Minutes – January 9, 2021

 Village of Dering Harbor
Trustees’ Meeting via Zoom

January 9, 2021, 9am 

  • Meeting was called to order at 9:02 am
  • Attendance- Mayor Patrick Parcells, Trustees Karen Kelsey, Clora Kelly, Ari Benacerraf, Brad Goldfarb, Vicki Weslek (village clerk), Wayne Bruyn (village attorney), Donna Ritzzmann (stenographer from Flynn Stenography, present on behalf of Timothy Hogue), Susan Dempsey (Shelter Island Reporter), Marian Brownlie, Stephanie Deutsch, Eric Deutsch, Louis Katsos
  • A motion to accept the minutes of the December 14th meeting was made by Clora and seconded by Ari. All Board members voted in favor.
  • Old Business
    • Ways and Means: Treasurer’s Report
    1. Bank reconciliation- Vicki sent the bank recs and monthly treasurer’s report to the Trustees, all of which are available in her office for review.
    2. A motion to pass a resolution approving the abstract/bills to be paid was made by Brad and seconded by Karen. All Board members voted in favor.
    3. There was nothing new to update on received and outstanding taxes.
  • Water Works Report- Patrick reported that the water quality remains good and stable, with chlorides generally under 60 ppm in both wells. The new wells and water treatment facility will be online by summer. Quite a lot of work has been done already at the highway barn. Regarding the village’s long-term contract with SCWA, the annual surcharge is $51,125.13, which was budgeted for this year. However, that charge is being offset by $49,000 that the village paid toward the short-term contract, which SCWA is reimbursing the village. For this year only, the village is paying $2,125.13 to SCWA. Additionally, the village is going to receive around $10,000 from the SCWA for water consumption (based on a quarterly report from SCWA on water bills paid vs. unpaid). These excess funds will be addressed in the budgeting process in the spring. The village also needs to pay a little over $2,000 for maintenance of the village fire hydrants, which the SI Fire District would not agree to pay. For that amount, the village can expect the SCWA to keep the fire hydrants working properly and up to code. Also, Patrick asked Joe Pokorny to revise the water bills and make them more detailed based on the village’s 3-tier pricing schedule. Patrick wants residents to be able to see exactly how much water they used and how they’re being charged for it.
  • Status of Litigation and FOIL requests- Wayne reported that there is no new litigation. He is working on one of the appeals. The village did receive a request for withdrawal of a case against the ZBA (which was tied to the ARB) which Wayne said was good news.
  • Before new business, Patrick mentioned that alternates need to be appointed to the ARB. Regarding the minutes, Vicki will be making them more succinct. If anyone wants to hear/view the meetings (or parts of the meetings) in more detail, put in the request with Vicki and she can send a recording of the meeting via email. Karen gave an update on how newly adopted laws are incorporated into the code and how people can access those laws (through the village website) when they are passed. People should always check the “News Laws” tab on the left once they get to the eCode website. As General Code incorporates these amendments into the code, the village is charged for those services. The village will need to budget more for these services in the upcoming year. $3,000 is a number that has been discussed. Wayne noted that other municipalities update their codes quarterly, bi-annually, or annually and thinks that once a year is sufficient for the village.
  • New Business
    1. A motion for a resolution to authorize dissemination of a RFP for Audit Services was made by Karen and seconded by Brad. All Board members voted in favor.
    2. Ethics policies and practices relating to Board of Trustees participation in public meetings and hearings. There was a lengthy discussion regarding Wayne’s concerns about the appearance of impropriety in board member’s participation in ARB meetings. Patrick pointed out that the village law allows for up to 2 trustees to sit on boards except for the planning board and ZBA. In the past, this hadn’t been observed but it is being observed now, with no trustees sitting on any of the boards. It’s Patrick’s opinion that every trustee, as a village taxpayer and resident, should feel free to make any comments they would like, as long as they make them as a resident. AG opinion suggests that if a trustee weighs in on an ARB meeting and expresses an opinion, that trustee must recuse themselves if that matter comes before the Board of Trustees. Patrick couldn’t think of anything that the BOT reviews from the ARB.
      Clora gave some background on why this topic was being brought up.  It’s related to the last ARB meeting, where a number of trustees wanted to speak up but thought they couldn’t. They were advised against it because of ethics. She brought up the ARB charter and how it provides guidelines. She believes this is a pivotal moment in the village and to her, this is the most important work that comes before them as a board. She asked Wayne if it’s possible for the ARB to legally approve a contemporary structure. He answered yes.
      Wayne went on to clarify the role of the BOT in terms of if and when it believes any of the village boards or the building inspector is not applying the law in which it was originally intended, the BOT has the power to amend the code. And that is the potential appearance of impropriety he is concerned with, when a trustee appears in front of an independent board and asserts their opinion on a statute. If the BOT believes that the standards of the ARB need to be amended, which must be based on a review of the community, comprehensive plan subject to Public Hearing, etc. Clora suggested a survey be sent out to all village landowners asking them to weigh in. Wayne agreed that a survey would help in the comprehensive planning needed for proposing/making substantive changes to the code.
      Ari and Karen asked about recent ARB recusals and requests for recusals and asked Wayne to explain the process of recusals, which he did. A lengthy discussion followed. Patrick agrees with Wayne’s suggestion for members of all the village boards to take some ethics training.
    3. A resolution to schedule a public hearing for March 13, 2021 on a local law updating definitions of lot lines and yards was not passed. It was agreed that many board members had questions and suggestions on how the law could be amended further. Clora had a question about the 15% coverage in Zone B. Would that include driveways, etc? Patrick and Wayne clarified and answered no. She also suggested further clarification on driveways related to accessory structures, including docks. Patrick suggested that a Special Meeting could be held in February to pass this and the subsequent resolutions.
    4. A resolution to schedule a public hearing for March 13, 2021 on a local law amending the zoning code relating to driveways and off-street parking was not passed. It was agreed that many board members had questions and suggestions on how the law could be amended further. Karen had a question about page 5, number 3- should the distance be greater than 10 feet? She also had questions about number 4.
    5. A resolution to schedule a public hearing for March 13, 2021 on a local law amending the review procedure for the removal of trees was not passed. Clora made comments and her feeling is that the board really needs to think about what they want to protect with this law. But she is all for protecting big, beautiful trees and feels like the diameter needs to be wider. Karen added that the board needs to think more about the intention behind this law. Brad added that at minimum, the existing law needs to be clarified. The larger question is do we want to legislate this issue? Most municipalities do not. Karen suggested that these questions related to the tree law be added to the survey that Clora plans on sending out. It was agreed that invasive species should be allowed to be removed, regardless of size.
  • The Board did not go into Executive Session.
  • The date for next meeting is Saturday, March 13, 2021 at 9:00 a.m.
  • A motion to adjourn at 10:49am was made by Brad and seconded by Karen. All Board members voted in favor.