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Tarrytown Planning Board Change Comes Under Scrutiny

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January 5, 2022

By Rick Pezzullo—

The replacement of a Tarrytown Planning Board member came under scrutiny during the Board of Trustees’ annual organizational meeting Monday.

The seven-member board unanimously voted to appoint Peter Gaito, who had served as an alternative member of the Planning Board, to a full six-year term, instead of reappointing Paul Birgy.

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That decision raised the eyebrows of former Tarrytown Superintendent of Schools Howard Smith, who questioned the board via Zoom.

“There are a lot of concerns on how this was handled,” Smith remarked. “It was kind of a surprise that his services were no longer required, and there is a lot of concern over what this signifies. Paul was a very forceful advocate for a cautious approach to development and being careful before proceeding. This clearly reflects a lot of views of residents.”

Katy Krider, a resident of North Washington St., said she agreed with Smith, commenting, “I think he (Birgy) was a voice of caution and a voice of reason.”

On December 15, 2020, Birgy and former Planning Board Chairman Stanley Friedlander issued a lengthy report on why they opposed the recommendation for proposed zoning text amendments to industrial zones to allow Transit-Oriented Development as a permitted use for the property at 29 South Depot Plaza. The recommendation was supported 3-2 by the Planning Board.

“The Planning Board approached this assignment incorrectly,” Birgy and Friedlander wrote in a memo to the Board of Trustees. “The correct procedure would have been for the Planning Board to consider whether residential should be included in the industrial zone. If the response is affirmative, the corollary is what changes and restrictions in the ID Zone would be necessary to protect the health, welfare and safety of the new residents. To change a long-standing zoning tradition, separating industrial and residential, requires a careful analysis. The last step in this process would be an analysis of the appropriate standards required to permit the mixing of the two zones. The Planning Board did not do this and it was a mistake.”

On Monday, the Board of Trustees also appointed Lissette Mendez-Boyer, another alternative board member, to fill the unexpired term of Ron Tedesco, who resigned from the Planning Board. That term expires in December 2025. Gary Friedland was appointed as a first alternative member for a three-year term.

“It really is a big commitment to be on the Planning Board,” Mayor Karen Brown said. “We’re so lucky to have such great expertise on our Planning Board.”

Brown said Gaito is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and owns an architecture and engineering firm. Mendez-Boyer is a Harvard University graduate who has a Master’s degree in architecture. Friedland is a land use professional.

In other organizational moves, the Board of Trustees reappointed Sally Lawrence as chairperson of the Zoning Board of Appeals for a term that expires in December 2022.

Brown said she has instructed Village Administrator Richard Slingerland to research amending the Village Code to have rotating members of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.

“I’m not suggesting term limits,” Brown explained. “I think it would be a good thing to explore. I do believe a chairmanship should change.”

She noted public hearings would be held if the Board of Trustees opts to explore the proposal.

Meanwhile, Jane Greenwood was reappointed chairperson of the Architectural Review Board; Jim Desimone was reappointed chairperson of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Council; Mary McGee was reappointed chairperson of the Ethics Board; Rachel Tieger and Dean Gallea were reappointed co-chairpersons of the Environmental Advisory Council; Martin Hauser was appointed chairperson of the Tree Commission; Sadie McKeown was reappointed chairperson of the Housing Affordability Task Force; and Tom Coughlin and Mitchel Chalsen were reappointed co-chairpersons of the Transportation and Mobility Council.

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