Mohegan Lake Legal Defense Fund

History of this site

This site was originally set up to fight 3 of 5 zoning variances proposed by the FBC development at Sagamore Trail and Mohegan Ave that eliminates two single family homes while nearly quadrupling the parking and occupancy loads of the old Lakeland Jewish Center. That effort failed and the application is currently before the Planning Board.

While Save Mohegan Lake will continue to update you on that issue, we are moving on to all issues affecting the lake, such as Mohegan Lake Improvement District (MLID) meetings, agenda and budget. This site is not an official mouthpiece for MLID, but some updates will be provided on this site; the official site is located here.

We do it all here, so long as it's Mohegan Lake related. Feel free to submit comments, content, garage sale notices, police blotters, PSA's, essays on the virtues of our 105 acre ice rink, rants, raves, etc... We love it all.

Email: YorktownCode@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Residences

I'm just not clear as to whether the 3 or 4 zoning and tax lots being merged into 1 to make this project work consist of 2 or 3 residences, plus the church proper. Please click on the image above; my confusion is highlighted. Also, by "vacant," does Mr. Riina, PE, mean "occupied as daycare/school/meeting hall"?

It's common knowledge that the residences have been altered [legally?] from residences to different occupancies and uses; uses and occupancies not on file with the town of Yorktown.

"The property is bordered to the south, east, and west by residential use."

You may enlarge this partial copy of the planning board application, below, by clicking on it. You can read the first three pages of the document by clicking here.

What, may I ask, is the property bordered by on the northerly edge of the premises? [Is it still rhetorical if I answer it?]

It's bordered by "residential use" to the north, as well.

Site Plan

The developer has retained Joseph C. Riina, P.E.,of Site Design Consultants. Below you will find an engineer's report dated 12/10/2010, prepared for the developer.





Parking Is The Developer's Limiting Factor



Below you will find a detailed photograph showing 39 cars parked on "parcel B," as the developer refers to it. I wanted to correct my previous calculation of 44 cars.

I also want to note that, under the plan which proposes over a three-fold increase in legal occupancy, the developer proposes a net decrease of total parking spaces in "parcel B."

Under the proposed new development, where we see 39 cars parked below, this parking area/wetland will be decreased in area and a total of 27 spaces will be legal.


That's some "fuzzy math."

[ Click on the image below, to embiggen.]

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Non-Simultaneous Occupancy"

As FBC's architect will tell it to you, the entire building will never be occupied by more than 344 people on both floors. Ever. I take issue with that. Namely because it's based on a non-existent section of the code. If you can find any section, clause, article, etc...of our building code (Yorktown uses the New York State Uniform Building Code) that defines and outlines parameters for "non-simultaneous occupancy," then I will buy you, +1, dinner at Le Bernadin. Leave your citation, with contact information, in the comment section below.

[click on image; image get bigger]


2nd Floor:

1st Floor

Please note, this floor is never to be occupied while the 2nd floor sanctuary is. That's right, the nursery and classrooms will never be occupied while there is a sermon upstairs. At least that is the narrative being put forth by the design team. I'd like them to cite the section of the code that allows them to claim the entire first floor as "non-simultaneous occupancy."

This shows you that the code is absolutely silent on "non-simultaneous" occupancy. It's an undefined term and not allowed under any circumstance. Perhaps the Town Supervisor or Building Department Commissioner can grant a variance for such?

IBC article explaining why they don't like, or define, "non-simultaneous occupancy"

The Ugly Duckling

Good news: our swans are doing well in their nest across the street from FBC. If all goes well we should see a cygnet soon.


It's important to note that their nest is in the Town of Yorktown lot that, under the proposal, must be remediated to offset the net increase to the impervious surfaces on site (e.g. concrete and asphalt).

They propose to offset this adverse action by snuffing out the invasive species (phragmites) and planting native seeds. Great, but I'd like to point out that the entire area has not succumb to phragmites. More than half of that lot is already native plants, or lake, which is where our swans nest.

Also, I would like to point out that FBC already increased, without filing for approval and obtaining the required permits, to increase the amount impervious surfaces on the site. Let's just keep that in mind as we start this horse trade.

I present the below without commentary (it's already on the photo); click on image to embiggen:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Septic & Parking Area, Lakeland Jewish Center, Lake Mohegan, N.Y."

These are photographs of original documents in the Planning Board file for FBC's new development. They clearly show that the last documents approved by the town of Yorktown, NY, had 23 parking spaces.

Astonishingly, the building's septic and parking systems are designed for the following occupant loads (click on image below to enlarge):
"MAX OCCUPANCY - 80-100 PERSONS-3 HOURS-3DAYS A YEAR
USUAL OCCUPANCY 15-20 PERSONS-2-3 HOURS DAILY,
PARTY OR SUPPER - 80-100 PERSONS 3-4 HOURS ONCE A MONTH"


THERE ARE ONLY 23 LEGAL PARKING SPACES ON SITE TO SERVE THE 98 CARS (ON AVERAGE) THAT SHOW UP WEEKLY!


It's frightening to think that the septic and parking systems were designed to accommodate such a terribly modest occupant load; per this article in the Yorktown Examiner, the church accommodates 160-170 people on Sunday. Not to mention the additional loads totaling 4 to 6 days of septic and parking activity per week.

I hope the remediation of public lands required for the proposed new development takes into consideration the extreme overloading of the current septic and parking systems. It's a fact that organic waste plays a crucial role in the algae blooms that plague Mohegan Lake.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Forgotten Lot

You can click on the image below to enlarge it.

Above: aerial and black lines are from their architect's signed and sealed Zoning Board of Appeals application . I added the red(a lot shown on the zoning drawings and calculations, but omitted here) and blue(Lakeside Drive) lines to show what the architect has left of this sheet T-101 "Site Photographs Existing and Proposed."

I'm sure that was an honest mistake; but it's a mistake nonetheless. There are no less than two households that were not notified of the proposed zoning variance application which is immediately adjacent to and affected by the site of Faith Bible Church's proposed new development. I am requesting that the proper notifications be sent out and the application re-opened for public comment.

Click on this link and look at the last part of the form where it says "PLEASE TAKE NOTE."

Secrets Of Zoning

Click on the image below, to embiggen.
The above image is from the application on file with Yorktown's Zoning Board of Appleals, less the red lines and red text--which are mine. For the record: the height variance they are seeking is for "37 feet where 35 is required."

To give you a sense of scale, the standard distance between streets in the standard Manhattan grid, is 200'-10". 46 feet is ample room to fit four occupiable floors. Therefore, ZBA member Bob Fahey is not incorrect in stating it's a "4 story building." It is as high as a four story structure.

I challenge you, gentle reader, to find a building 46 feet in height or greater, inside the limits of the sleepy hamlet of Mohegan Lake. Post your answer in the comments and the first correct--verifiable answer wins brunch with me at Thyme.

As their attorney will tell it, this is a "modest," "pretty" development with "vast benefits" for the community. Not the community of Mohegan Lake, my friends.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Survey

This is the survey that was included with the Zoning Board of Appeals variance application on the public record obtained through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. You can click on the images, below, to make them appear larger.

Please note that the survey was done April 26th, 2004.

Also note that it is missing a lot that IS included in the Zoning Board of Appeals variance application.
Conclusion:The ZBA variance application filed in February of 2011 included a 7 year old survey; said survey omits a new lot purchased for the new development--however, the zoning drawings prepared by the architect for the ZBA application include a lot that was acquired after the survey was completed? Hmmmmm.




Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Missing Lot Is Missing...

The missing lot is missing from the legally required notifications to "interested parties."

Interesting.

I'm going to attempt to remove all emotion from this post and present you with two images.

Below: I took the liberty of drawing in Lakeside Drive and highlighting a lot that the architect omitted from sheet T-105.00 of his ZBA variance application. You can click on the image to enlarge it. Please note that this drawing is from the ZBA application file obtained through a FOIL request.



From the Yorktown Town Code:

Appeals.

A.

All appeals and applications to the Board of Appeals shall be taken in the manner prescribed by law and within such time as shall be prescribed by the Board of Appeals by general rule. All such appeals and applications shall be, in writing, on forms prescribed by the Board, and each appeal or application shall fully set forth the circumstances of the case. Every appeal or application shall refer to the specific provision of the chapter involved and shall exactly set forth, as the case may be, the interpretation that is claimed, the details of the adjustment that is applied for and the grounds for which it is claimed that the same should be granted or the use for which a permit is sought. Every decision of the Board of Appeals shall be recorded in accordance with standard forms adopted by the Board and shall fully set forth the circumstances of the case and the findings on which the decision was based.

B. In addition to all other papers and documents required to be submitted on an appeal or application to the Zoning Board of Appeals, the term "interested parties" shall mean the owner or owners of property immediately adjoining or abutting the parcel or parcels to which the appeal or application relates and the owner or owners of property directly across the road, street or avenue, if any abutting the parcel or parcels to which the appeal or application relates.


Image #2: I must credit my wife for making a map with "publicly available shape files," whatever that means. Pfffft. [Please click on the image to embiggen]

Monday, April 11, 2011

Let's Run The Numbers


The current occupant load of the existing site is approximately 160 people. That is based on the Yorktown Examiner article below (click on image below, to enlarge):


The proposed occupant load on file with Yorktown for FBC's new development is 344 people; that's over twice the current occupant load. They derive their parking capacity from a ratio prescribed by town zoning: for every 3 pew seats, there shall be 1 parking space.

Additionally, they are trying to claim the that the entire first floor of the building will never be occupied when the second is; I'll expound on that later in an essay entitled, "Non-simultaneous occupancy: pushing the envelope of responsible development in the modern age."

Based on photographs I've published previously(you can see them by clicking on this link), There are approximately 97-98 cars parked on and around the site on a typical Sunday; but for argument's sake, let's say there are 86 cars parked there, on average.

86 cars is what is proposed under the new development. Doubling the occupant load of a site that can barely support the occupancy of the much smaller church today is of concern.

I'm not against the church and I've expressed my concerns, in person, to Pastor Zottoli; he's acted in good faith and expressed a willingness to work with the community of Mohegan Lake. There was a working session of the Planning Board tonight, 4/11/11, which I observed. I'm positive that Faith Bible Church and the community of Mohegan Lake are going to get this done together, in a responsible manner.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Discrepancies.

The DOB memo written by and based on an inspection conducted by Glen G. Sneyd of the Yorktown Building Department (see below) indicates there is a church structure and two single family homes on the subject premises. That is much different from the The Zoning Board of Appeals application that indicates "three church structures."

Which one is it?

Click on the images, below, to enlarge.




If the Yorktown Building records still classify the buildings as single family homes, not "church structures," are they still on the tax rolls? If not, is the DOB concerned about the illegal conversion of such structures, or do we turn a blind eye to such illegal activity?

This Is Cute

(Click on image below to embiggen)

Six property owners were notified of the developers application before the Yorktown Zoning Board of Appeals

Please note that 3 of property owners adjacent to the sites to be redeveloped are The Town of Yorktown and the Town of Yorktown Parkland, all c/o Town Attorney, Jeannette Koster).

2 of the notified, interested parties were single family homes; my house and one other.

The last one notified was "Mohegan Vista Properties."

I propose an amendment to the Town Code to allow applicants for Zoning and Planning Board to notify the Town Attorney in a single mailing. This will cut down on paper waste and mailing costs to the applicant.

I am going to confirm with the Town Assessor that ALL adjacent properties were duly notified of the application, in accordance with the Town Code. Will keep you posted.

Friday, April 8, 2011

To Be Clear

I truly believe Faith Bible Church has been a good neighbor. From what I see, it's a strong, growing congregation of beautiful families. However, I do have deep concerns about how the proposed new building--strictly from an architectural, environmental, and town planning perspective--will affect our unique community.

I'm excited to have this discussion with all of us, Faith Bible Church included. We are going to do this right, together.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Adopted Comprehensive Plan - June 15, 2010

Yorktown had the foresight to adopt the subject legislation. You can read about the comprehensive plan by clicking on these blue words.

Blue Heron

This photograph was taken on 4/7/2011, directly across the street from the site of the proposed 4 story high building. For the record: Blue Heron are not an endangered species.

ZBA Meeting Will Be Rebroadcast 3 Times Today, March 7th, 2011

If you have an interest in the issue at hand, you can watch the entire presentation by FBC, and my objections during the hearing (over an hour long). It is rebroadcast on Cablevision, channel 20, at 10am, 2pm and 7:30pm(FBC presentation begins the second hour, so it should start at 11am, 3pm and 8:30pm). Keep in mind that this is the first time any details of the variance application were made public, so our initial objections were prepared on the spot.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"wiith the exception of the rear yard..." -Al Capellini

It's still unclear how any part of the variance will be "of vast benefit for the community," or "very, very pleasing," aesthetically speaking.

Talking point: the development presupposes a new sewer connection. The developer proposes a private sewer connection, with no provisions for additional load from the community behind the new development.

It would seem prudent--at a minimum--to at least size the infrastructure to accept additional sewage load for the community it serves. This not only benefits the community, but also the health of the lake by allowing households to abandon septic systems.

Comments from the community are welcome below.


video

History of Mohegan Lake

David O. Wright, Esq. has been a seminal force in documenting the history of Mohegan Lake. He's been called "the father of Mohegan Lake."

You can read the history he's meticulously compiled by clicking on this link(pt. 1), or this link(pt.2), or this link(pt. 3).

It's important that the people who live in our community have a voice in shaping the future of Mohegan Lake, and we can't make our voices heard--responsibly--without knowing the history of the area.

The Petition

The web petition we were using is not functioning properly. To sign the petition, please leave your name in the comment section below. A paper petition is on it's way around to you. It must be submitted before 3pm on October 3rd, 2011.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Board Laughs, Knowingly.

What you will see in the two videos below, truly qualifies as prestidigitation. Let's break it down:


The developer proposes to legalize an existing single family home. Then, he proposes to demolish the entire home, including the foundation. Once complete, he will demolish the house of worship on the same tax lot, along with another single family home on an adjacent tax lot. All tax lots must then be combined to allow for a new structure.

Then, the developer proposes that a new, 4 story, non-residential structure be allowed to utilize the variance granted to a single family home? After it is ripped out, foundation and all?

The architect claims he doesn't "increase the degree of non-conformity." That's a tenuous argument considering that the degree of non conformity is based on EXISTING STRUCTURES. Additionally, the proposal would increase the degree of "non-conformity" of the bulk of the building.

The developer is saying that he should be allowed to grandfather an existing house that is about 8 feet high; demolish that house; build a brand new building 37 feet high of different occupancy and use.

That's a magical argument, no?

At the end of the 2nd video, you'll note the architect says: "so, ya know, technically--yes--that part is gonna be new." It should be duly noted that when he says "part," he means "ENTIRE NEW BUILDING."
video video
This is a link to the Yorktown ZBA agenda hosted on the town's website that clearly states the application is" for a variance to legalize existing structures and allow construction of an addition with: 1) rear yard setback of 14’5” where 30 feet is required; 2) front yard setback of 29 feet where 30 feet is required; and 3) height of 37 feet where 35 feet is required in an R1-10 zone. Premises is located at 3500 Mohegan Avenue, Mohegan Lake, NY a/k/a Section 15.16, Block 2, Lots 50, 53, 54, 9 and 10 on the Tax Map of the Town of Yorktown."

Monday, April 4, 2011

"That's gonna be a monstrosity"

The brave man arguing that the proposed "4 story building!" will be a "monstrosity!" is Yorktown Zoning Board of Appeals member Bob Fahey. Thank you, Mr. Fahey. Please keep defending us from this monstrosity.

Thank God those microphones pick up hushed conversations so well (turn up your speakers; "monstrosity" is at the 40 second mark).

video

Existing vs Proposed vs Real Parking Requirements

Currently, the site has 60 legal parking spaces (update 4/22/2011: the only plan on file with Yorktown I've been able to obtain only shows 23 approved parking spaces).

The proposed new development will provide 86 legal parking spaces.

The photographs below were taken on 4/3/2011. 98 [!] vehicles were parked on site. Something does not add up. How can we increase the legal occupant load of the church well over 400%, increase legal parking 43% and turn a blind eye to responsible development of an environmentally sensitive, residential neighborhood?

Please note that not only are the quantity of cars an eyesore and nuisance, they pose a grave life-safety risk because the fire department cannot properly access these structures in the event of an emergency; considering that the structures are combustible, that should be of special concern to the community.

It's important to note that the 16 cars labeled above, to the right, are on Shrub Oak Lake Estates beach parking spaces.

About Our Cause

This website was built to document the adverse impact major zoning variances will have on our small, residential neighborhood.

At the end of the day, a variance is just that: a variance. A variance from the zoning laws of Yorktown.

We don't oppose all of the variances. Only 3 of the five, because they are major deviations from what the law allows: a 14.5 foot encroachment into a required 30 foot rear yard; a 12 foot retaining wall where only 4.5 feet are allowed; providing only a 2 foot side yard where 12 feet are required.

We are not saying the developer cannot use the land in a reasonable manner. However, we insist that those three zoning adversely affect our small, residential community and should not be granted. Approve the other two. We do not oppose the height of the building. We do not oppose the encroachment of the building 1 foot into the front yard. We have no objection to the board granting those variances.

Fact: the developer, as per there own traffic study submitted with an affidavit, already park upwards of 90 cars (more have been documented in photographs). They propose 86 cars for the new development. They also propose quadrupling (4 times more) the occupancy of the building. Fuzzy math.

The Zoning Board of Appeals must consider the FACT that the developer already expanded the premises. The park 40 to 50 cars where, as per Yorktown records, only 6 cars were allowed to be parked. Some of those 40-50 cars are parked on an adjacent lot that has no approvals for such. On top of all that, the applicant paved the wetland after purchasing the property. That assertion is supported by the survey John Marano, land surveyor, signed and sealed and is a part of the applicant's zoning variance application. It was gravel and smaller than it was when the survey was performed in 2004. We request that the board ask the applicant for a current survey and update the seven (7) year old survey. We ask that a current survey be a part of the developer's application.

This is a "grand plan," as several neighbors have attested to on the public record during several of the ZBA hearings. As evidenced by the Zoning Board's previous revocation of their previous approval of all five (5) of the zoning variances, the developer's team is willing to play fast and loose with the rules. The developer has hidden the most important details about this project from the start and only acknowledge them in passing. Originally, the application was "to legalize existing structures." After the Board was forced to revoke their approval, the application language was changed to reflect it's actually a new development.

We are facing an uphill battle. The developer began raising 1.3 million dollars to develop this site (see video below). We just wish they would have shared this grand vision more transparently. We oppose it and are recommending that it be scaled down to conform with the character of the neighborhood.

One would be wise to speak to a neighbor or two before embarking on a 1.3 million dollar new development in a small, residential, environmentally sensitive area. And if the community tell you it's too big, it is wise to take their input seriously instead of paying big bucks to the preeminent real estate attorney in Westchester, Albert Capellini, to make dubious legal arguments to build a mega-church type facility.

There is a school and nursery proposed--wholly apart from the church use--for 172 people with an auditorium for 325people! This is a use and occupancy that has never been legally established on the site. The school they propose requires a special use permit. The school use has NEVER BEEN ESTABLISHED ON THE SITE. That's a fact, if Yorktown records are taken at face value.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

"But Mr. Dalfino can correct that if it's incorrect."

video

I call upon Mr. Dalfino (project architect) to correct Mr. Capellini's (project attorney) misrepresentation of the facts.

Fact: The site in question is currently three separate tax lots. There are two single family homes and a very small house of worship (15' high) on those three tax lots. Combining those three tax lots, demolishing the two single family homes and small house of worship in order to build a new mega church (37' high, 4 story) and youth center.

How is demolishing two single family homes, to building a 4 story mega church and parking lot in keeping with the character of the neighborhood? Mr. Dalfino, please set the record straight.

They approved a variance for an existing single family home which encroaches 15 feet into a required 30 foot rear yard. Then, they allowed the developer to demolish that home, along with the adjacent house of worship, and another single family home on the other side of the church . After all three 1 story structures are completely removed--foundation and all--they feel it is appropriate to combine those three tax lots into one super lot and apply the rear yard variance they just granted to the single family home to a brand new 4 story, 37 foot high mega church.

If this variance stands, mark my words, I will sell my house to the church for parking. I own 1/2 acre immediately adjacent to the three lots they wish to combine. It's the only way this proposal could possibly work, from a responsible city planning aspect.

One of the variances that the ZBA granted allows the church rise 37 feet, 2 feet higher than zoning allows. While current zoning laws allow height of 35 feet, it MUST be noted that such a gesture would fly in the face of the neighborhood as it has existed since the 1920's. Demolishing 2 single family homes to create a 4 story mega church is offense to the spirit of this area. These variances subvert the very zoning laws that were put in place to control the density of residential communities.

We object--wholeheartedly--to granting a variance to allow a new building, created on three combined tax lot, a variance to encroach 15 feet (50%) into a required 30 foot rear yard. Especially when it's been proven that the proposed parking spaces, for the new development, would not satisfy the parking needs of the occupants in their current form!

"The short answer is, yeah, you can do it."

video"

Wow. That's surprising, to us.

A total of 86 parking spaces are proposed for the new development. Currently 60 legal parking spaces exist to serve the current. Last Sunday, we photographed 97 cars parked around Faith Bible Church.

Is it responsible to enlarge the existing house of worship 400-600% while increasing the legal number of parking spaces 43%? I'm not a mathematician, but that seems a bit extreme.

Expanding the church to 4 stories, effectively quadrupling the occupancy of the new development, adversely alters the character of the neighborhood.

Currently the confluence of Sagamore and Mohegan Avenues exist as the following structures: single family home, single family home, single family home, small house of worship for less than 100 people(legally), single family home, single family home, etc...

To alter the character of the neighborhood so drastically as to allow a 15 foot encroachment into a required 30 foot rear yard is irresponsible.