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Chairman Commentary January 1, 2009

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Citizens for the Preservation of Woodbury - Commentary by Ralph Caruso, Chairman

January 1, 2009

This is a first in a series of Commentaries I will present as the Chairman of the Citizens for the Preservation of Woodbury for our community. They will cover a variety of subjects in no particular order, but will include Village, Town, County, State and Federal government matters.

We will start with Village of Woodbury Zoning, Zoning Ordinances and the inherent responsibilities along with any relationship to the Town of Woodbury, including an actual example.

The Village of Woodbury was created in 2006, and in 2007 the Village of Woodbury officially received all Zoning responsibilities for all the lands in the Village of Woodbury. It just happens, as planned by the proponents and organizers of the creation of the Village of Woodbury that the Village’s boundaries cover all of the lands in the Town of Woodbury with the exception of that part of the Village of Harriman land in the Town of Woodbury. The Village of Harriman has been incorporated since 1914 and governs for the people who live within its own boundaries including all Zoning, Zoning Ordinances, and Zoning Enforcement for all those lands within the Village of Harriman.

Hence, as of 2007, the Town of Woodbury no longer carried any authority over any Zoning matters within either the Villages of Woodbury or Harriman. The main reason is there are no lands in the Town of Woodbury that lie outside either of the Villages of Woodbury or Harriman.

Zoning Ordinances, Local Zoning Laws and enforcement of regulations are intended to be the Quality Control of a Municipalities “MASTER PLAN”, “Formal Zoning Plan” or a “Planning Concept”, which is for the orderly co-existence and growth of a community to minimize adverse effects while enhancing the Quality of Community Life, a goal we all want. When a community follows a planned concept of what their community should be for both the present and future, it continues to be the place we first embraced when we all decided to move here.

Unfortunately, there are times when our elected and appointed officials deviate from a Master Plan, Formal Zoning Plan, Planning Concept, Zoning Ordinances, Local Zoning Laws and Zoning Enforcement, either from being naive, coerced or just plain inexperience. The Village of Woodbury has several problems in these areas.

A perfect example of this is Seasonal Dwelling Occupancy. There are several Bungalow Colonies in the Village of Woodbury that existed in the Town of Woodbury prior to the creation of the Village of Woodbury. In one of those Bungalow Colonies there is at least one Unit in which an individual has taken up occupancy in a seasonal dwelling, for at least 5 years, using it year round.

Zoning Ordinance, § 103-3 reads;

“BUNGALOW COLONY — One or more temporary or permanent buildings or structures, together with the lot or tract of land appertaining thereto, established or maintained as living quarters for temporary occupancy and not arranged or maintained for such occupancy except during the period, or part of the period, from June 15 to October 15 in any year.”
Prior to the Village of Woodbury taking over all Zoning and Zoning Enforcement the Town of Woodbury turned a blind eye to this blatant zoning violation. Since 2007 the Village of Woodbury who became responsible for all Zoning Enforcement within the village, has continued the blind eye policy.
There are options for an owner-occupant to convert from seasonal to year round use. They must meet Zoning Ordinance 310-26 for the safety and protections of all residents of the Village of Woodbury.
Zoning Ordinance 310-26 reads;
“Conversion of seasonal dwellings to year-round use - Individual summer dwelling units may be converted to year-round dwelling units by special permit from the Planning Board, provided that the dwelling unit is on a lot which meets the following standards:
A. The lot shall be located on a public road or a road suitably improved to the satisfaction of the Town Board.
B. The lot shall be served by the Town water system or other such water system approved by the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Public Service Commission for year-round use.
C. The lot shall be served by a central sewer system or an individual septic system approved by the New York State Department of Health for year-round use.
D. The residence on such lot shall comply in all respects with the requirements of the New York State Building Code for one-family dwellings.
E. The lot shall meet the development standards provided for a single-family dwelling permitted in the zone in which it is located, including density.”

This dwelling being used year round is assessed at a seasonal rate, about half what the rest of us are paying for our School, Village, Town and County Property Taxes. The intent of these summer use dwellings when constructed was seasonal, and were so constructed and assessed.

I find it amazing that an individual using a seasonal dwelling year round has not been served a violation and legal action taken to bring the Seasonal Dwelling into compliance with the law. Is it because of a political hold on certain Village and Town Board members? Is it simply a lack of courage to take the necessary action required by law to rectify this Zoning Violation and gross financial injustice we all are paying for?

We vote to elect people to public office because we believed in what they said they would do when they ran for public office including representing the people of the community, along with upholding laws, including Zoning Ordinances and the Enforcement of Zoning Ordinances. We should expect no less from those who we elect to represent our best interests as taxpaying residents!


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