Executive Board Meeting – May 18, 2015

In attendance: Carl Stuendel, Linda Burkhardt, Cathy Magarelli, Pete Bracci, Mike McCrary, Ric Coombe, Bruce Dolph, Tony Coiro, Tony Van Glad, Bill Layton.

Others: Guest Kevin Young, Rick Weidenbach, Aaron Bennett, Jeff Flack, Frazier

1. Call to order: 6:17 PM.

2. Minutes – April 20, 2015 – moved by Linda Burkhardt, second by Bruce Dolph. Approved.

3. Privilege of the Floor – none

4. Relocation Regulatory Relief –
Carl began the discussion talking about the various tools and the need to evaluate the potential of each and the outcome of the survey. Results are attached. [Overview and Results]  Discussion ensued.
Kevin then explained what he had in mind about each tool. Each tool may be useful to many, none or a few. It likely would be situational by town. Towns in the WOH do vary. Some towns have more restrictive zoning than others and some have much more potential for development than others.

Tools:
#1. Downsize the Project and Carefully Select Site. Simply by keeping housing projects smaller could in many cases reduce the regulatory hurdles. For example, in villages where vacant parcels are scarce in villages, utilizing structures not in a flood plain that are up for taxes or foreclosure could pose opportunities for those needing housing. (Tool #2 could come in to play here after running an LFA.) Perhaps the plan would be to do 1 or 2 homes per year. Bruce Dolph said that in Walton it may be the slow process of one new house at a time because many of the parcels that could be incorporated into the village with easy access to infrastructure are held by landowners who at this time don’t want to sell their land. In addition, housing has to be considered in a broader context than flooding alone. This tool would help avoid the delays.

#2. Generic Environmental Impact Statement; Infrastructure Planning Document. The need here would be for communities to conduct a housing study to determine potential housing location by developing a long-term plan. This would then be useful to a private investor. The idea is to have a location or locations to develop to avoid losing the tax base. Identify those structures resulting from the LFA that could be helpful. Windham has done this to anticipate housing needs for 2010 through 2040. This tool came in first in the survey results. Focus is on community sustainability. The first step is a housing study. Example, what will happen to these structures if flood insurance when actuarial rates come in to play? Will they be saleable? What will that do to the overall tax base? This would likely be more useful in communities where there are lower income housing needs.
It is unclear whether the CWC money could be used for this planning effort. Not for profits usually do these studies.

#3. Adopt an Expanded Type Two List. This tool was too involved and was discussed only briefly after the other tools had been discussed. In actively developed areas this may be an acceptable idea. In rural, less prosperous communities, this is not a viable alternative. The concept behind this tool was to maximize the benefit to a community already working within the SEQR process.

#4. Create Residential Development Areas. (This could be an outgrowth of the LFA and Tool #2.) The sense of many was that this would be too costly for municipalities to have a shovel ready area funded by the tax payers.   It was suggested that this would be done by a housing trust. The biggest challenge is having a location that has close proximity to infrastructure, because otherwise the cost would likely be prohibitive.

#5. State Legislation Allowing One-Stop Permitting in Locally Designated Areas in Stressed Communities. The idea behind this tool had been misinterpreted to this point. The intent of this initially in the MOA was to help inform people, interested in a project, of the regulatory requirements.

Kevin’s intent was to identify a person that can expedite projects through the regulatory processes. For example, DOS could dedicate someone to monitor the permits to be sure that there are no delays. DOS would set the time frames. DOS would hold permit authorities accountable. The sense was that this option would be politically palatable at many levels especially at the Governors level. This individual would need standing among all permitting entities. This person would be available for coordinated site visits and reviews. This person would be an advocate to assure the permitting process is as fluid as possible. If permitting agencies don’t have the staff or time to do it that would be on them and they would have to approve it.

This is an alternative to the original intent in the MOA. The state in essence funded the opposition to permits via the WIG. Instead, they should fund a position for the purpose of oversight on the permit processes to ensure regulating agencies meet their timeline obligations. It is unnecessary to have a person who simply tells applicants what permits they need as was proposed in the original MOA. This tool was viewed as positive by most if not all members worthy of pursuing. It would be funded as per MOA funds. It was suggested that examples be gathered. Perhaps examples aren’t needed. This governor wants to get things done.

#6. For both siting a septic system and allowing new development for a flood mitigation project it was proposed that a generic variance be granted by the City. As it stands now there are far too many restrictions for both.   Flexibility is needed as siting a septic system is very difficult. Kevin proposed for flood mitigation programs that they be considered “redevelopment projects” under the WR&R. There needs to be flexibility in these programs.   For instance siting a septic system is very difficult with our soils and finding sites that have good soils and meet all the other criteria can be at times impossible. The construction oversight is critical, because not everything is going to be perfect. Professional judgment is needed to get the best outcome possible. Trying to meet all the setbacks associated with stormwater and areas for treatment need flexibility. Variances can take years thereby not very practical or useful.

#7. Small Business Septic Repair Program. This idea stems from the white paper submitted to NYS DOH on March 31, 2015 by both Delaware County and CWT regarding the scope-of-work of the Expert Panel mandated in the 2007 Revised FAD (A New Vision for the New York City Watershed: Using Successful Partnership Programs To Protect Water Quality While Facilitating Business Retention and Development) focused more on community sustainability. There are no septic funds for small businesses. The ability to avoid a change in use by DEP is nearly insurmountable. The costs to comply can easily become cost prohibitive. The WWTPs that were built or upgraded required City funding, for without it they would be unaffordable for the communities.   Many commercial and residential septic systems in the WOH Watershed are Non-Compliant Regulated Activities. [For additional information on NCRAs click HERE.] Money is available for residents through the CWC septic program. For businesses, there is no program for septics and with the determination of change in use cases, of which any change is considered a change in use, is subject to the new regulations. The septic system itself should be the focus of the change in use determination, not a change in the enterprise’s business strategy, especially if the waste is going to be of the same nature and volume. DEP is enforcing these situations even when the flow of waste is less than it was before the change. Money is needed for small businesses because they cannot afford to fight this issue or comply with it. Funding for this would help keep the local economies more solvent and viable.

#8. Future Stormwater Fund.  (As with tool #7 these thoughts evolved from the white paper cited above.)  Prior to 1993 regulations required that an applicant send in a form to DEC under a general permit. The stormwater permit was for construction.  Now stormwater includes post construction stormwater management. State regulations became both broader in scope and more restrictive.  However, those permits are granted under a general permit where a licensed PE submits a plan.  DEC approves or proposes modifications in a timely manner and the applicant is on his/her way.

City permits are issued as individual permits which are much more difficult to obtain and costlier as the City dictates the pace of approval and reviews each and every application at a micro level.  The City is supposed to pay for the incremental costs of their Stormwater requirements.  As the state’s regulations have gotten more restrictive they have created interpretation challenges because the City essentially says that the State’s regulations are the same as the City’s. Some of the confusion is created by the fact that the City interprets State stormwater guidelines as regulations and enforces them as such. If you don’t meet the demands of the City’s interpretation you won’t get an individual permit.  Their argument then is, if they are essentially the same there are no incremental costs.   In light of that, the City has taken the position that they are not accountable for some or all of the related costs for stormwater projects.  The process of getting agreement on what is considered the City’s incremental costs has created uncertainty in interpreting where the incremental costs associated with the City’s regulations begin.  It becomes a costly endeavor for the applicant to differentiate between the two. Additionally, if the position of the City is that they are the same as the States, Kevin posed the question of the need for an individual permit?  Kevin proposes that the City pay 50% of all stormwater projects automatically to eliminate the confusion and costly negotiations for the applicant.  He suggested that the CWC also hire an expert because they will want to shepherd their funds in a prudent manner.

 

Additional comments were made with respect to the 8 tools and some of their underlying assumptions:
Out of frustration, rebellion and humor Tony Van Glad suggested a tool #9 – Do it yourself.  Go forward with your program disregarding all WR&R and permitting processes.  Let the chips fall where they may.

Ric senses that abandoned homes outside the floodplain being utilized as a source of housing for those who undergo the buyout process is not the answer to bigger problems. The individual project ideas Kevin proposed he agrees with.  He believes the larger problems overall, come down to jobs and the economy some of which have nothing to do with flood mitigation.  He supports efforts to moving homes out of floodplains where economically feasible.

Tony Coiro suggested that the CWT needs to continue to review the information presented tonight.  He summarized what he sees as some possibilities that are reasonable and small enough for the CWT to pursue –
The number of permits DEP gives the community.
Have an IDA approach to development where communities can make it work.
Funding to develop a plan with time.
Need to be time standards to mitigate issues and accountability standards for applications.
Oversight and flexibility with sound engineering are needed.
A program to help small businesses to upgrade septic for a small percentage of costs so they can be DEP compliant.

In closing the discussion, while no resolution was passed, the CWT as a group seemed to agree they need a bit more discussion to set its course.  Carl supported the notion of Tony Coiro’s summary list, particularly for providing a context of concerns within which the tools could be understood as a natural development to achieve relief from the identified issues. Carl liked the link between Tool #5 and the fixer group idea.

Pete suggested that CWT needs to reassess the issues that it considers.  It should consider some bold new initiative like partnering with environmental groups (EGs) to develop a long term economic revival in the watershed.  He mentioned meeting with some EGs to see what they think of the tools.  (Kevin suggested that the CWT come up with an agenda and schedule a meeting with select environmental groups.)  Inspired by Pete’s suggestion, Cathy also suggested doing something bolder: in addition to the tools, let’s state more clearly what communities need from DEP that will enhance the probability of them becoming more prosperous.  Ric added that at times our discussions seem to have us stuck in the weeds when we should be looking further into the forest.

Many agreed that the issues discussed will be done in small steps incrementally.  Kevin opined that DEP needs to update their regulations for variances, stormwater etc.  That process would require discussions with watershed stakeholders.  One stop shopping is something to take to the governor.  The discussion will continue.

5. Reports:
a. The 2nd quarterly CWT/CWC meeting held April 23 at the Windham Town Hall in Hensonville was constructive. [Due to a lack of time, a full description was not given.]

b. Regulation Enforcement related to Non-Complying Regulated Activities (NCRAs) – A meeting between Full Moon Resort, Kevin Young, and DEP enforcement officials is scheduled for May 27th 11 AM at the Full Moon in Big Indian. Our CWT chairman was invited to attend; for him, this is a follow up to his meeting with these same parties in Kingston held Dec22nd, 2014.

6. Preparing for the 2017 FAD –information such as that generated in discussion of agenda item 4 (Regulatory Relief) the CWT will continue to formulate and formalize issues to be addressed in the upcoming 2017 FAD.

7. Updates:
a. Flood Mitigation Program
i. Water Supply Permit Change – Carl reported that there is movement with the language and hopefully will be resolved.

ii. Inundation and DEP’s new FBO Selection Criteria – Same as above.

iii. Meeting with Stream Program Planners – Jeff Baker – This is in process to set a meeting date for discussions.

b. Kurt Ossenfort Proposal – Jeff Baker – communications are in process.

8. Below Dams Activities – due to the time no reports were given.
i. Delaware
ii. Esopus
iii. Schoharie

9. SUNY-Delhi – DACUM – Carl reported that the plan to do this is underway and that the appropriate people will be contacted by SUNY Delhi to participate so that a productive curriculum can be developed to meet local needs in the watershed.

10. Election – nominations, etc. – nomination forms have gone out.

11. Treasurer’s report and warrant(s):
Tony Van Glad moved to pay the vouchers. Linda Burkhardt seconded. Motion passed to pay
Young/Sommers $5,821.53
Delaware County Watershed Affairs $1,457.62
for a total of $7,279.19.

Bruce moved to accept the treasurer’s report. Tony Van Glad seconded.
Checking account balance is $1,000.22.
Savings account balance is $104,559.78.
Passed.

12. Correspondence – none reported

13. Other –
a. Linda B. referenced a letter dated March 23, 2015 that DEP had sent to a local businessman who is operating a farm stand in a building that once held a bank. The letter stated that New York State Dept. of Agricultural Markets (NYSAM) requires this business to have a 3 bay sink. The DEP states that, in essence, because this 3 bay sink is required the stand is now a minor food service and they are out of compliance and will be shut down. Linda said that this issue has been resolved, costing the business owner extra money and a delay of time, but she questions the method DEP uses and the effect these methods have on future businesses in watershed communities.

b. Related to all the issues raised at this meeting, Carl said that since the start of his administration as CWT Chair (roughly coinciding with NYS DOH inviting comments to the proposed 2007 FAD Midterm Review and with the redistricting that led to the current boundaries of the19th Congressional District, a district that for the first time included the WOH Watershed in its entirety and Congressman Chris Gibson’s follow-up formation of the Watershed Advisory Group), he has invited the executive board to address not only the immediate issues at hand, but to stay alert to changes taking place in the Watershed and the need for CWT to remain responsive to those changes, to reflect on the adequacy and effectiveness of our processes, and to not shrink from the task of helping to formulate a unifying vision for the Delaware-Catskill Watershed as a whole, especially with respect to the economic wellbeing of our communities living as we do under a regime of restraints imposed by the NYC’s WR&R.

14. Adjourn: Motion to adjourn Tony Coiro, second by Tony Van Glad. Carried.

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