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Yorktown Chamber Releases Candidate Summaries

The following is information written by the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce Business Development committee, based on interviews conducted by the committee with current candidates. The opinions are those of the committee only. For the full publication from the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, click here . The Daily Yorktown will post an article with each candidate's interview before the primary.

The Interviews

The expressed position of the Committee is to support a healthy environment for business activity in Yorktown and to encourage the responsible development of properties and new businesses within the Town.

According to the data provided by the Town Assessor, 76.85 percent of Yorktown’s tax assessment falls on residential property owners, while 10.70 percent is assessed to commercial owners. According to anecdotal data provided by a large number of residents and property owners, the Town of Yorktown has a well-deserved reputation for being unfriendly to all types of applicants who wish to build on, or develop their property, and especially to commercial property owners. It is the goal of the Committee – and of the Chamber at large – to see the Town broaden the tax base and shift the balance of the tax burden so commercial properties bear a higher percentage of the burden, and to do so by changing the climate at Town Hall to one that is more welcoming to applicants.

With that acknowledged viewpoint, the candidates were all asked for their positions with respect to the manner in which applications are dealt with by the various boards and departments in Town, as to their receptivity to new developments, and as to the initiatives they would support to promote and maintain a healthy business environment in Town.

Not surprisingly, each candidate expressed his or her support for increasing the commercial tax base, and for improving the perception of Yorktown as a place for doing business. Some specific positions they expressed were as follows:

The candidates for Supervisor

Ms. Siegel presented a business revitalization plan which included the implementation of a data base of vacant properties for sale or rent, and she urged the use of “kickoff” meetings between developers and Town officials so that projects can be discussed and a course charted at the beginning of the process.  She supports using outside attorneys instead of a Town legal department, open escrow for developer’s fees, and she favors moving the building, engineering and building inspector offices to one location.

Mr. Peters also presented a plan to stimulate business development which he claims is a more pro-active approach.  One element of his plan is to employ an assistant to the Supervisor who would serve as a liaison between the Town officials and departments and the applicants. He supports employing a full Town legal department in lieu of using outside counsel, a more reasonable and structured system for developers’ fees, and the consolidation of town departments.

Mr. Grace wants to end the "cultural arrogance," which he believes is pervasive in Town government and which makes enemies of government and business. He wants to reduce the amount of regulation imposed by the Town in the development process, he favors the revocation of the open escrow developers' fees, the higher application fees, and the moratorium on accessory buildings.  He wants the Town Board to reclaim the approval authority on major projects so it remains accountable to the voters.

The candidates for Councilman

Mr. Bianco cited his long experience on the Board, and his role as a liaison between the Board and the Chamber.  He supports streamlining the building process, and filling the empty stores and lots which can be developed.  He discussed some of the projects which are currently involved in the approval process, and he indicated his commitment to seeing to it that they received fair and reasonable treatment by the Town officials and boards.

Mr. Paganelli stressed his experience as a business owner and manager and his belief that

the Town should be run more like a business. He proposed that less open space be held and

that more development be encouraged as the best way to increase revenue and help ease the financial crisis. He opposes overbearing developers' fees, and wants more accountability by the Town Board, such as by taking the lead agency status more often.

Mr. Martorano acknowledged that "the Town is in crisis" and needs to change its direction.  He believes the Supervisor has to be the "Ambassador " for the economic development of the Town and has to set a tone of compromise between development and preservation - something that has been missing so far.  He supports a re-examination of application fees with a view toward reduction or elimination, believing that people should not have to pay to use their government.  He favors restructuring of Town departments so each has its own clearly defined purpose and overlap is avoided.  He favors such measures as a 10 year "PILOT" plan for new business developers, and a staggered reassessment on new construction in order to increase the tax burden more gradually.

Mr. Campanaro discussed his experience with small businesses and labor / management negotiations.  He supports filling the existing vacancies and attracting new business to Town.  He criticized the discord on the Town Board which hurts its effectiveness.  He stressed his open, honest, fact driven approach and his determination to get things done. He pledged that were he elected, he "will not sell out for votes".

Mr. DiChiaro criticized the Town Board for being disrespectful to applicants, for acting secretly, and for giving only lip service to the idea of streamlining government and the application process. He proposes the establishment of thresholds and categories to distinguish projects of different magnitude, and he favors regulatory reform to help streamline the application process. He supports the development of more recreational and social businesses in Town and he wants an aggressive review of town ordinances so innovation can be encouraged rather than stifled.

Mr. Ciffone stated unequivocally that he believes in business, large and small, as the backbone of our economy.  He acknowledges the label of tax "watchdog" that has been bestowed on him, and he stresses that he fully supports the ethical application of laws and regulations which govern all citizens and especially the conduct of elected and appointed officials. He supports term limits - three two-year terms for Supervisor and two four-year terms for council members. He supports a common sense, balanced approach to development as a means to increase revenue. He proposes that incentives should be offered to business applicants in the form of a speedy approval process and property tax abatements.  He favors a moratorium on new athletic fields.

The Candidates for County Legislator

Mr. Testa (District 1) currently represents approximately 40 percent of the Town of Yorktown in his district, along with 90 percent of  Peekskill and a portion of Cortlandt. He discussed his prior experience in Peekskill City government, and his experience as a high school teacher. He welcomes new business to his district, and expressed his support for the Costco project. He supports keeping Indian Point open as a nuclear facility, and says that conversion to gas is not realistic. He supports the building of a new Tappan Zee Bridge and is involved in evaluating the project plans.

Mr. Kaplowitz (District 4) currently represents 60 percent of Yorktown and Somers. He favors the conversion of Indian Point to a natural gas fueled facility and is engaged in an extensive research project which he believes will demonstrate the feasibility of this approach from an economic, environmental, and safety perspective.  He strongly supports the building of a new Tappan Zee Bridge, which is long overdue.  He maintains that the new bridge will not only make economic sense when compared with current maintenance and repair costs, but it will create about 200,000 jobs in the region, provide safer vehicle transportation, increase the use of mass transit, and benefit the environment. He advocates for the Town when requested, such as for sewer connections to the County facilities, and otherwise wants County planners to stay out of the way of local projects.

Mr. Murphy (District 4 candidate and current Town Councilman) is an avowed pro-business candidate who has promoted various developments in Town.  He acknowledged his mistake in voting against staffing the town legal department and relying heavily on outside counsel.  He favors application fees, but would eliminate the open escrow developers' fees. He favors keeping Indian Point as a nuclear facility, with all state of the art safety features in place. He recommends that the delivery of electricity to this region be deregulated so that other companies can compete with the existing providers and thereby reduce the costs to consumers.

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