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Zoning Board of Appeals June 24, 2020 Minutes

Chair Douglas Purcell opened the public hearing at 7:00pm.

Members of the public in attendance: Fred Franko (Hyman Hayes Associates, LLC), Town of Caroga Supervisor Scott Horton representing the property owner (Town of Caroga), Gavin Vuillaume (Environmental Design Partnership), Robert Britton (Director of Engineering, Nathan Littauer Hospital), Geoffrey Peck (Vice President and Executive Director of Nathan Littauer Foundation).

Chair Douglas Purcell: With it being 7:00pm, I am going to open tonight’s meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals. This meeting is being conducted as a tele-conference in compliance with NY governor Andrew Cuomo's Executive Order of March 12, 2020, number 202.1, and extended through July 6 with Executive Order 202.38. James [McMartin Long, Clerk], if you would call the roll, please?

Clerk James McMartin Long: Sure, and before I do so, we’re still getting a little bit of background noise: possibly feedback on somebody’s device. If you are not talking, I encourage you to self-mute and unmute yourself whenever you need to speak.

Clerk James McMartin Long: Chair Douglas Purcell?

Chair Douglas Purcell: Here.

Clerk James McMartin Long: Kenneth Coirin?

Kenneth Coirin: Here.

Clerk James Long: Frank Malagisi?

Frank Malagisi: Here.

Clerk James Long: Kathleen Ellerby?

Kathleen Ellerby: Here.

Clerk James Long: And, John Byrnes?

John Byrnes: Here.

Clerk James McMartin Long: Quorum.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Thank you very much. At this point, I would ask if there are any changes or additions to the meeting minutes of April 2, 2020?

Chair Douglas Purcell: Hearing none, I would ask for a motion to accept the minutes as published

Motion: Kathleen Ellerby moved to accept the minutes as published. Kenneth Coirin seconded the motion. All board members were in favor.

Chair Douglas Purcell: The minutes are accepted. Before starting to address the open application before this board, I want to put on record the following notice that was returned as undeliverable for tonight’s application, to “James D. Smith”. This will be two-part hearing for tonight's application: a public session, followed by a closed session. We will hear from the applicant. During this time, the board will refrain from questions or comments as this will be done in closed session. We will entertain comments from the public and then hear any correspondence.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Tonight’s application Z2020-05, by Nathan Littauer Hospital for the property at 1840 State Highway 10 and identified as parcels 68.9-3-2 and 68.9-3.3. The applicant proposes to build a new 1,350 square foot “Micro clinic” adjacent to the Caroga Town Hall to replace the Nathan Littauer Hospital clinic currently located inside the town hall. At issue are front and side yard setbacks as well as prohibited use. Before we begin, for the record, I will state that the Caroga Town Board made a resolution at their meeting of June 17 to have the two parcels in question combined. The Town Sole Assessor has been notified of this request. With the combination of the two lots, the side yard setback on the north side of the proposed structure is no longer at issue. The south side yard setback and front yard setback remain at issue. And, at this point, I would like to ask who is going to speak for the applicant and if somebody would go ahead and tell us about the project.

Gavin Vuillaume: OK, I think I will start things off. My name is Gavin Vuillaume with Environmental Design Partnership. We are the site engineers for the project. James [McMartin Long, Clerk], are we going to be looking at a map this evening or do we need to?

Chair Douglas Purcell: I can bring it up if you like.

James Long, Clerk: I can put something up or, Doug [Purcell, Chair] do you want to do this?

Gavin Vuillaume: We don’t need to have it. It’s up to you.

James Long, Clerk: The Board is entirely familiar with the map and it is online if anybody wants to go to it.

Gavin Vuillaume: Again, we are the site engineers for the project. A little bit of history is that we did present the site plan to the Planning Board back on June 3. The plans were very well received. The Board was happy with the location of the building. They were happy with the existing treatments to the existing conditions on the site. If you can remember how the plan looked, essentially, we have the building itself on the southern portion of the property, which borders a residential piece of property. Again, remember with this project, we are in a “C” Conservation zone. We’re not too sure how things ended up that way. Perhaps because it was the golf course, but we are surrounded by essentially Hamlet zoning. So, the site plan itself is really kind of laid out more in the Hamlet zoning character. The building itself is situated approximately 25 feet from the front yard. In the Conservation zone, we’re required to have 50 feet of setback, but in the Hamlet it is 25 [feet], so we’re actually 22 [feet] – I’m sorry, 22 feet is what we proposed and in the Hamlet it is 25 [feet]. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with the 50 foot setback. The existing parking lot will remain essentially as is. That is the reason why we placed the building as it is located on the site plan, so it is not to disturb the existing driveway or the existing parking spaces, which the micro-clinic would be using. They will be using, I believe, only eight parking spaces. There’s approximately forty within the existing field parking for the town hall, so there’s plenty of parking, however, again, we do not want to loose any parking by placing the new building. Along the side of the property, where we need our other variance, again we are 22 feet from the property line and the zoning requires us to be 30 feet. Again, also, keep in mind that the Hamlet would require 20 feet, so we would be meeting the side yard setback for the building. The third variance that is required for the project is the overall lot area. The overall lot area, if you combine the two parcels that were described by Doug [Purcell, Chair], we add up to 1.70 acres and within the Conservation zone, you need two acres. So, we need 0.30 acres variance for the overall parcel. Again, there’s plenty of room on the site for the storm water management, which we’ve presented to the Planning Board. We also showed them the location of a trash enclosure that would be proposed. We’re connecting to the existing sanitary sewer and the existing well. So very little of the site is really being disturbed other than the placement of the new building. So, that’s pretty much – most of those are the three major variances. There’s the land use portion of the variance. I think Fred [Franko, architect with Hyman Hayes] was going to talk a little bit about the usage of the building as far as hours of operation – how the property would be used by Nathan Littauer. And, Fred [Franko], if you want to give them a quick little description of those items and how the Use Variance comes into play, that would be great.

Fred Franko: Sure, the actual occupancy will be a business occupancy for a outpatient clinic. It is related to the existing clinic that is currently inside the main building in the old school. Nathan Littauer is to try to increase and sort of establish themselves as a healthcare provider for the area. So, that’s the primary function of what we’re looking for at this building. The hours of operation will be typically 8 [am] to 5 [pm], Monday through Friday with no other additional hours planned at this point. And, the load on the parking on the building will be similar to – at least to start off with – what is currently utilized inside the main building at the [old] Wheelerville School. So, that covers it in the short definition.

Gavin Vuillaume: OK, I guess that’s really all we have as the initial presentation and we can answer any questions you folks may have.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Scott [Horton, Town Supervisor], did you want to weigh in on the …

Scott Horton: I’ll weigh in on the use [variance] and what the town saw as a benefit of this. Several months ago, I had a conversation with Geoff Peck of Nathan Littauer Hospital and he floated the idea of putting in a clinic and we had discussed other areas that may be used, like across the road, but it did not meet the needs of the Hospital [Nathan Littauer Hospital]. The Hospital is running this clinic, according to him [Geoff Peck] – I can’t speak for the Hospital. According to him, this is a marginal facility, but they see that the need is here and they think that they can expand. They do not want to be in the town hall building any longer. They’ve had issues with the town hall building, and it cannot be retrofitted to be what they felt that they needed. And so, it was basically put to me in a very kind fashion that if they couldn’t have something else that they would probably leave altogether. Certainly, the town’s position is that we don’t want to loose them. I think it’s been a resource that maybe a lot of people do not know that’s available, myself included. I only recently started going there for my blood work. I found it extremely convenient. So, there’s been good support from the town board. The Zoning Board [of Appeals] has their considerations. I think that we’d like to see this go through. You’ve got to decide what’s best for both the applicant and the town. That’s great, but there is a lot of support for it and whatever you can work out with the applicant, I think it’s fine. It would be nice to see it go through. I think the – some how or another, the Conservation district, right in the middle of Hamlet district: I have no idea how that happened. But, we’re supportive of it and I just want to make sure that the project is done properly. That’s obviously why the Zoning Board [of Appeals] and the Planning Board have their reviews. I think that’s pretty much it. That’s all the information I have other than, you know, there’s still a lot more steps. None of these projects, you know, you do this – you come up with an idea – you come up with a conceptual drawing. Then, you have to go to Planning Board, Zoning Board [of Appeals] sometimes. Then, you also have to go back to the town and negotiate a lease – which we are just beginning to do. And, that lease has not been presented to the Town. The Town asked Nathan Littauer if they would present the lease, so that we know exactly what it is that they are looking for from the townspeople on that facility. And, it has been mentioned already – water and sewer – that seemed to make the most amount of sense. I do believe – and the applicant can respond to this – they’re going to have their own electrical service. Parking has been discussed. That will be a Planning Board issue. So, there’s more things to go through, but, you know, generally I would say it’s favorable from the Town’s perspective. The details are really something that has to be worked out. So, anybody has a question for me I’d be happy to answer it.

Chair Douglas Purcell: The economic justification as to why the current facility cannot be upgraded to meet their needs to help with the economic justification? One of the biggest things that you run into with regard to trying to get a Use Variance is the financial aspects of getting the return on the property. The Town is the property owner. I’m looking to hear some words that talk about the economics as to why it is more desirable to have a use that is not permitted moved to property as opposed to fixing up where it is. And then, from a standpoint of the applicant with the building: I believe that there is some financial impetus that keeps you from moving to the Town Center, where this might be permitted.

Scott Horton: Doug [Purcell, Chair], the applicant should answer that.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Well, I’m going to you, as the Town because you’re the property owner.

Scott Horton: Yes.

Chair Douglas Purcell: I’m looking for some economic justification from you as to why you would want to give them a lease on a piece of property where it’s not permitted as opposed to bringing up to standards the existing facility to meet their needs.

Scott Horton: Well, great question. The use, obviously there might be more square footage being used, but it is all going to be for the same purpose that is now existing in the current town hall building and the town hall building has issues. We know that, from the Town’s standpoint. And, we can not facilitate their needs. They – it was told to me that their reimbursement from Medicaid is reduced if they leave that current facility that they are in and move more than 200 feet. That’s why they couldn’t go across the road. The Town certainly would like to continue to receive the revenue that they are currently getting, which is $500 a month. We’re still talking about that: what the proper rent is. And, obviously, the Town Board has to, has to review the proposed new rent for that property. I think that there is an economic impact on the Town’s part, if we should loose that. And, that is certainly a concern of mine as well as the public benefit.

Chair Douglas Purcell: And, I’m not trying to give you a hard time Scott [Horton, Supervisor]. I’m just trying to get it put into the record.

Scott Horton: No, absolutely. No, I – absolutely. I think that’s important for the public.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Fred [Franko], you were supposed to be getting some information with regard to the impact of what a move of more than 200 foot was.

Fred Franko: I have that information. I think that we have Geoff Peck [Vice President and Executive Director of Nathan Littauer Foundation] attending as well, who might be qualified to explain the nuances of it. I’ll say something about use of the existing building. The use of the existing building is a little problematic due to a lot of the issues that they have with the existing school building. It’s got roof issues and mold issues and mechanical issues and structural issues and I think that, as a justification, it would be a problematic investment for Littauer to actually put money into the building, depending on what its future status might be. On the other hand, Littauer is very interested in maintaining a presence. And, I think they see a potential for growth in the area and they want to continue their commitment for the area. Now, if they were to depart from the site where they are currently listed with the DOH [New York State Department of Health], they have certain implications about what kind of reimbursement that they would get where they would be most disadvantageous to actually move from that site. And, I think I’ll toss the ball over to Geoff [Peck] for a minute just to kind of explain how that process works. Geoff [Peck]?

Geoffrey Peck: Sure. A couple things. One, to go to the existing building. The existing building – from what I understand it from Scott [Horton] – is that the school was never built with the idea of having multiple tenants. It was build for the sole use of the school district. And then, through whatever means, it became the town hall when the school vacated the property. The renovation that would necessary to bring the Littauer space up to current specification for occupancy by a medical clinic would require the entire facility being renovated: a new roof on the entire facility; a new HVAC system for the entire facility; mold remediation for the entire facility. Which is probably outside of scope of what the town would be willing to pay to keep that clinic in that building. For us it’s – Scott [Horton, Supervisor] was pretty closes with his explanation of the 200 foot rule, but what that really is: It’s not 200 foot from the existing address. It’s New York State had a change where clinics owned by a hospital that are further than 200 feet away from the hospital facility are actually treated negatively by Medicare. A large core portion of our clinic population is the Medicare population: a little bit older population. We already lose money at Caroga Lake. And, to lose another on average 15 percent per visit would be prohibitive to keep doing business. So, we need to stay at the same physical address that we are registered at with Medicare right now and that’s what we’re looking to accomplish by building a new building on this site. To answer the question economically: why would we want to stay here if we’re losing money? We do it for two reasons. One, it’s a service that we provide that would otherwise have no access to medical care. There is no medical care between Speculator and Gloversville. So, we always felt that this was a great kind of cut-off point, especially in the summer time with so many residents around the lakes in the southern Adirondacks that are able to use those clinics. The second reason that we justify the use there is that because it’s a fairly low volume clinic, especially in the off-months, staff can be dual-purpose to do screening pulls. For example, if we’re calling to make sure everybody in our patient population gets in for a colonoscopy, then the staff at Caroga when they don’t have as many patients as they do in the summer, can make those phone calls. So, they have other things that they do that generate usage by the hospital as a whole. And also, the part that keeps the clinic marginally feasible on a financial level is that folks that come to the Caroga Clinic for their primary care and for their blood draws and services that are offered there are also referred to the Hospital and the specialists at the Hospital for areas that we actually do make a little money on: Diagnostic imaging and mammography and laboratory services and outpatient surgery and things like that. So, it feeds the whole, which makes it financially work for us. And, we do feel, if you look at the geography that Littauer now encompasses with our now eleven outpatient clinics, we have a ring around the Hospital and we’ve really filled all of the gaps. And, Caroga is the last outdated facility that we really – we want to have a facility that Caroga residents can be proud of and create something that is really a positive influence in the community and hopefully other development will come up around. So, we always say that education and healthcare are the pillars of economic development. And, you’ve got a great school in Wheelerville and if we can build a great medical clinic then Caroga can be off to the races even more.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Thank you very much. I appreciate that and I have a better understanding of the explanation of the financial impact. You mentioned that there’s nothing between Gloversville and Speculator. Don’t you have something in Mayfield?

Robert Britton: We have a clinic in Mayfield, yes. But, for anyone in Arietta or going north, there’s nothing going north from Caroga.

Chair Douglas Purcell: I agree.

Robert Britton: OK. And, nothing west.

Chair Douglas Purcell: That one I will go along with. OK. Is there anybody else that would like to speak that’s in the audience before we go to the board?

Chair Douglas Purcell: James [Long, Clerk] was there any correspondence?

James Long, Clerk: No sir.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Alright. Then, hearing nobody else say that they want to speak, I’m going to close the open session at this time.

Closed the open session 7:24 pm.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Before I turn it over to the Board, I want to point out that as the applicant is seeking a determination on a Use Variance, in this case within 500 feet of a state highway, this application will need to be referred to the Fulton County Planning Board pursuant to General Municipal Law, Section 239-m. This application must be considered complete by us before we can make the referral. So, for the Board, I want to go through the list of things we require in order to make a consideration to make sure that we feel that we’ve go everything that we need. The first thing is: do we have an application? And, I’m pretty confident that we have an application sitting out there on the web and everybody should have received a copy of that application. Everybody agree with that?

All Board members said “yes”.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Good. Plot plan with accurate dimensions and sufficient information for us to make an informed decision. It is a very detailed plot plan out there. Agreed?

All Board members say “yes”.

Chair Douglas Purcell: A narrative describing the existing and/or proposed use and operation, together with the justification for the request consistent with the criteria identified to approve the requested variance. James [Long, Clerk], you’re going to have a little bit of a job here because a lot of that is in the discussion so far. Agreed?

James Long, Clerk: Agreed, but the minutes will have to serve as that justification as part of the completeness of the application.

Chair Douglas Purcell: The rest of the Board feel comfortable with that?

The Board assented.

Chair Douglas Purcell: And the last thing is the Short Form SEQR. I know that the Short Form is out there [on the website]. Everybody’s had a chance to at least see it. For the record, I was attending Planning Board meeting where the Site Plan Review was started and very specifically asked the Planning Board if the would agree to act as the lead agency in the SEQR review, should this variance request be ultimately granted, as a part of the Site Plan Review and they agreed to that.

James Long, Clerk: And, I submitted our claim to lead agency status to Fulton County and to the Adirondack Park Agency, and maybe others and I have not heard back from anyone.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Thank you, James [Long, Clerk]. So, therefore, as the Zoning Board of Appeals can take no action until the 239-m review is completed or thirty days have elapsed from the time the Fulton County Planning Board accepts the application as complete, I am also recommended a referral to our own Planning Board. I would like them to provide input for the reasoning behind the change in the Use Table with regard to the uses allowed in the Conservation district. And Gavin [Vuillaume], this goes back to a point you made at the very beginning of your presentation. Prior to 2019, the Conservation district was allowed for the municipal building uses through a Site Plan Review. The 2019 [Zoning] Ordinance took that away. And, Scott [Horton, Supervisor] for your record, I’m sending this back to the Planning Board because a lot of the things you talked about: the three, and five, and ten-year plan are all going to be coming back to us [the Zoning Board of Appeals] for a Use Variance, because you can’t move the [town] garage to a different location. You can’t put up a salt barn. You can’t put your town offices down on the fire department building under the current ordinance, because all of the Town property is zoned for Conservation district. So, I would like the Planning Board to give me the reasoning behind the change in the Use Table with regards to the uses allowed in the Conservation district. And also, for the record, I’m trying to get together with the New York State Department of State to talk to them with regards to governmental immunity from local zoning regulations. I can see in there where cities and federal are exempted from local zoning, but I don’t see anything with regard to villages and towns, short of going through about a nine-question “is this for the benefit of the community” kind of questionnaire, which I don’t think there would be a problem, but I want to have a better understanding of it. I think these are two things we can get accomplished during the time in which the Fulton County Planning Board is reviewing this application. And, James [Long, Clerk], you have, short of putting the minutes together, you have enough information to make the [application for section] 239-m [review] submittal to the Fulton County Planning Board?

James Long, Clerk: Yes, I do sir.

Chair Douglas Purcell: And, plenty of time to get it to them before their next meeting in July?

James Long, Clerk: Yes, their deadline is 5pm July 14 and we have plenty of time.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Great. So, with all of that said, I’m going to ask them to go ahead and make the submission, since we agreed that the, well – what do you think? Should I ask for a motion from the Board to say that the application is complete? Why don’t we do that. Could I have a motion?

Motion: Frank Malagisi move to declare the application complete. Kathleen Ellerby seconded the motion.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Why don’t you do a roll call vote.

James Long, Clerk: OK, Frank Malagisi?

Frank Malagisi: I accept.

James Long, Clerk: Kathleen Ellerby?

Kathleen Ellerby: I accept.

James Long, Clerk: John Byrnes?

John Byrnes: Yes.

James Long, Clerk: Kenneth Coirin?

Kenneth Coirin: Yes.

James Long, Clerk: Doug Purcell?

Doug Purcell: Yes. So, on that basis, we are going to ask you, James [Long, Clerk] to go ahead and submit the [application for] 239-m [review] to the Fulton County Planning Board. James [Long, Clerk], I’ll take care of the letter to the Planning Board requesting what I’m looking for them to tell me in hopes that they can get it on their agenda for the July meeting.

James Long, Clerk: The application [for section 239-m review] will go out very soon and it will be up on the web.

Chair Douglas Purcell: So, the next thing is I would ask for a motion to table any further discussion on this application at this time.

Motion: Kathleen Ellerby moved to table the application. Kenneth Coirin seconded the motion. All were in favor.

Chair Douglas Purcell: Then it is table. At this point, does anybody have any other business they’d like to bring before the board? Hearing none, then I’m going to ask for a motion to adjourn.

Motion: Kenneth Coirin moved to adjourn. Kathleen Ellerby seconded the motion. All were in favor.

Chair Douglas Purcell: We will get back to you with a date for when we follow up on.

The meeting adjourned at 7:32 pm.

Respectfully submitted
James McMartin Long
Town of Caroga Town Board Member,
Zoning Board of Appeals Clerk/Secretary

Copyright © James McMartin Long 2017-2021