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Village Attorney to be Replaced with Outside Counsel, Trustees Express Support for Reducing Speed Limit to 25 mph, Climate Change and more...

climate resilienceMayor Marc Samwick announced that Village Attorney Angela Sapienza-Martin would return to her previous position as Director of Personnel and Risk Management and the position of Village Attorney would be eliminated at the October 7 meeting of the Scarsdale Village Board.

Spienza-Martin was appointed to the position of Village Attorney in June 2018 after long-time attorney Wayne Esannason retired. However, Samwick explained that Adil Tahir, who took over as Director of Personnel, would be leaving, and Sapienza would return to her former position. Rather than fill the position of Village Attorney, the Village will retain a law firm to handle the Village’s legal matters. He said that the Village’s “needs are broad, requiring expertise in a wide array of practice areas,” and that a firm could offer these services at a reduced cost. A search committee has been formed to interview prospective firms. In the interim, former Village Attorney Wayne Esannason will return as Village Attorney, effective October 21.

Fall Leaf Collection
Samwick announced that leaf collection would begin on October 15 and said the schedule is available on the Village website. He reminded residents to pile leaves on their lawns, not in the streets and warned against blocking storm drains, hydrants and corners. He said that residents, not their landscapers were responsible for violations. He also asked residents to consider mulching in place rather than raking leaves for collection. Mulch mowing is more efficient, reduces the need for watering, improves lawns and enhances the soil.

Ron Schulhof provided an update on the conversion of Village streetlights to LED light, reporting that 1,500 lights were converted by the Village’s highway department during the summer. This phase, along with the first phase of conversion to LED lights on high traffic roads will yield the Village a savings of $100,000 per year and will also save energy. As of now, about 93% of the lights have been converted. The committee is looking for LED alternatives for decorative lights in the Village.

Climate Change
Tim Foley and several residents spoke about measures the Village could take to address climate change. Foley is co-chair of the Scarsdale Forum’s Climate Resilience Committee who is exploring how Scarsdale can address the challenges of climate change. They plan to do a study of climate action plans from comparable communities and explore sources of funding.

As a preliminary step, the committee is recommending that Scarsdale join the NYS Climate Smart Communities Program by passing a municipal resolution to take 10 pledges to adapt to mitigate global warming. He said, “Joining 34 Westchester communities would qualify Scarsdale to receive technical support, rebates and matching funds from the state to adapt to climate resilience projects.”

The committee also recommends that Scarsdale declare a Sustainability Day on a Sunday in May 2020 to celebrate the Village’s accomplishments to make Scarsdale a more sustainable community, to educate the community and to call for every community to do their part to mitigate the effects of climate change.

He concluded by saying, “The time to start planning and taking action was yesterday.”

Former Trustee Kay Eisenman from Brewster Road echoed Foley’s remarks. She is a member of the committee and hopes that the Board will sign onto to the resilience pact. She said, “I don’t see any downside in us doing this.”

Darlene Francois-Haber from Nelson Road, also on the committee, said she looked at the 100 items on the climate smart community checklist for the program. She said, “We already have 100 points toward certification. This is a win-win. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. We are talking about gaining matching funds for our municipality. I urge you to take the pledge and establish a sustainability day.”

Former Village Trustee Bill Stern spoke in favor of leaf mulching and the climate change resolution. He said, “We have to be more aggressive than just using education.” About Foley’s proposal he said, “we need to support these two measures… It’s extraordinarily important to keep Scarsdale for future generations. There is always push back but the government should act for the greater good.”

Jordan Copeland from Woods Lane spoke in favor of the climate change resolution. He said, “Scarsdale is a leader in every way and we should stand up for what is right for the future and the kids.”

Speed Limit
Apparently the speed limit on local streets is dictated by the New York State law. Current law mandates a speed limit of not less than 30 miles per hour, even in areas with busy pedestrian activity like the Village Center. Research has found that pedestrian accidents and fatalities are significantly reduced when the speed limit is reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph. However, the Village has no power to reduce the limit under current NYS law. NYS Assemblywoman Amy Paulin has introduced two bills to allow municipalities to reduce the speed limit to 25 mph and the Scarsdale Board of Trustees passed a resolution in favor of this new legislation.

The Board voted unanimously to support the resolution. They agreed that reducing the speed limit would improve safety and all found it frustrating that this was not under the jurisdiction of the local government.

However, Mayor Samwick noted that the matter is up to the Village’s Traffic Safety Committee, which is comprised of engineers, law enforcement and members of the Village Manager’s office. He said, “We should recognize the process. Our view is clear. We are the policy body – but this is not our decision to make.”

Madelaine Eppenstein spoke in favor of the resolution. Jordan Copeland asked the Village to also consider using other tactics such as pavement lines and obstacles to slow the flow of traffic. He said, “About the reduction of the speed limit to 25 mph, I am in favor of safer streets. Enforcement, education and engineering can all be used to improve traffic safety. I urge you to be creative with engineering solutions. In Sweden they are shrinking their lanes. There is more you can do with paint. Increase the cognitive load on people. Think about using striping to get people to slow down. Take the focus away from enforcement and figure out how you can make them slow down.”

Freightway RFP Process
Both Robert Berg and Michael Levine spoke about the RFP process for the proposed development at the Freightway site.

Berg opined about a lack of transparency. He called the project “a train wreck waiting to happen.” He said, “It is the largest development project since the downtown was first built. It should proceed only if it makes sense to the existing property owners. It must reduce the taxes of single-family homeowners or else it does not make sense to the do the project. It is almost guaranteed that it will require homeowners to pay more taxes to subsidize the homeowners who live there.”

He objected to the bidding process which he said protected the six original bidders. He said, “The result is that five of the six submitted the bids, two joined forces, reducing the total bids to four. Only three bids were submitted. Now the board will select two finalists.” He claimed that this prevented residents from getting the full benefit of competitive bids. He asked that the bidding be re-opened.

He continued, “You have released no information about the bids that were submitted three weeks ago and shared nothing about the type of housing each bidder proposed. If it is for rental housing the project fails from the outset because rentals receive more favorable tax treatment than single family homes under NYS real property tax laws. Rentals typically pay 1/3 of the taxes of single-family homes under the law. If rentals are constructed, nearly all homeowners will be subsidizing those rentals. They should pay the same rate of taxes. We don’t need to build Freightway to increase our own taxes.”

Berg also objected to another $40,000 that had been allocated to the Freightway planning consultants.

Responding to Berg, Mayor Samwick said that the Board of Trustees had requested a change in scope and that was why there was an increase in the fee to the planning consultants. About the real estate taxes, Samwick said that was a NYS law. He said, “What are the costs of doing nothing.” This would definitely be a burden on Scarsdale taxpayers.

About transparency, Samwick explained that some confidentiality was necessary to protect the Village’s negotiating position with the bidders.

Trustee Veron responded to the charges about the bidding process. She said, “The Planning Department reached out to many developers who did not respond with a bid. They cast a wide net…. Whether they choose to participate is up to the developer.”

Michael Levine said he was “disappointed that the responses were not released.” He said, “I am concerned about the financial impact on current taxpayers. We should get some amenities, but it should not be a negative. Our school taxes are the highest in Westchester as we have the highest percentage of students – we have 26% as compared to an average of 17%.”

Levine said, “The RFP has a request for a 20-year cash flow statement and an economic impacts statement. It asks for the number of school age children anticipated. I am suggesting that these items be released before the final decision is made.”

Mayor Samwick said these impacts would be part of the SEQRA review.

Farmers Market
Bob Harrison said he is “troubled by the hours for the Scarsdale Farmer’s Market which is held from 10:30 – 2:30 on Thursdays.” He said he hears objections from Village merchants. He wanted to get some feedback on the market and the location of the farmer’s market.

Assistant Village Manager Ingrid Richards said, “the market is held on Thursdays from 10 am to 2:30 pm. The hours were decreased, and we believe these hours work well. We are constantly looking at the best way to operate it. It typically takes about five years to establish a market that works well for the community. The market will run through November 15.

Village Manager Steve Pappalardo added, “When the hours were extended until six pm the merchants did not get enough business to warrant the extended hours.”

Road Repaving
Trustee Arest announced two resolutions to increase funds for roadwork in Scarsdale. The first was a transfer of $381,000 of surplus funds from the 2018-19 budget for road resurfacing for the 2019-20 calendar year. Another resolution was approved to allocate a $94,000 reimbursement from Con Edison for road repair in 2019-20.

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