Tuesday, April 6, 2010

HOW TO STREAMLINE PROCESS IN YORKTOWN

HOW TO STREAMLINE PROCESS IN YORKTOWN

While I believe a great majority of the Yorktown employees and voluntary board members try to work efficiently, they are hampered by the current procedural process. I propose that we film a documentary, at my cost, using the Winery project as case study. We can video tape every meeting and every detail and every correspondence as the project progresses. When the documentary is competed, we will share it with the public and the town can use this material to initiate a business process reengineering effort to streamline the processes of the town. I will formally make this proposal to Susan Siegel and the Yorktown Town Board. Susan has championed transparent government and has expressed a desire to make Yorktown more efficient.

Let me give some specific examples of why this needs to happen:

This past November, I submitted two applications to the town of Yorktown. One was for a Zone Change, and the other for a Special Use Permit as allowed under the town code. I retained Chris Sciarra, from CS Construction, Inc., as my project manager. Chris has over 20 years experience with getting projects completed in Yorktown and he understands the challenges property owners face. Both applications are unfortunately progressing very slowly. The applications have been referred to the various boards (Planning, Building, Conservation, Engineering, Architecture Review, etc.) each of which meets only once or twice a month. This is one of the main reasons why it usually takes a minimum of six (6) months to make any progress in Yorktown. If you get bounced around to the various boards several times, it can take over a year to finally accomplish anything. In addition to the town approvals, state approvals can add an additional six months. Now you can understand why we are seeing a decrease in investments in new businesses and why Yorktown has a reputation of being business UNFRIENDLY.

As an example, please view the latest meeting we had before the Zoning Board of Appeals. The board would not make a determination on a simple interpretation of the word “dwelling” despite the vast amount of information and research we presented at the meeting. Chris spent the better part of 60 days at town hall and in White Plains in order to provide our research to the zoning board. In addition, the parking plan was re-referred to the planning board even though the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation gave the “OK” in writing. It is also customary for the board to introduce a new issue at the board meeting. They do this without sending any communication to the applicant in advance. If we had received the issue in advance, we may be able to address the issue at the meeting. However, these new issues typically bump you to the next month’s agenda and hence another month of delays.

You can watch a video of the meeting at the Winery website: www.TheWineryAtStGeorge.com.

Another example involved the request for new traffic studies and updated wetlands flagging. While a property owner must complete these items in order to get final approval, they should NOT be required before the developer knows that an approval is forthcoming. Otherwise the town imposes large financial burdens on the property owner before they know if the project has any legs. For example, I’m trying to get the planning department to confirm that my parking plan meets the town code. They are refusing to review the plan until I complete a traffic study. I have a quote for the traffic study and I’m prepared to complete it. So why can’t the planning board review the parking plan first? A property owner shouldn’t be asked to spend money on studies until the main hurdles of the project have been review and approved. Chris has sent numerous written correspondences to the Supervisor and planning department asking for a meeting with the management from each department in order to layout a concise roadmap. To date, the town has not responded to these requests.

In summary, government process and regulations across the entire spectrum of Local, State and Federal Governments are stifling innovation and small businesses. This big government approach gives more power to government officials and boards and takes away the rights of individuals, landowners and businesses. It is the small businesses that create most of the jobs and pay most of the taxes in our country. If we don’t start to encourage innovative new and small businesses, we will continue to see an increase in empty storefronts, empty office space and unemployment.

In the near future I will be expanding the wine industry in northern Westchester and Putnam counties and the economic value to our local community can be very beneficial.

I welcome your feedback on this proposal. Let’s help Yorktown government by supporting the filming of this documentary.

Thank you
Thomas DeChiaro
Owner – The Winery at St. George

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