We are writing in response to the letter that appeared in the Feb. 14 edition of Yorktown News written by Mr. Elliot Krowe.
In it, Mr. Krowe alleges that the Yorktown Planning Board acted as agents of former Supervisor Michael Grace and former state Sen. Terrence Murphy in approving the application of Unicorn Contracting Corporation, which involved the properties on which Murphy’s restaurant, the Grace Building, Salon Moda, the Sports Attic, and Coldwell Banker real estate office existed. Nothing is further from the truth.
Planning boards in New York State, as conceived by the state legislature decades ago, operate outside of political spheres and with a degree of insularity that promotes and allows scrutiny of development applications and the resulting decisions that are based solely on technical merits, standards of town code, and prevailing land use planning practices. The process is rigidly guided by multiple state laws and regulations.
The Yorktown Planning Board operates in this manner and conducts itself with the highest standards of professionalism and ethics, and did so when it reviewed and approved this development proposal. Indeed, it is common knowledge among observers who have attended Planning Board meetings that each of our members take great care in examining whether they have the slightest appearance of a conflict of interest, and if so, recuse themselves from reviewing and voting on the application at hand.
This was the case in the review of this development proposal, in which one of our members recused himself from the application. Further, and contrary to Mr. Krowe’s false claim, the board is not composed of solely Grace appointees—three members are appointees of earlier administrations, of both political parties, and are currently in second and third five-year terms—hardly susceptible to fleeting political influences as Mr. Krowe would like the public to believe.
Mr. Krowe goes on to state a litany of unsubstantiated, false, and most disturbingly, uninformed allegations. The facts, however, are thus: The application was not accelerated after the election. The proposal spent 10 months in review and in December 2017 was approved as the applicant had diligently responded to the issues raised during the review process. The proposal involved three existing commercially developed sites and involved reconfiguration of those sites to include one new building after demolition of one existing building. The application was vetted at public meetings and was the subject of both a code-required public informational hearing and a code-required public hearing, the latter being conducted on Oct. 16, 2017, a full two months prior to the boards’ adoption of a resolution.
Mr. Krowe infers that the Planning Board approved the development without regard to the imminent loss of existing trees on the properties. The project was reviewed and approved using the usual process and practice of the town. The Planning Board is approval authority and responsible for oversight of the review and approval process, which is governed by law. Mr. Krowe is clearly uninformed in that the Planning Board’s approval requires 83 trees to be planted to compensate for those that were removed, and as equally important, to beautify Yorktown’s built environment. Each planted tree will be a “protected tree” under this site-plan approval, enforceable under Town Code. Additional landscape enhancements will also be installed.
A murky inference is then made alleging that the several concurrent actions the Planning Board took on Dec. 18, 2017, indicate malfeasance or conspiracy or both. Mr. Krowe is again uninformed here, in that it is the common practice of the Planning Board to declare lead agency, adopt a negative declaration, adopt a resolution of approval, and approve other dependent permits such as stormwater and tree permits at the same time. Only in special circumstances are these done in an intermittent fashion. One need only to peruse the record of the many other Planning Board decisions that stand from many years, for many applicants, and under varied political administrations.
Lastly, we unequivocally say that the Planning Board process is applied evenly, equally, and as prescribed by law without regard to the status or office of owners or applicants of land proposed for development in the town of Yorktown.