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Putting the Cart Before the Horse: An Interesting Sequence of Nondevelopments...

May 4, 2006


February 6, 2006. A public hearing is held to determine the Village’s need for the property owned by Greentree Realty, LLC, 1A Croton Point Avenue, Section 78.16 Block 2 Lots 1 and 2 as the first step in the process of acquiring the property by eminent domain. Among those making lengthy and detailed presentations in favor of the village’s position were Village Manager Rick Herbek, Village Engineer Dan O’Connor and DPW Supervisor Ken Kraft. The village has 90 days to pass a resolution that identifies their need of public use for the lot in question.

February 21, 2006. The Republican majority on the Village Board votes to expend $52,000 for a environmental impact statement on the condemnation of property at 1A Croton Point Avenue for a new DPW facility.

March 7, 2006. An unhappy Village Attorney Marianne Stecich says (see video), “…If you want to go ahead an invite somebody, go ahead… I spoke to an $800.00 an hour eminent domain attorney who represented the city in the condemnation of Times Square and I’m absolutely confident. Go on, you can hire somebody. Number one. Good luck finding somebody…”

April 3, 2006. A scoping session is held to determine which issues should be studied in the environmental review, pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act, of the possible (1) acquisition by the Village, through eminent domain, of 1A Croton Point Avenue, (2) relocation of the Department of Public Works facility to said site, and (3) use of said site for DPW and other municipal purposes.

April 17, 2006. A resolution is introduced to residents by Village Manager Rick Herbek titled “Adoption of the findings statement in connection with the proposed acquisition of 1A Croton Point Avenue”. A heated discussion follows in which Trustees Gallelli, Kane and Wiegman point out that an attorney specializing in eminent domain should be consulted before proceeding. The resolution is tabled by a 3-2 vote (see video).

Later, Village Manager Rick Herbek reports to the board: “You had asked me to provide you with a little report on eminent domain specialists. I’ve given you what I have so far. I plan on discussing this further with Marianne and with Mike Gerard and try to narrow the list down because this is eight or nine firms here that I’ve had a discussion with.”

Meanwhile… Between the April 17th meeting and the May 1st meeting, village officials apparently decide it is not advisable to press forward with the proposed resolution in spite of Mayor Schmidt’s previous statement regarding the resolution as being both necessary to the process and inconsequential to its outcome.

May 1, 2006. As things stand now, the tabled resolution was not on the board meeting agenda. The village has until May 7, 2006, to vote on this—exactly 90 days after the public hearing—but before such a vote, notifications and a synapsis of the findings must be published twice in Croton’s two official newspapers. Therefore, for all practical purposes, the lack of a resolution to adopt a Findings and Determination statement means that the proposed eminent domain proceeding for 1A Croton Point Avenue is no longer active.

With so much inaction and time running out rapidly, Crotonblog is forced to ask the Mayor, “What’s up, Doc?

On May 4, 2006 10:36 AM, weewill said:

What’s up, Doc makes excellent points. We deserve to know what’s happening. Open and interactive government has never been so important, desired or necessary. With the exception of a few very specific issues, village business can and should be discussed in public sessions. Executive Sessions are required in a very few instances and must, by law, be announced and the general subject matter disclosed to the public. (I can’t speak to the recent practice of “Advice of Counsel” meetings because I have no knowledge of them nor did any take place in all the years I served with Mayor Elliott.)

Clearly in our representative form of government, times have changed and technological advances have reached unbelievable heights. It’s easier than ever before to work as a team. Latest news is instantaneous. We can view it as it’s happening. Televised village board meetings, videostreaming, instant feedback on the village website, email, blackberries, cell phones - all provide immediate communication. CNN gives us “Live, the latest news as it’s happening”, Channel 12 gives us all the news “as local as local gets”, and Crotonblog is our newest “voice of the people.”

Croton residents are an intelligent, educated and diverse group of shareholders in Village government. Our elected officials are fortunate indeed to have such a wealth of talent to call upon. There are complex decisions being made about the future of Croton and we need all the brain power we can get.

My hope is that the present inactivity on the ED process resulted from the insistence of Trustees Gallelli, Kane and Wiegman that the board take no further action without the guidance of the soon to be hired eminent domain special attorney. We’re dealing with the future of our village and very sophisticated and complicated legalities. We can’t afford mistakes.

I applaud the board for the majority decision calling a temporary halt to further action.

Georgianna Grant X Trustee


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