Trustees Extend Moratorium on Gravel Driveways
- Real Estate
- Published on Wednesday, 24 June 2015 16:22
- Lori Gertzog
After considerable discussion, the Scarsdale Board of Trustees voted to approve an extension of the moratorium that prohibits land use boards and building or engineering departments from approving building applications that involve gravel surfaces where the gravel surface, if treated as impervious, would cause the lot coverage rules to be exceeded.
The original moratorium started on February 10, 2015 was set to expire on June 30, 2015. On Tuesday night, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to extend their moratorium until October 30, 2015.
A study of building permit applications from 2013 and 2014 found that though 10% of residential properties have gravel driveways, 25% of the applicants use gravel driveways to maximize the lot coverage. In addition, the Scarsdale Planning Board was unanimous in their decision that gravel driveways should be included in lot coverage calculations.
However, everyone was not happy with the decision. Builders Bobby Ben Simon and Steve Rakoff spoke against it, as did resident Jeremy Gans and his wife, both of Harvest Drive, who had hoped to build a pool in their yard.
Echoing comments he made at the June 9 meeting, Jeremy Gans of 45 Harvest Drive said, "Though I agree that the village needs to address the issue of the increasing bulk of new homes, this moratorium goes beyond this....I am opposed to it. When we bought our house in 2006 we had visions of how we wanted to improve the property. The moratorium changed lot coverage requirements for every existing home. Residents had little notice....Let the moratorium lapse or revise it so that it only applies to new homes...Give a grace period to allow residents to apply for revisions and incentivize residents to replace asphalt with pervious surfaces."
Steve Rakoff of 64 Morris Lane said "I am also concerned as most don't understand the impact of the moratorium. This is coming at the community very quickly. I request that this goes to a referendum. If we are going to make these changes don't unilaterally declare that this is a fix all. If this is enacted, at what cost? Will people feel that their property rights have been taken away and will we have to defend lawsuits against those that feel they have been spot zoned? Do we start counting swing sets? Do we need more staff at the Village Building Department? Do people on wetlands get a give back?"
Mayor Jon Mark addressed Rakoff, saying, "The reason to extend the moratorium is to allow the board to consider these issues. We have something in place. Hold on for another several months we can decide what to do."
Barely containing his anger, Bobby Ben Simon of 11 Seneca Road said "My issue is with the process. There is a constant erosion of property rights in Scarsdale. Three months before the end of a trustee's service she acted on this issue and the Board enacted this moratorium. "
He continued, "We have 6,000 homes in Scarsdale. Maybe .6% are demolished or renovated each year. You are taking a minute situation and turning it into a monster....Are you going to stop people from adding a deck, renovating a kitchen? We are going to go into a downturn. People will not be able to sell homes in Scarsdale. People spend a lot of money to live in this town but they do have choices. There is a minority that will do whatever it takes to hurt the real estate market in this town and they may succeed!... I am disappointed to see very few people here. The referendum is critical. It is such a major issue. I urge you to weigh the thing!"
Trustee Bill Stern responded to Ben Simon, saying, "Property rights are a double-edged sword. Many feel that their property rights are being impacted. A huge house next to a smaller existing house devalues the existing home. We are trying to correct the situation. The Board is sensitive to all the homes in Scarsdale.
Simon replied, "I don't own my neighbors property – he can do what he wants. Don't tell me after I bought the house what I can build. I don't tell my neighbor what to do. Private property should not be treated as public property."
Lisa Gans, wife of Jeremy said, "When we bought our house eight years ago we had a vision of how we wanted to use our property. It took us a while to save money and get out plans together. At this point we can't make our house smaller. Maybe big houses can be addressed in another way. If we had known this eight years ago, maybe we would have bought a different house. At this point we feel that our rights are being changed. I am respectfully asking you to change the moratorium so that it only applies to newly-constructed home and doesn't impact those who want to improve them."
Trustee Carl Finger, who formerly served on the Board of Architectural Review sought to address the speakers and explain his view. He said, "I thank everyone who came and those who shared their thoughts. It's important to convey your thoughts. In general I hear the comments on individual rights but balance them against community rights. We consider this with everything we do here. As for property rights, we are all limited in what we can do. Very complicated decisions will be made over the next few months."
He continued, "I believe that many know what is going on. We are arguing semantics about whether gravel is pervious or impervious. This is not the issue. The argument is about whether or not we want to include driveways in lot coverage requirements. We should avoid getting caught up in that distinction of language and focus on our real goals."
"We are looking at the size of housing, the lot coverage and how this affects neighbors. I believe that the board passed the moratorium after some debate and had good reason for doing it at this time, and while it is affecting people, I am not comfortable with reversing the decision and undoing the moratorium at this moment when we are just at the point of having meaningful discussions. I am cognizant of the date (of the end of the moratorium.) It is important to have the discussions in the fall when people are around and to include the community in these important discussions"
"I agree with the Mayor that the moratorium should continue. It would have been nice if we could have been done by now, but we're not. I will use the time to analyze the issues and come up with a working solution."
Trustee David Lee said, "we need to take time to look at the merits of this. Until we have the opportunity, should people be able to race to the building department to get their project in or not? We felt it was fairer no to permit that. The right was to do this is at the beginning. Lines have to be drawn. It's not always fair."
He called for a vote and the resolution to extend the moratorium was approved unanimously.
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