Grafton Planning Board Action – A Full House
by Kieron Kramer
The agenda for the Grafton Planning Board meeting on Monday, November 21, was packed with four new subdivision applications to be considered and one application to be approved. Perhaps the extreme activity at this meeting was prompted just by the desire to tidy up these projects in the current fiscal year. Perhaps the applicants wanted to deal with this Board before the changing of the guard in January. In any event all four new applications were accepted for review and public hearings were scheduled for them.
Bruno Subdivision Approved
The first order of business was the approval of the 2 lot subdivision of the Ken Bruno property on Pondview Road. The application was accepted for review in the May meeting contingent on the receipt of a plot map showing the septic system and the absence of objections by the homeowners association. A public hearing was held in September, but at the meeting following that hearing the vote was tabled because the map had not yet been received and because there was no response from the homeowners association. Planning Board Chairman Tom Withcuskey moved to approve the application at this meeting because the map of the septic system has been received and because there were no concerns from the homeowners association that have been heard. The Planning Board voted 3-0 to approve the Bruno subdivision with Board Member Scott Newell recusing himself; Board Member Arthur Surprise was absent.
Gundrum Subdivision On Stuffle Street
Surveyor Bill Darling represented Rynard Gundrum in an application for a 2 lot subdivision on Stuffle Street. Darling presented the Board with five survey maps, a deed for the subdivision, an Environmental Assessment Form and a check for $150. Five maps are submitted with subdivision applications because, Withcuskey said, it is standard procedure to file five maps.
Gundrum wants to separate a parcel of a little over 3 acres with an existing house and all the amenities to give to his daughter Ingrid. He will keep the remaining parcel of about 275 acres. The remaining parcel is composed of 10 to 15 smaller parcels that Gundrum has obtained over the years and consolidated. Withcuskey had already inspected the property and said there were no problems with the proposal.
In an amusing moment, Withcuskey asked Gundrum to date the application next to his signature. Gundrum asked the assembled multitude if it was November 21 then asked what year it is. Someone replied 1852, but Gundrum didn’t go for it. The Board voted unanimously to accept the application for review, and a public hearing on the subdivision was scheduled for December 19 at 6:15 pm before the next regular Planning Board meeting.
The omnipresent Darling also represented Bob and Anna Moon in a 2 lot subdivision also on Stuffle Street. He presented the five maps and other paperwork and later in the meeting after the application was accepted for review Bob Moon handed in a check for $150. One parcel of 1.18 acres with the existing house will be kept by Mrs. Moon. The other parcel of .23 acres with a garage on it will be kept by Mr. Moon. Because the subdivision will be listed as a non-realty subdivision, that is a subdivision that cannot be developed, no septic system or water supply is required for the parcel with the garage. A parcel of .23 acres is too small to develop.
There was a problem with the subdivision which was noticed by the Board when they reviewed the survey map. One corner of the garage extends maybe a foot or so into the property of a neighbor. Darling said that this has been the case for over ten years. In New York State the use of another’s property for ten years or more without some notice or agreement between the parties results in the appropriation by the user of that property through adverse possession, according to Withcuskey. Board Member Jim Goyer wanted it noted “so that it’s noticed we addressed the issue.”
The Board voted to accept the subdivision application for review, 4-0. A public hearing on the matter was scheduled for 6:30 pm on December 19.
Survey Maps Do Not Agree
Rod Michaels represented Bill and Elsa Boyce in their 2 lot subdivision application on Benker School Way. They wish to keep a lot of 9.2 acres on which their dwelling is located and convey the second lot of 62.9 acres to the Rensselaer Land Trust to be held as a forever wild area. The Boyces will give a right of way along the edge of their 9.2 acre lot so that the wild area will have access. They will also give the Town an easement across the corner of their lot so that the turn from South Long Pond Road onto Benker School Way will no longer be practically a right angle. Highway Superintendent Herb Hasbrouck has been worried about the dangerous turn there for a while. Now the Town can adjust and maintain the road as it sees fit. The Highway Department will also provide a graveled parking area for hikers who use the forever wild area. Withcuskey said, “This is a win-win for everyone.” He then asked if there would be signage on the access way. Bill Boyce said there will some kind of signage for hikers.
This subdivision was not without a complicating wrinkle. It turns out that, according to Michaels, the surveyors Schaffer and Schaffer, who surveyed the property in 1983, never filed the map with the County and in fact did not carry one of the boundary lines fully to its corner marker. As a result a 3.7 acre piece, about 3,500 feet long and 10 feet wide was missed on the original survey. This was discovered when a survey was done later by Brian Holbritter. The neighbors have posted to the boundary line in the Holbritter survey, but even so the 3.7 acres is included on two surveys for two different owners. “It’s a title company case now,” said Michaels. But, he added, the title can be passed because the parcel in contention is not a developable piece of land and there are no physical rights beyond the boundary line. The parcel is not actually being contested in court or anywhere else. Withcuskey said that in his experience the judge in such a case will ask the parties to “sit down and settle” or alternatively will just split the parcel down the middle. If this were the case, each owner would have rights to a 5 foot wide parcel that is 3,500 feet long. Michaels even suggested that the easiest way to clear up the discrepancy and settle the problem would be for the Boyces to file a quitclaim on the contended parcel.
After Michaels said he would consult with Planning Board attorney Sal Ferlazzo, and Withcuskey said he would consult as well, the Board accepted the subdivision application from the Boyces by a 4-0 vote. A public hearing on the matter was set for 6:45 pm on December 19.
Following the informal discussion in last month’s meeting, Terry Lamphere and his representative Kevin McGrath presented an application for a subdivision permit for Lamphere’s property on Taconic Lake Road in Grafton. The parcel will be separated into three new lots. One lot of 8.5 acres will be sold to a neighbor, Randy Goyer. This parcel would be landlocked if not transferred. Lamphere will sell the second lot of 80.6 acres, with the dwelling, to his daughter and son-in-law at a very reduced price as part of her inheritance. The third lot of 25.2 acres, on which Lamphere’s workshop is located, will be kept by him.
Once it was determined from the survey map that one of the boundary lines is the Petersburgh Town line and that Lamphere’s property on the Petersburgh side is not to be considered as part of this subdivision, there was no objection from the Board to the subdivision. So Withcuskey asked Lamphere to revise and complete his original application, which was based on last month’s informal discussion, right there “so we can get you rolling for December.” When the application was revised, the Board accepted it for review and scheduled a public hearing on it for 6 pm on December 19 contingent on receiving the application fee of $225 for the three parcels.
In an ironic twist, the complete survey map that the Board had insisted on at last month’s meeting showed that Lamphere has been paying taxes on 30 acres he does not own based on a faulty County tax map that mistakes a property line for a dry stream bed which the map has, magically, running over the top of a hill. Lamphere said ruefully, “Whenever I walked the property it didn’t seem like 150 acres.” It is believed that the 30 acres is actually owned by the Free School, a non-profit which Withcuskey thinks is based in Albany and which owns land near the Grafton Peace Pagoda as well. McGrath had argued combatively at last month’s meeting that the complete survey need not be done. The cost of the survey is more than offset by saving the taxes on the thirty acres, so, as it turns out, the Lamphere family will save money in the long run.