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Village Board Reviews Telecommunications Code, Tax Exemptions for Veterans and Police Recruitment

daspalmerThe Village Board focused on changes to the Village code for telecommunications, tax exemptions for veterans and police residency requirements on October 12, 2021. They also granted licenses for taxicabs and reviewed the upcoming budget process.

Prior to the board meeting, the board held a work session to review recommended changes to village code to strengthen regulations for placement and design of wireless facilities both inside and outside of the Public Right of Way. You can review the recommendations from the attorney here.

However, those who commented at the meeting expressed reservations about the recommendations.

During public comments, the Board heard input from several residents and non-residents.

Robert Berg, who is an attorney with expertise in this field, said he was disappointed in the recommendations from the attorneys and asked them to revise their memo with stronger protections for the Village against the construction and placement of 5G antennas.

Jess Lerner who grew up in Scarsdale recommended the Village require the following:

-500 foot setbacks from residences and schools
-Independent testing of wireless facilities
-Notification by first class mail for applications for construction of wireless facilities
-The placement of post it notices at the precise locations of the antennas within 2 days of application
-Proof of insurance from carriers

Lerner suggested that Scarsdale review telecommunications code from the Town of North Hempstead and Fairfax California who have strengthened their codes She suggested that Scarsdale model their codes after those municipalities.

Zoe Berg, currently a law student at Tulane, recommended moving quickly. Her greatest concern is to reserve local control over the siting of the equipment in the public right of way. She said, “This code still allows the placement of a 5G facility within 30 feet of a resident’s bedroom.” She recommended that Scarsdale look at other Village ordinances to use as models moving forward.”

Dana Stags from Heathcote Road said, “I have reservations that code changes could be so prohibitive as to prevent the installation of 5G in Scarsdale…. If there is an insurance requirement, no insurance carriers will underwrite that risk. This would effectively prevent the deployment of any wireless antennas. In a year 3G will be decommissioned. At some point, if we don’t have a reasonable policy for placement of antennas in our Village we may find ourselves in a position where there is no replacement for the existing technology. About the requirement for annual testing … is this reasonable?”

Bob Harrison endorsed Bob and Zoe Berg’s comments.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the attorney responded to these concerns but asked that the Board consider the current recommendation while continuing to work on incorporating further protections. Due to the fact that the Village is currently receiving applications to install antennas, the mayor asked the attorney to present a revised recommendation within two weeks.

At the subsequent Village Board, here is what was addressed:

Budget Process

Village Manager Rob Cole highlighted the schedule for the development of the 2022-23 Village Budget. He said that the themes of the process were collaboration, outcome orientation and transparency and that budget discussions have already begun. Cole said, “We will have more deliberation, education of everyone involved and will be sure that the resources allocated can meet our objectives. We will provide many opportunities for public involvement and produce a document that is more reader-friendly for the public to review.”

The current budget schedule calls for the following:

November 9, 2021: Auditor presentation of May 2021 financial results
December: Public discussions of priorities
January: Discussion of individual departmental budgets
February: Development of detailed budgets to review along with financial planning
March 20: Tentative budget submitted to the Board of Trustees
April: Formal adoption of the budget.

Licensing of Taxicabs

The Board held a public hearing and vote on the number of taxicabs to license. There were no comments at the public hearing, however a memo on the subject from Village Manager Robert Cole explains, “The Village has issued an average of 22 taxicab licenses over the past decade. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, only 10 taxicab licenses were issued in 2021, correlated with the considerable decrease in train ridership. …. Considering the current circumstances, including the slow return of commuters to New York City, the maximum number of 25 taxicab licenses customarily approved by the Board of Trustees for the past decade is adequate should there be a full return of pre-Pandemic activities.”

For these reasons, I recommend that the maximum number of 25 taxicab licenses be made available for the 2021-2022 year.

The Board approved the recommendation for a maximum of 25 taxis. Find the memo here.

Public Comments

Joshua Mitts, a new resident to Scarsdale who is building a house on Sprague Road spoke about the traffic RFP approved by the Village Board. He called Scarsdale “a little slice of heaven,” but noted that traffic conditions on Sprague Road are dangerous and asked that measures be taken to slow cars, even before the results of the RFP are considered.

Tax Exemptions for Veterans

The Board held a public hearing on proposed changes to tax code to increase the maximum tax exemptions for veterans. Currently, the law provides for real property exemptions for veterans equal to fifteen percent of the assessed value of property, subject to a cap of $54,000, multiplied by the latest state equalization rate for the assessing unit. Veterans who served in a combat theater or combat zone of operations can receive an additional exemption of ten percent, subject to a cap of $36,000 multiplied by the latest state equalization rate for the assessing unit. Service-disabled veterans can receive an additional exemption equal to half of the veteran’s disability rating, subject to a cap of $180,000 multiplied by the latest state equalization rate of the assessing unit.

Under the new code, these tax exemption caps for qualifying military veterans will be increased to a maximum of $75,000, $50,000 and $250,000.

What effect would this have on the balance of Scarsdale taxpayers? Town wide it would increase the taxes on the average parcel by $3.62 a year, for a total impact of $21,402. It would impact 163 veterans.

Police Department Recruiting

The Board set a hearing date for October 26, 2021 on a policy change regarding the recruitment of police officers. Currently, only candidates from Westchester and adjoining counties are eligible. The new policy would allow the department to recruit from anywhere in New York State, which would increase the potential candidate pool. Trustee Lewis said, “This will enhance public safety by being fully staffed as a force and give us a better ability to recruit and hire across the state.”

There are currently five unfilled positions at the Police Department. As a result, they are paying more overtime, which is not cost efficient.

Parking Permits

Trustee Arest announced a change in the procedure for the sale of parking permits. Here's the news:

Any Scarsdale Village Resident who purchases a Christie Place permit or a Station Premium permit prior to 5PM on Monday, November 1st, will have a priority opportunity to renew their permit for the 2022-2023 period. All purchases to-date for 2021-2022 which qualify will also receive this benefit.

This opportunity is available only to Station Premium permits sold to Residents, and to Christie Place Annual Resident permits. Permit holders must have purchased the permit by Monday, November 1st, and maintained their 2021-2022 permit without it being returned or revoked at any time during the entire 2021-2022 permit year.

Applications must be received by the deadline in order to qualify.

This opportunity is only available for 2021-2022 permit holders for the upcoming 2022-2023 permit year.

There are a limited number of permits remaining in these lots. Permits are sold as first-come-first serve.

Qualifying permit holders will be alerted in Spring 2022 as to when and how they will have their priority opportunity for renewal.

Comments from Mayor Jane VeronVeron2021Mayor Jane Veron

Here are comments from Village Mayor Jane Veron given at the opening of the meeting:

Good evening and welcome to our October 12 Village Board meeting.

Tonight we are focusing on revisions to code. Making legislative changes are essential so that we institutionalize new thinking to guide our Village forward. This Board and new staff leadership are hyper-focused on the future, and we have begun a comprehensive look at opportunities for improved service and governance. Our new strategic framework affords focus on the behind the scenes engines that operationalize government, our Enablers: Law, Technology, Communications, and Personnel.

Over the past several months, there has been extensive discussion and deliberation on several matters of law, but until codified, we continue to live with the status quo. Given our desire to turn important conversation into reality, and this evening we are tackling a few this evening:

-Telecom Code
-Veteran Property Tax Exemption
-Police Residency Requirements
Two weeks from today, on October 26, we will address another, Marijuana Dispensary and On-site Consumption legislation.

Earlier tonight in our work session, we reviewed draft legislation to update and strengthen our telecom code. The goal is to provide the maximum amount of local regulatory control afforded to us under the law. It is particularly important to address code changes as we work with carriers to close coverage gaps in Scarsdale, which are both inconvenient and troublesome from a public safety perspective. After we finalize our draft, the next step will be a Planning Board referral as well as a subsequent public hearing prior to considering the proposed changes for adoption. We encourage public discussion as the process continues to advance.

There are two resolutions on our agenda that propose modifications to code. The first recommends adopting the County’s increase to property tax exemption caps for veterans. The cost to tax payers is minimal, approximately $3.60 per average parcel, yet the amendment will demonstrate to our veterans our highest appreciation for their service to our country. The second change to local law would expand residency requirements for police officers. By broadening our geographic area, Scarsdale will join the vast majority of police departments in Westchester who recruit officers from multiple New York State counties in addition to Westchester. The proposed change will enable Scarsdale to expedite the filling of vacancies, easing the burden on current staff and reducing the overtime budget.

There are two more items to report before I close. For those of you who didn’t join last week’s work session, the board reviewed the draft RFP for our Complete Streets/Village Center Mobility and Traffic Calming study. Our goal is twofold: 1. to take a comprehensive look at the Village Center and surrounding streets with an eye toward mobility, safety, and placemaking. 2. To seek innovative strategies to allow for the peaceful coexistence of pedestrians, bikers and drivers as well as to calm streets throughout our beautiful Village. We seek to hire a firm who can take a holistic view of our challenges and propose creative solutions to test, adapt and then roll out across Scarsdale.

My final news tonight has been in the works since we started our term: a redesigned budget process. Led by our new Village Treasurer Scaglione and our new Village Manager Cole, we will be instituting an approach to budgeting that puts into action our desire to integrate strategic and financial planning. We have a lot of work ahead as we systematize, digitize and synchronize our efforts, but you will start to see the inner workings unfold as we get deeper into the fall. I will leave the rest to our Village Manager to report.

Before I turn over the mic, a quick reminder to join us for Coffee with the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and most importantly our new Village Manager on Wednesday, October 20, from 5:30-7 pm in the Dine the ‘Dale tent.

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