January 01, 2015

PB minutes 11/20/14

Draft Copy PB Minutes, 11/20/14

 Meeting began at 7:08 with Tom, Linda, Barry, Bill, Hershey, and Dave present.

 Minutes were reviewed and approved for the September meeting – moved by Tom, second by Linda.

Since Todd has joined the Town Board we elected Linda as chair. Tacit approval was given via email and made official at the meeting.

We briefly reviewed some items brought up by Jeff Hogue who was present at our October meeting. It was suggested that some aspects of our current code be targeted for more clarity. These items will be reviewed and discussed more at our next meeting. Linda is going to get an electronic copy of the application proposed by Jeff to put on our website. We approved Tom’s notes at this meeting to serve as our minutes without giving any approval or disapproval of items mentioned above. Motion made by Hershey, seconded by Tom. 

We were informed that the Town Board approved a proposal from Barbara Johnston to work on cluster developments and site plan review for our zoning code. We hope to lay these items to rest in the next few months as we make final preparations for a public hearing.

A question was raised about including a search engine to help find specific areas within the code online. However, Tom mentioned that most programs have a find function that will help people navigate through the code. 

Since we are currently down two members on the PB Bill Squires is going to maintain his position on the board as he has a number of years of experience. We discussed contacting Rich Olsen who expressed some interest in town affairs as he ran for Town Board. Tom is going to approach him about attending our next PB meeting. 

We discussed improving our meeting format to expedite getting things accomplished. We agreed that it would be helpful as needed to have different members work on aspects of a project. We also need to establish actions that need to be carried out between meetings and work off an agenda to keep us on track. This should enhance our ability to get things done more efficiently. 

We spent a few minutes going over the current code – Tom explained the purpose of each Article in the code. It is our desire to become more familiar with the code ourselves so we can be more helpful to people who may approach us with questions about it.  As we review the code we will list things that may need more clarification, correction, or items that may need to be added to the code. Sections 308-3ll will need the most precise definition and rationale behind the definition. It is this area that most likely may need future changes. 

A suggestion was made that we add a zoning map to section 202. All agreed this would be a good idea. 

It was also suggested that we try to set in document form some examples of steps to take in applying the code to certain projects such as building a dock, garage, addition, etc. This could be a “how to” section added as an appendix to the current code but not a legal aspect of it. 

Actions to be worked on at our next meeting:

                1) Review districts and use tables – ART. III.

                2) Discuss changes suggested by Jeff Hogue at last meeting.

                3) Review what we need to do next concerning cluster developments and site review plan for a public hearing at the earliest possible date. This will require communication with Barbara J and her progress on the project. 

Motion to adjourn made by Hershey, second by Tom. Next meeting will be Dec. 18.

Respectfully submitted – Barry Somerville

PB minutes 10/23/14

Varick Planning Board

October 23, 2014

In attendance: Members Thomas Björkman, Herhey Sensenig, Linda Mastellar, David Kidd. Visitor, Jeff Hogue, chair of the Varick Zoning Board of Appeals.

Absent: Todd Horton and Barry Somerville. One vacancy.

Meeting called to order at 7:20 pm by acting chair Björkman in the absence of chair Horton.


Recommendations for revisions to code to resolve or prevent issues that reach the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Review revisions to code that incorporate all of our changes pertaining to Depot rezoning.

Revising Zoning Compliance Permit Application.

At the request of Code enforcement Officer Larry Colton, the Zoning Board of Appeals made several edits to the application that we developed and issued last year in order to make it easier for him to use. After some experience with the form, there were a few instructions and form fields that were not followed as easily as intended. These issues often end up with the ZBA, making that a good venue for making experience-based adjustments. One change is to require the third-agency approvals before issuing the permit so that the CEO can deny an application for something that is obviously against state law without having to try to enforce state law. One of the most common problems is that people think that they are exempt from getting a permit due to agricultural use when they don’t qualify. ZBA Chair Jeff Hogue presented the revisions and rationale for making them.

Mr. Hogue will provide an electronic copy to put on the town website.

Linda Mastellar moved to adopt the revised application, David Kidd seconded. Motion passed 4-0.

Mr. Hogue provided several examples of issues where the language in the Zoning Code is ambiguous or silent on issues that come before the ZBA. He asked the we revisit those sections to provide more clarity.

Nuisance. There is a nuisance provision (noise, lights, etc.) for the Lakeshore Residential and Hamlet Residential Districts, but not in the Agriculture and Rural Residential District. A similar provision would help resolve some neighbor complaints.

Bulk Table for accessory structures. The county also has a rule on this subject, and it would be helpful to be consistent. It is not helpful for the town to allow reduced setbacks that are then disallowed by the county building inspector.

309.1 Bulk Table


"Side and rear setbacks for accessory structures under 200 sq ft and less than 15 ft high."


"Side and rear setbacks for accessory structures under 140 sq ft and less than 15 ft high."

Have language that specifies which construction and land use requires a Town Zoning Compliance Permit. The most common actions for which people are failing to apply for permits are: putting barns on land that does not have an ag exemption, installing docks, and clearing land. Furthermore, Mr. Hogue’s understanding was that while construction of agricultural buildings on land that meets the agricultural exemption does not require a county building permit, compliance with town zoning codes is still required. Our codeis unclear on this point, and it would be helpful to resolve the issue.

The suggested revision.

102.2 “In order to ensure the purpose and intent of the requirements of the Zoning Code, the issuance of a permit is required for any construction, substantial improvements and certain other uses. (Some examples include new structures, additions, docks, fences, pools, andcertain uses.).”

We thought that wording was a good start, but “certain other uses” needed more definition. We also need to be clear about whether demolition requires a permit. While permits for demolition have a special zero fee, the word “demolition” is not in the code. The demolition permit provides a record that a specific use has ended, and also an opportunity to ensure that demolition debris is removed.

Definition of “structure.” Some things still fall in a gray area.

The current definition is “walled or roofed building” but we also use that term to mean antennas, docks and fences elsewhere in the code. We need to review all instances of “structure” in the code and expand the definition of structure so that use is included.

Nonconforming use clarification. (Section 501.) Our discussion led to a desire to make the language be more direct and create an incentive for owners to do the better thing rather than skirting the rules. A particular issue applies to rebuilding from the foundation up, which is not mentioned. Is it a major renovation where non-conforming setbacks can be retained, or new construction where the setbacks must be corrected? We want to encourage rebuilding deteriorated residences in the hamlets even if the foundation is non-conforming to current setbacks. The language also makes itdifficult. On the other hand, crowding between houses along the lakeshore is a significant problem, and one of the high-priority risks identified in the Comprehensive Plan.

The language is mainly about structures not other uses. Make sure that it is clear that once a non-conforming use ceases, it is not allowed to restart. Also that a non-conforming use is in compliance if the property is transferred to a new owner, as long as it remains continuous. Specify what constitutes “continuous use.” A new owner may need to close a business to the public for a time while renovating the facility, which is legitimate. On the other hand, uses may cease for a time for lack of interest or customers, and that should not be continuous use. Also, be clear that the definition of the use is fairly narrow. For instance, if the use was a “Vehicle Repair Shop” as defined in the code, then that specific use may continue but it cannot be converted to a different non-conforming use. There has been the incorrect notion that if there is any historic commercial use, then other commercial uses are permitted even if they are non-conforming to the current code. Those are new uses and must conform to the code.

Setback variance is one of the main things that ZBA does.

We asked Mr. Hogue to also send an electronic variance application form so that it could be on town website.

Mr. Hogue invited VPB members to attend ZBA meetings on the second Tuesday of odd months. 7:00 pm at the town hall to continue fostering a good working relationship between the two organizations.

Discussion of Depot language.

We confirmed that the map borders are correct.

We checked the Special Use Permit considerations, where there was new language. We added flexibility to the screening item so that it applied to more than just residential neighbors (e.g. scenic landscapes, a desirable character of some areas).

311.1 (D) Landscaping and Screening. All parking, storage, loading, and service areas shall be reasonably screened at all seasons of the year from the view of adjacent residential areas and the general landscaping of the site shall be in character with the surrounding areas. Screening may not be required if existing or proposed features of the site will mitigate any potential adverse effect on nearby properties.

Adjournment.At 9:30 pm Hershey Sensenig moved to adjourn the meeting, Linda Mastellar seconded. Passed 4-0.

Meeting notes compiled by Thomas Björkman