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.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2/25/13 Memo to the Planning Board

I wanted to share this memo I wrote to the planning board over the weekend in my professional capacity regarding the Faith Bible Church application.  I firmly believe that the church does great works but believe the occupancy has been should not be expanded beyond what they've illegally expanded to already.  Demolish the two legal single family homes and build bigger, but let's be honest with ourselves about the parking limitations. They already park 92 cars but are only proposing 64 normal parking stalls (per Site Design engineers of Yorktown, their own engineer--in a study done about 2 years ago).  

Much more to come.  The approval of this application likely come quickly.  Now is the time to start paying attention.  I've included straight text of this images below in case you are having trouble reading the scans of the letter I delivered.

The way we're positioned, it's going to be a crazy finish to this application.  Click on the "read more" link below to "read more."


February 25, 2013

Planning Department
Yorktown Community & Cultural Center
1974 Commerce Street, Room 222
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598

Re: Faith Bible Church, 3500 Mohegan Avenue

Yorktown Planning Board Members:

I am unable to attend tonight’s working session, but respectfully request you seek answers to the following questions before allowing this application to proceed to a public hearing.  I believe that the public deserves answers to these critical questions that, left unanswered, will have a major  and detrimental impact to the character of the neighborhood.  

All of the building code and zoning questions and comments are written in my professional capacity as a Cooper Union trained architect (see attached diploma) and as senior building code and zoning consultant employed by Brookbridge Consulting Services Inc. for over 10 years.

The questions are:

  1.  Has the town traffic consultant (Jacob’s) confirmed that the applicant’s traffic engineer’s (Maser--formerly John Collins) response to the myriad technical questions raised are acceptable and meet all code requirements? Maser originally stated the project was compliant. Jacob’s raised many valid questions and had several comments.  Based on the records in the planning file, it appears that Jacob’s has not reviewed the Maser response.  It would seem that Jacob’s should review the responses and say something to the effect of, “OK, I see what you did there.  I agree your traffic study is now compliant.” Or is this an instance of allowing the applicant to self certify compliance of the objections/comments raised by the Jacob’s review?
  2. Is the board aware of any code or local law that allows for the applicant to not design the parking to satisfy the full occupancy of the building by claiming that the entire first floor is “non-simultaneous occupancy?  The only code in the nation that mentions it at all is the 1968 New York City Building Code (not applicable to this project) which was superseded in 2008 and that only allows for not calculating that occupant load (not the parking load) for egress purposes of ancillary spaces on the same floor of a building.  It is intended for spaces such as bathrooms, locker rooms, closets.  Section 27-358(c) non simultaneous occupancy included below for your reference.  The State Uniform Code and IBC are silent on the matter and have only opined in passing that it is a bad idea that is completely unenforceable.  Non-simultaneous occupancy is not a concept supported by code.  Can the board cite any other project approved in Yorktown that has claimed an entire floor to be of “non-simultaneous occupancy”? If so, please let me know the address so I can research the specifics.
  3. Is the board aware of the 5 terms and conditions of the deed of the northwesterly parking lot (deed was provided by applicant’s attorney and is a part of the planning and zoning file) that allows the members of the adjacent homeowner’s association (Shrub Oak Lake Estates) to park their cars on that lot “at all times and at no cost?”  This would include Sunday mornings during services.  There are more members of SOLE than there are spots to park and it is not inconceivable that--for, say inclement weather or a Mohegan Lake festival--all spots may be occupied fully by SOLE members on a Sunday morning.  Therefore, I do not believe that the number of parking spaces on the lot covered by the subject deed could count toward satisfying the zoning code requirements for the proposed development; Faith Bible certainly has a legal right to park there as well, but these spaces may not be available every time they are needed.  SOLE maintains a deeded right to park on that parcel and remains an active homeowners association.  Is the board aware that the applicant has already enlarged the church without Yorktown approval or permit to an approximate weekly service for 200 people?  Please refer to the Glen Sneyd memo in the planning file indicating that the two houses were converted without approval or permit in violation of Yorktown laws.  Additionally, the requisite special use permits to operate the houses for church functions was not obtained.  It is unclear why there has been no enforcement of this illegal activity after numerous correspondence outlining these indisputable facts.
  4. Is the board aware that the character of the project area that encompasses two homeowners associations is that of small (some well under 1,000 square feet), cottage houses that were originally used as summer vacation homes and became year round residences over time?  When I purchased my house (and to this day) I researched the area and, per Yorktown Building records and tax assessment records, I live next to two tiny houses and a house of worship allowing a max load of 100 people and 23 cars for 3 days a year (the High Holy days for the old Lakeland Jewish Center), with a normal occupant load of 35 max.  Recently I became acquainted with the former occupant  (Rich) of one of the illegally converted homes. He now lives on Cooper Street in SOLE but had formerly lived in the home until 8 years ago. The applicant has already altered the character of the neighborhood and increased the occupant and parking loads without approval or permit (illegally). There are no exemptions for churches to existing and valid laws.  
  5. Is the board aware of the Site Design Parking Study in the applicant’s file that shows that this specific operation requires a much higher ratio (2.3 to 2.7 cars per pew seat) of cars to serve the parishoners. Additionally, the study indicated that the current occupant load requires more parking spaces than is currently proposed for the new development which is many times larger than the existing structures.  The study showed that  90 cars were parked to support a congregation of 242 people.  Of note: It is unclear how 86 stacked spaces can accommodate the proposed 344 people and they already park more than 86 cars, the max number of STACKED spaces they are proposing.   Based on the applicant’s own engineer’s parking study the best ratio they can achieve is 2.7 people per car.  That means that to support 344 people, in reality, they require more than 127 parking spaces! (344/2.7=127.4) So, based on Joe Riina’s study at Site Design, the applicant requires over 127 parking spaces on their best day.  I believe it is imperative that the board take this fact into account when considering the special use permits.  Code minimum is 4 people per car for design purposes, but based on the documentation in the planning file, this particular occupancy and use requires much more parking. Stacked spaces do not satisfy zoning requirements.  Therefore, the architect’s statement on sheet T-104.00 is incorrect and the applicant’s proposal does not satisfy the minimum zoning requirements.
  6. Is the board aware that Site Design’s signed and sealed “Engineer’s Report” of the new development which shows that the building is to be used as both a school and a church?  Sewer load calculations show that the first floor can “alternatively be used as a school” and calculations for such (not a Sunday school, that’s ancillary to the church use).  In a meeting with Pastor Zottoli and about 13 local residents, some minor details of the school’s discounted music lessons were discussed.  No formal details of the school appear in the planning file.  It should be noted that in this same report, Joe Riina states that “[i]t is proposed to demolish all existing buildings.”  It is unclear why tonight’s agenda refers to this project as “Proposed additions to existing one-story church building and associated parking.”  You can’t add to an existing structure if you are proposing to demolish that structure.  I defer to the board’s legal counsel on this matter, but would be shocked and awed if she didn’t agree with my opinion.    .  
  7. Is the board aware that the proposed 1st floor has a higher occupant load of 378 people than the second floor of 344.  Setting aside the fact that “non-simultaneous occupancy” isn’t supported by any code or local law, the first floor is going to be occupied at some point, yet the building is not being designed to fully accommodate that floor when occupied--let alone the full occupancy of the building.  The professional standard is to design everything (including parking) for the highest possible load.  By the flawed non-simultaneous occupancy argument, the applicant would still need 94.5 spaces to satisfy the 4 standard stalls required by zoning.  The applicant is only proposing 64 standard stalls, and that does not even satisfy the 2nd floor occupant load which is less than the first floor occupant load.
  8. The standard parking stalls proposed only accommodate an occupant load of 252 persons.  It would be unprecedented and unwise to allow the building to be designed for an occupant load that can’t be supported.  I now understand that overloading of parking and occupancy occurs in certain instances.  Stacked parking is a thing that happens, but omitting the ENTIRE FIRST FLOOR seems a bit extreme since it is based on a non-existent section of the applicable code.
  9. Where is the “remote parking lot,” referenced in the Maser traffic report, to be accessed by shuttle service?  Is it in Yorktown?  I assume it occurs on a zoning lot somewhere, right?  Is this being used to satisfy any of the code required parking?  I assume that there will be a legal parking easement or restrictive declaration for any remote parking locations associated with this project, right?  Will the location be disclosed to the public?  Is it the park and ride over in Jefferson Valley?  CVS at Mohegan and Rte 6?
  10. Has the applicant submitted a lighting plan?  Currently they use a series of high power flood lights aimed all over the church, the two homes and wetland parking lot.  It’s rather offensive and, as a neighbor I would like to know this situation will be remedied under the new development.  I assume there’s no mechanism to enforce these unapproved lights, right?

I respectfully request that the board answer these questions before opening this application for public discussion. There is no argument that, in the current form, the project does not have enough standard parking stalls for a church of 344 people.

It is unfair to ask the public to consider an application that is not fully compliant with the applicable codes or have received the required variances for such.

And for the record, I’m not anti-religion or against Faith Bible Church, whatsoever.  I  count a couple FBC parishoners as friends.  FBC was on my mother in law’s shortlist of churches she attended for a time as well. Between you and me, she has said that she believes god’s plans for FBC are bigger than the current site.  

I thank you for your continued attention to this matter and volunteerism.

Kind regards,

Evan Bray
Senior Code Consultant
3496 Mohegan Avenue
Yorktown, NY 10547

1968 New York City Building Code Section 27-358(c):

Nonsimultaneous occupancy. -
The occupant load of
toilets, locker rooms, meeting rooms, storage rooms,
employee cafeterias, and similar rooms or spaces that are
not occupied at the same time as other rooms or spaces on
the same floor of a building, may be omitted from the
occupant load calculation of the floor on which they are
located to the extent that
such spaces serve occupied
rooms on the same floor.

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