By Eileen Gallagher
A town board meeting on Tuesday was far less attended than “opening night” a week ago: three or four residents were present at this week’s meeting, along with a group of local reporters, including myself. Rob Greenstein, Town Supervisor, announced that he welcomed and encouraged more participation.
The message from Town Hall is clear: Whether in person or through the internet, either by e-mail or real-time chat, the community is urged to take part in town meetings. In fact, as a motion was being made to approve the tying of ribbons on trees throughout town to raise awareness of mental health, the first “chat” popped up on the computer screen situated on the dais.
This was part of the new addition to live streaming, the ability to interact with the board members by submitting questions as the meeting is taking place. Note that the website for live streaming is www.new.livestream.com/nccmc.
One caveat regarding this participation is that the writer of any questions or comments must identify themselves and be aware that their name will be read aloud. In other words: no anonymous chatting. This input will be as much a part of the meeting as in-person comments. Just as anyone wishing to comment at the meeting must approach the microphone and state their name and address, so must virtual meeting attendees wishing to be heard, Greenstein explained.
Christine Yeres of New Castle Now, after publicly stating her name and affiliation, questioned whether it was legally required for people to identify themselves, and if this was written anywhere in the town code. After some discussion, the new town counsel, Nicholas Ward- Willis of the law firm Keane and Bean, stated that it is sufficient as an established procedure of the town meetings to require this information.*
In other news, a revision of a previous appointment was proposed by Greenstein, who explained that Bob Kirkwood would still be the fifth member of the planning board as announced last week, but would not become the chair of this board until July 1st, after the completion of the transition period. Dick Brownell would remain in his post as chair through June 30th. Town board members Elise Mottel and Jason Chapin both abstained from voting on this matter, stating that it was for the same reasons explained during the previous meeting. Greenstein and Brodsky voted to approve, but the two votes were not enough to enact the change. (Board member Lisa Katz was not in attendance.) Thus, the proposal was not accepted, and Bob Kirkwood remains the Planning Board chair for the time being.
Activities by the Millwood Task Force were addressed including recalibration of lights at the Rt. 100/Taconic intersection and the removal of additional snow piles at the A&P Shopping Center. The Task Force, Greenstein noted, is seeking two new applicants; they meet monthly on Thursdays at the Firehouse on Rt. 134.
According to Jill Shapiro, town administrator, preliminary investigative work pertaining to the expansion of the town’s Saw Mill Sanitary Sewer District* * has begun, and will go on until February 12. Code Red alerts were sent to the households in the vicinity of the affected areas. Between the hours of 7a.m. and 4 p.m., large trucks will be present in the areas surrounding Random Farms, Riverwoods, and the Yeshiva, where contractors will be performing soil borings, surveying, etc. on town property or within the town’s right of way. Additionally, video inspections of underground sanitary lines will be performed; again, on public roads and right of ways. Any questions will be answered by the New Castle Development Department at 238-4723, or the Department of Public Works at 238-3968.
Development of a restaurant (under the same ownership as Via Vanti of the Mount Kisco train station) at the Chappaqua train station is still in discussion, but not yet complete.
Town-wide property tax reevaluation and whether this is worthwhile was mentioned. “There is a consortium out there”, stated Greenstein, “but the cost is coming in a little higher than people had expected.” The town assessor, Phill Platt, is working with the consortium in putting together a cost benefit analysis. “There would be a benefit if the county or state paid for [property tax re-evalation],” Greenstein went on to explain. In the meantime, “there are between six and eight towns looking to be part of this consortium, but everyone seems to be waiting to see what the others are doing.”
As for the Master Plan, apparently there is no funding available in the 2014 budget to pursue a paid, professional quality process, but the hope is that community residents in the public research field will come forward to offer their expertise.*** As Elise Mottel reminds us, “our [town board’s] hands are tied by the property tax cap,” which has been a challenge in budgeting over the past few years.
* As a side note, anonymity in commenting at New Castle Now has been a highly debated topic in town, particularly during the highly contentious election period. The debate centers on whether there is enough value to the community in this practice to justify the frequently offensive, needlessly hurtful and potentially disingenuous commentary anonymous posting permits. After careful consideration, the policy here at Inside Chappaqua: all commenters must identify themselves.
**The project runs from the existing Fox Hollow Wastewater Treatment Plant and travels south through Random Farms and continues south to Route 100 (Saw Mill River Road). The pipeline connects to a Westchester County sanitary sewer manhole in the Town of Ossining. The project involves 38,074 linear feet of pipeline (20,843’ 6” forcemain and 17,231’ 10” gravity); creation of four pump stations (including conversion of Fox Hollow and Random Farms Waste Water Treatment Plants to pump stations); and 26 manholes.
*** The Town of New Castle is seeking a qualified consultant to assist the town with obtaining public opinion regarding several topics/issues/ideas related to housing, commercial development, the environment, public services and recreation and public infrastructure. The consultant will be required to synthesize a multi-faceted public outreach program consisting of one or two charetttes, public meetings, social media and surveys. We [town board] are hoping that we can find a local firm to provide such services on a pro-bono basis. For more information, contact Rob Greenstein at 914-238-7281, or e-mail email@example.com