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Trustees Approve Second Tax Revaluation and New Historic Preservation Code

8HeathcoteRoadThe Scarsdale Village Board approved four significant resolutions at their January 29 meeting which was delayed from Tuesday to Thursday due to the snowstorm.

After years of discussion, the Board held public hearings on the resolutions and unanimously passed them all. The resolutions were as follows:

The formation of a special improvement tax district in Crane Berkeley to allow the Village to raise taxes from residents in that neighborhood to de-silt and improve the ponds, streams and drainage system.

A service agreement to hire J.F. Ryan Associates to conduct a second tax revaluation that will consider market values as of July 2016.

Adoption of new historic preservation code.

A moratorium on applications to build properties with gravel surfaces where if the gravel was counted as an impervious surface the project would exceed the maximum permitted lot coverage.

Here's a discussion of the resolutions:

The Crane Berkley drainage area includes 2 ponds, streams and watercourses that now need to be cleaned of debris and de-silted. The smaller of the two ponds is filled with ten feet of silt and requires dredging along with the stormwater drainage system from Popham Road to the large pond. In order to pay for the work, the Village will form a special improvement tax district which allows the Village to tax property owners who will benefit from the work. The neighborhood association, led by Bob Berg, gathered support for the formation of the tax district and 79 out of 109 homeowners support the initiative. The Village will share in the cost of funding the project. Bob Berg and Leo Noden spoke in support of the resolution at the Village Board Meeting and it was passed unanimously.

After some discussion, Trustees votes to approve a professional service agreement to retain J.F. Ryan Associates to conduct a new tax revaluation based on property values as of July 2016. This will allow the Village to update property values for tax purposes, using both a sales comparison approach and a cost approach that incorporates land values into the equation. Three members of the Scarsdale Forum asked the Trustees to allow the "dust to settle" on the 2014 revaluation before conducting a subsequent revaluation. Bob Berg, Howard Nadel and Bob Harrison all argued that the previous revaluation had been very accurate and that the results were still "playing out." They asked the Trustees to wait until 2018 to do the next revaluation.

However, the Trustees all favored moving forward now. Stacey Brodsky said, "I agreed that we had a successful revaluation – but do not believe that should stop us from moving forward. It is important to stay current with market values. Though it is difficult for the community and does raise anxiety as values change, I don't think we should delay. We have a new paradigm – regular revaluations based on current data."

Thomas Martin said, "Our constituents expect us to follow up. They are looking for a high level of fairness. I think that we should do this every two years."

Marc Samwick agreed with Brodsky and Martin but asked the board to wait to pass the resolution until John Ryan could be present at a meeting with the community.

Deb Pekarek said, "This is the new normal. We are back on track. I appreciate that it is difficult but we have the grievance system in place to rectify any questions."

David Lee said, "I agree that we should go ahead. The cost is being spread over three years. There is reason to do it this time around to solidify the values and give confidence to what took place. I don't know that we need to do this every two years."

Mayor Steves concurred, saying "There is a benefit to taking this to another step to make sure we have the groundwork for whatever plans you have going forward."

The resolution was approved by all board members.

The Board reviewed and passed new village code regarding historic preservation. Brodsky said this code was an interim measure as the board is still studying the issue of preservation. The code establishes the same criteria for demolishing more than 50% of a property to be used by the BAR and the Board of Trustees who currently use differing criteria. It aligns the standards and eliminates the BAR from the review process, requiring that those who wish to appeal a decision of the Committee for Historic Preservation go directly to the Board of Trustees.

Here are the new criteria for preservation:

A) In making a determination whether to grant an application for a Certificate or to deny such application and require that the building in question be preserved, the Committee shall consider the level of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture present in the building as well as the integrity of location, design, setting, materials and workmanship and:

1) That the buildings is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to broad patterns of Village, regional, state or nation history or

2) That the building is associated with the life of a person of persons of historical significance; or

3) That the building is the work of a master and embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction that possess high artistic values: or

4) That the building has yielded or may be likely to yield information important in pre history or history

B. The Committee may consider if the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, NYS Register of Historic Places of Westchester County Inventory of Historic Place. A National, State or County listing alone is not sufficient to warrant preservation.

Carl Finger, a member of the Board of Architectural Review said, "I think it's an excellent procedure – a much better process. Thank you."

However Paul Diamond, Chairman of the Committee for Historic Preservation said that while the committee agrees with the new code for the most part, the entire committee had written a letter to the board objecting to criteria #3 which says "it is the work of a master AND embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction that possess high artistic values." The committee said this should read OR, not AND saying that the proposed Scarsdale code sets a higher bar for preservation than New York State or federal organizations. Diamond said that using this criteria, "there will be nothing that can be preserved."

Brodsky disagreed and told Diamond that "we looked at it. We have had the occasion where someone is a master but the building in question was not worthy of preservation." David Lee agreed, saying "It has to be a good work of the master." Steves said "This is not the first time we have heard about this. There may be disagreement but it is not because we have not considered this verbiage."

Brodsky summed up saying, "We have spent the better part of three years talking about preservation – we wrestled the longest and hardest with the criteria.
We have weighed community vs. homeowners concerns and drafted this on a fair basis. Right down to "and" and "or."

A vote was called and the trustees voted unanimously vote in favor of the new law.

Last in response to residents concerns about the bulk of new houses being built, the Board is now re-considering lot coverage and floor area ratio regulations. While the study is being done, the Board passed a resolution declaring a building moratorium on applications to build properties with gravel surfaces where if the gravel was counted as impervious the project would exceed the maximum permitted lot coverage. This moratorium will extend through June 30, 2015.

No one spoke about this resolution at the hearing and it was passed by the Board.

Barbara Jaffe of Kingston Road was appointed to the Committee for Historic Preservation to replace Marjorie Meiman who has served since 2009 and wishes to resign.


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