various uses, and the Town does not own the property.  Perhaps in the past the zone should have been changed or people should have followed through on their attempts to get it designated as a historical site, but this did not happen.  We will to monitor the process and make sure that the developers follow the rules of zoning and the codes, but we do not have an arbitrary right to stop this project.  The Trustees of the Ingersoll Home, and the developers, are proceeding with their rights under the zoning ordinance, and the Town is not doing the development. People appear to have a misconception that we have an arbitrary right to stop this.  
        Dr. Arthur Newkirk:  Councilman Chapman mentioned the recent death of Dr. Arthur Newkirk, who had served as Chairman of the Conservation Advisory Committee for several years.  The Town appreciated his volunteer efforts on this Committee.


        10192006_104527_0.png, expressed his concern that information and maps about the presence of archeological sites at the Flower Hill development would be saved for future reference by future government officials and residents. It was noted that these are permanent records and preserved by the Town on a permanent basis.  Also DEC retains records on these sites. Kathy Matern stated that the Planning office has a map available for review by residents at any time showing these areas.  There are two archeological sites.  Once recovery is completed with the first site, it will be able to be filled and a road put in, the other side was totally avoided by development.  
Mr. Wagner distributed photos to the Board, one showing an artifact found by his son and nephew, which contained comments by Landmark Archeology, the original team which was later removed by the project developer.  This was identified by Landmark Archeology, the original team on the project.  The artifact is currently located on his nephew’s dresser, and he could make it available to the archeologists or the Town for display.  
Other photographs were of the site today.  Mr. Wagner stated it appears as though the exploratory digs that were done during Phase I and II were done, but there was not apparent activity between then and when the archeologist came in with backhoe’s and moved the dirt.  He spoke with Cynthia Blakemore who said that backhoe work is part of the mitigation plan, but her understanding was that it would be at a late phase in the mitigation.  It is not apparent to him what was done before this started.  It is apparent there is some trenching and it is his understanding that this was farmland and it may well be that the archeologists believed that any information in the first foot or so is arbitrary because it has been plowed over and they are digging down to where the real data is (this is speculation on his part).  The project may be going very well but it would be nice if the process were more transparent.  For comparison purposes, he submitted photos of another archeological site in Ft. Edward which showed differences in how the work was being done.
Because of his concern for history and science, he gave the Board contact information for a New York State Archaeologist who would be willing and able to serve the Town as a consultative resource (not as an oversight power) on behalf of the Town and Birchwood Archeological Associates.  It is within her role and budget so there would be no expense to the Town or developer.  Cynthia Blackmore has not been out to the site, nor has she seen the artifacts, she has only seen the report from the second archeologist using data collected by the first.  The report is satisfactory but she could not speak to what is going o at the site.  
        Mr. Wagner made requests to the Town Board regarding the site, the consultative resource, school class visits to the site, and setting a date for a presentation by the archeologists as to what they learned from the site.  He suggested that the artifacts be put in a case for display purposes.  The consultative resource could visit and offer her thoughts and expertise.  Because she is a PhD archeologist, she would bring a higher level of expertise and could offer a perspective that is not within the credentials of the current archeologists.  It is unclear who she would report to.  
        Supervisor Smith reported that he had reviewed the Phase III reports and the plans for mitigation and talked to Cynthia Blakemore who was happy with the progress of the work and with Birchwood Archeological.  They are proceeding and are close to completing their work.  If the school is interested, they could contact the owner of the land and make arrangement to visit.  Mr. Wagner could talk to the school and the owner to arrange this.  He does not see any reason to bring in another archeologist when Cynthia Blakemore from the State Historic Preservation is very impressed with the archeologist and is very satisfied with them.  
Mr. Wagner is stunned that the Town did not look into why the developer dismissed the first archeologists and then hired the second.  He felt it was unusual for a developer to fire an archeologist and hire another and not allow the first to prepare their own report on the data they collected.  Historical preservation stated to him that this was very unusual.  Mr. Wagner was critical of the archeological because they are working with a backhoe.  He knows Landmark to be reputable; the new company is more of an unknown.  
Supervisor Smith stated that the Town has the power under SEQR to require a full environment impact statement but we have to have some justification to do so.  If Cynthia Blakemore had stated she wasn’t confident about the project he would inform the Town Board and then they would have some rational basis.  He relies on information from experts and neither he nor Mr. Wagner are experts.  He is confident that every site is different and they cannot be compared.  He understands that they will retrieve the artifacts which will be given to the State museum to be archived and recorded.  
        Councilwoman Kasper asked about the credentials of Birchwood and Mr. Wagner felt it was a level of training compared to the requested PhD resource.   Ms. Kasper felt that a PhD doesn’t mean that you are the only one that is qualified.  
Town Attorney Dickson stated that the Planning Board, as lead agency has to satisfy itself that the studies that are being done are proper and the information and data that they need to have for the SEQR process is being done properly.  There are many things the Planning Board can do in that regard.  He was not certain whether or not they could require that a consultant go on site.  Mr. Wagner was informed that they will take this information to tomorrow’s Planning Committee meeting whose members will look into this further.  If there is any further action that the Town Board can take, he is sure that the Planning Board will make a recommendation.  It sounds like it is not the province of the Town Board but that of the Planning Board since they are the lead agency and are involved in the SEQR process rather than the Town Board.  We take all such questions to the Planning Committee where it will be given due consideration.  
        Mr. Wagner did not see this as an issue of telling the developer what they need to do, but answering the question “is the Town safe in inviting (in writing) a consultant to make herself available as a consultative resource at this development.”  He did not think this was invasive and felt it was wholly within the SEQR law.  He has no problem with the development, but is concerned about the artifacts.
        Supervisor Smith stated that the issue of using the New York State archeologist will be discussed at the next Planning Committee meeting, the next day, who will then make a recommendation to the Town Board.  She could review the property if the owner of the property allows her to.  
        When no other members of the public wished to be heard, Supervisor Smith closed Privilege of the Floor.
        The following resolutions were approved with a vote of five ayes, unless otherwise noted.

        Resolution 2006-197 approves the establishment of Extension 161 to Consolidated Water District No. 1, for the subdivision of Brian Peek.

        Resolution 2006-198 authorizes the purchase of nine submersible level transmitters for nine pump stations, from GP:50, at a cost not to exceed $8,000.

        Resolution 2006-199 authorizes the execution of an Outside Sewer User Agreement for Sewer District No. 6, for DHO Builders, Inc., owner of 3630 Becker Street.

        Resolution 2006-200 - appoints Mary Ann Ruscitto, to the position of Payroll Clerk in the Comptroller’s Office, effective immediately, at a Grade 8 and salary of $25,450 annually.

        Resolution 2006-201 appoints Diana P. Hill, to the position of part-time Clerk to the Town Justice, without benefits, not to exceed 17 hours per week, effective retroactive to September 18, 2006, at a salary of $12.00 per hour.

        Resolution 2006-202 authorizes Amy Houlihan, Town Assessor, to attending the New York State Assessor Association Annual Seminar, September 17-20, 2006 at a cost of $175, a portion of which is to be reimbursed by the New York State Office of Real Property Services.

        Resolution 2006-203 authorizes the purchase of roofing material to replace the roof on the pavilion in River Road Park from Bonded Roofing Supply, for a total cost not to exceed $6,690.

        At this time Supervisor Smith requested that the Town Board go into Executive Session to discuss a particular employee’s employment history and status.

        Resolution 2006-204 authorizes the Chief of Police full authority to bring additional charges and impose discipline, including termination, against a Town Police Department patrolman individual alleged to have been guilty of additional misconduct.  
        There being no further business to come before the Town Board, Supervisor Smith adjourned the meeting.

                                        Helen F. Kopke, Town Clerk

One Niskayuna Circle, Niskayuna, NY 12309
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