A former Cortlandt Planning Board member is finding it’s not so easy being an applicant.
Susan Todd, who served on the Planning Board for about 10 years, and her husband, Andrew Young, have been seeking a special permit for an accessory apartment in an existing accessory building on their property on 48 Pond Meadow Road since February.
However, the couple have faced some opposition, particularly from their next-door neighbor, Wai Man Chin, who has served on the Cortlandt Zoning Board of Appeals for 30 years.
Chin has taken issue with a determination from Cortlandt Code Enforcement Director Martin Rogers, who in a May 16 memorandum researched the history of permits issued on the property and concluded what Todd and Young are requesting is allowed under Town Code.
“Given the facts presented, it is my determination that no area variance is required here. Furthermore here, an accessory apartment in this preexisting accessory structure would be permitted, provided a special permit is obtained from the Planning Board,” Rogers wrote.
According to Rogers, a one-family dwelling with four bedrooms was constructed in 1999 and a previous dwelling on the site was classified as an accessory structure for use as a studio with a guest bedroom. The accessory structure was constructed in 1974 and was issued a Certificate of Occupancy in 1976.
The building existed prior to April 21, 1979, when a change was made in the Town Code prohibiting any special permits for an accessory apartment in an accessory building, except for accessory structures that existed prior to that date in R-80 and R-40 districts.
Rogers further noted that in 1999, when the permit and Certificate of Occupancy for the primary structure were issued, geodesic domes, which exists on the Todd/Young property, were allowed to be used as both studios with guest bedrooms and as accessory apartments.
“You have reports from your own staff telling you there is no need for a variance for this. This is totally legal,” Todd remarked to the Planning Board at a June meeting. “People are looking for affordable housing in this town. I will be shocked if this is not approved. There is absolutely no reason for you to say no to this.”
Young also urged the board to approve their application, saying “From the beginning of this process Susan and I have tried to adhere to the instructions of the town. We feel we held up our end of the bargain with what we have done with the property. It is our intention to only have someone living in there that we would want to have as a neighbor. We are looking for ways to continue to live there.”
Chin maintained there were “many issues” with the way a Certificate of Occupancy was issued by town officials for the accessory house in the 1990s and cautioned the Planning Board about approving the special permit.
“It would set a precedent for zoning not only in this town, but in the country,” Chin contended.
Planner Bob Foley, who served with Todd on the board when she was a member, appeared to side with his former colleague.
“It seems they are in the code,” he said. “It seems like this has been examined and reexamined.”
However, planners Steven Kessler and Jeffrey Rothfeder still were grappling with some issues.
“It was approved as a studio and guest bedroom. How do I make the leap it was issued for an accessory apartment?” said Kessler, also a former colleague of Todd.
“I’m troubled with taking a lot that was a main house and turning it into an accessory structure,” Rothfeder said. “If it happened today it probably wouldn’t be approved. I think it’s a pretty messy situation.”
At the June meeting, the Planning Board instructed staff to prepare a resolution for the application that it will vote on at its July 23 meeting at Town Hall.