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Extreme Seriousness

November 13, 2005

In several letters (click here for archive) over the last two months, I have discussed the extreme seriousness of the situation facing our Village with the potential for the Metro Enviro site to become a “24/7” waste transfer station accepting all types of waste, including NYC municipal waste, with little or no local control over its day to day operations such as truck trips, tonnage, noise, hours, etc.

An exemption for Northeast Interchange Railway (NIR) from the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) allowing them to be considered a railroad could result in this becoming true. Railroads are allowed to apply for an exemption to handle all types of waste including garbage.

The STB will vote on this application on November 16th. However, even a denial for NIR by the STB does not prevent another entity, perhaps one that is already a railroad entity, from applying for the STB exemption to handle waste at the former Metro Enviro site.

Other parties at the county and state levels are also weighing decisions that will affect us. In the meantime are there steps the Village should be taking to be ready? To take them knowledgeably, both residents and the Board of Trustees need to have some important questions answered.

I previously outlined the many legal situations that potentially have to be initiated or defended depending on the decisions of other bodies. This letter discusses one option the Village has, namely should the Village use its power of eminent domain to acquire the Metro Enviro site. Using eminent domain is a very big step and requires that the entire village develop some understanding of the process and financial implications.

Under NYS Eminent Domain Procedure law the Village would initiate a legal action to acquire the site to accomplish a “public good”. State law requires the owner of the site be paid a fair price based on the “highest approved appraisal of just compensation”. To start this process, the Village, as condemnor, must:

  • identify the public good for which the property is to be taken and prepare the documentation to support this need, and
  • receive an appraisal of the site’s value. (As shown in its July 25, 2005 Executive Session minutes, the Board approved the hiring of an appraiser for up to $10,000, so this step is already under way at least on a preliminary level.)
  • hold a public hearing to inform the public, to review the public use to be served and to review its impact on the environment and the residents.

The law also requires that prior to exercising eminent domain, the Village must make an offer to the owner of the highest approved appraisal amount. The owner may 1)accept it in full, 2) accept it as an advance payment and claim the right to additional compensation, or 3) reject it. In all three cases, if the Village continues its exercise of this power, it must deposit the money, in advance, with the clerk of the NYS Supreme court who will place it in an interest bearing account.

Here are some very important things for all of us to consider and questions that need answering before the Village takes the step of executing eminent domain:

  • How will the money be raised for this payment to the owner? Almost certainly, the money could only be achieved through a bond.
  • Would this bond be subject to permissive referendum? Most likely, as it would be over one million dollars which triggers the possibility. A permissive referendum is ‘forced’ to be held when a petition asking for such is signed by a sufficient number of residents - approximately 10% of the voters in the last election.
  • How would this amount of debt over many years affect the ability of the Village to continue its long-term capital program to make needed improvements to parks, buildings, roads, equipment, sidewalks, etc.?
  • How would this amount of debt affect the Village’s bond rating and the cost of borrowing additional money in the future?
  • If successful in acquiring the site, does the Village also need to demonstrate it has the money to implement the new use – the public good? In other words, does the money to accomplish the public good also need to be in place at the time eminent domain is initiated?
  • How long must the new use continue?
  • Can a higher level of government or an agency (like Metro North) supercede the Village’s power with an eminent domain action of their own? If so, is it worth pursuing that avenue before exercising eminent domain on our own?

Once again, I don’t have the answers to all these questions, and there are others as well, but I do continue to be very concerned about the situation. As a resident, your input is important to the Board’s decisions on this matter. Do you think eminent domain is the right step to take? Let your Board of Trustees know what your questions are and engage in a discussion of the whole range of possibilities, not just eminent domain.

— Ann Gallelli

Related Letters to the Editor by Ann Gallelli:

On November 19, 2005 6:55 PM, bojangles said:

Most bloggers seem to single out Schmidt, Brennan, and Steinberg as keeping information quiet and holding secret meetings. Where the heck are Weigman and Kane. Because they’re politically in the minortity on the board they have even more of responsibility to speak out. They have been as silent as the rest of them. They can report on what’s taking place, if in fact anything is. If not, they will be held accountable along with the republican majority. This is serious business and needs to be treated as such. Whatever you are doing or not doing will affect all of us in Croton. We have a right to know. You have a responsibility to let us know.

On November 19, 2005 1:32 PM, poppins said:

We all owe Ann G a big thank you. I did vote for her and was very disappointed when she didn’t win. She’s done nothing but serve this village over many years in all kinds of volunteer capacities. She knows how governments and licensing works and we need her now more than ever. Her Herculean efforts to get the information out to residents has been yet another valuable contribtion. This very dangerous threat to the village threatens our quality of life like nothing before.

It looks like her efforts may be awakening the sleeping giant. More and more residents are beginning to contribute their thoughts to this blog and hopefully to the Mayor and village board as well. Hopefullly they’re beginning to realize what a disservice they do to us when they work behind closed doors. They claim not to read the blog but we hope they recognize the concern people have about not knowing what’s going on. As things move along,( the NIR Westchester County License application, the DEC application and Greeentrees litigation )progress we lose more and more options.

Please village leaders. Assure us that you’re in charge here.

On November 19, 2005 11:01 AM, Tonto said:

Three cheers for Ann Gallelli - the woman I should have voted for. Why is it that our not so new “open government” doesn’t keep us informed? Does our not so new open government even have a plan to deal with this looming disaster in the Village?

Gallelli calls it “municipal waste”. Folks, thats garbage, New York City GARBAGE, truck after truck of it, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year - no days off for holidays.

And what are Cudequest, Schmidt, Brennan, Steinberg, and Stecich doing about it? Nothing that I can see. If they are doing something, if they do have a plan, they are keeping it a secret like everything else this gang has been up to.

Personally, I don’t believe a word any of them say. Schmidt first tells us the new sewer tax will not be charged to people who don’t have sewers, now it is. (yea yea I know its a fee not a tax, but lets get real) Then he tells us its to get money from Metro North, but they aren’t paying.

Schmidt and Steinberg play out their little charade with Cudequest and tell us how they love the Sailing School and want to keep it in the Village. So why the bum’s rush to renogotiate a lease that has years to run on it?

But the real point is why bother with these trivialities? These people are fiddling while Croton is about to burn up in a fire of garbage.

Have Schmidt, Steinberg, Brennan and Stecich asked for any help from the public - other than their ever helpful pal Maria Cudequest? Do they have anything other than contempt for the rest of us?

Thanks to this sorry bunch Croton will be buried in garbage. Thanks a lot.

On November 15, 2005 3:39 PM, bojangles said:

This information is dynamite Ms. Gallelli. The questions are all good ones and require answers from the Mayor and village board based on sound research and analysis by legal counsel trained and experienced in this field. And because I’m certain our board knows that - and am scared to death if it doesn’t! - I can only assume they are not going to pursue eminent domain in this situation. They would have already begun preliminary steps and we certainly havent been told they have initiated any activity. It certianly has not been reported at any public meeting.

And while I’m speaking about public meetings and actions taken, how could the board authorize the allocation of $10,000 for an appraisal without our knowledge? And out of which fund was it taken? I thought no money’s could be voted on anywhere but at public meetings. Did I and the press miss such a public vote?

Now I’m thoroughly confused. Does this mean they are beginning the process of eminent domain and condemnation? Otherwise, why are they wasting $10,000 of taxpayer money? And if they are they had better let us know in time for us to organize and implement a permissive referendum on the issue. I can assure you there will be many people opposed to the monies that would have to be spent for eminent domain.

I hate to think the board is deliberately doing these things in private while they keep us distracted by relatively minor controversial little issues like the sewer rent bill.

Please let us know what’s going on. You ran on an open government platform and we’ve heard nothing of any importance now, 7 months later. Amazingly enough, both the STB and the WCSWC are both taking action faster and more openly than our very own village board. The STB will vote tomorrow, Nov. 16th and the WCSWC the next day, Thursday Nov. 17th. Our board had better know what they’re doing!

On November 15, 2005 2:16 PM, Mrs. Smith said:

Thank you once again Ms. Gallelli for giving us information to think about and question our local officials about. Why does this information not come from them?


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