Adirondack Town Of Franklin
Adirondack Town Of Franklin

Town of Franklin Board Meetings

Special Town Board Meeting August 26, 2009 - 7:00 PM

Board members present:

Supervisor Mary Ellen Keith
Councilman Al Berg
Councilman Clifford Smalley
Councilwoman Janet Ordway
Councilman Walt Kretser

Others Present:

Timothy Smith, Esq., Town Clerk Sandra Oliver, Frances Oliver, Karen Smalley, Dick Jarvis, Brad Merrill, Don & Doris Hamm, Art Willman, Ed Martin, Carol Lavigne, Donald Goff, Paul Capone, John Alexander - WNBZ News


Supervisor Keith called the meeting to order at 7:00 pm. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited. The Town Clerk called the roll, introduced guests and stated a quorum was present.


Supervisor Keith set forth the purpose of the meeting - to review subdivision matters. She then introduced Timothy Smith, Esq., special counsel to the Town on the proposed subdivision law.


Mr. Smith, attorney to the North Elba Planning Board for the past 10 years, reviewed the process necessary to adopt local laws. He distributed copies of Section 20 of NYS Municipal Home Rule Law to the Board which sets forth the requirements for adopting local laws in towns:

(1) must be passed by a majority vote of the board;

(2) must be presented in the proper style and form;

(3) must cover only one subject;

(4) must be introduced by a member of the legislative body and must be in final form and delivered to the entire governing body seven days prior to final passage; and

(5) a public hearing must be held with five days' notice.

Mr. Smith indicated there could be some ambiguity in the interpretation of the NYS Municipal Home Rule Law with respect to the form of the proposed major subdivision law as presented at the July 27th public hearing. Mr. Smith indicated the proposed law was made available in draft form; however, he understood the final version of the proposed law would be distributed to the Town Board and be available to the public within the next week. The final version of the proposed law would be distributed to Board members on the proper Dept. of State form. Although the proposed law was made available in draft form, the changes made to the text are minor, and a few typographical errors will be corrected as well as the table of contents. These are cosmetic and not substantive. NYS Law provides a common sense approach to legislation, and it is Mr. Smith's opinion that there is no need to hold another public hearing once the proposed law is available in final form. The Board has fulfilled its obligation to hear public comments.

He then referenced additional materials available from the NYS Dept. of State which outline the same steps necessary to enact a local law. Once the proposed major subdivision law is in final form, presented to the Board 7 days prior to a meeting enacting it at which a majority votes affirmatively and then submitted to the NYS Dept. of State, it will be a valid law.

Coun. Kretser stated that any changes to be made to the current draft will be cosmetic and not substantial.

Coun. Smalley indicated the word "draft" will be deleted.

Supv. Keith inquired whether a second public hearing would be necessary, and Mr. Smith indicated it was his opinion another public hearing would not be needed. The proposed law must be in final form and submitted to the Town Board on the proper NYS Dept. of State form. The Board can then vote on it eight days following.


Q/C What's happened to democracy? We submitted a second petition containing 113 signatures demanding a referendum on this. We should be allowed to vote on it.

A Mr. Smith replied that as evidenced by the two opinions submitted by James Maher, Esq., attorney for the Town, the laws of the State of New York are very restrictive as to how public moneys may be expended for referenda. Land use laws are not included. The petition(s) served on the Board are informal; they carry no weight and are not part of the democratic process. If voters do not care for the actions taken by a particular Board, they can vote for other people in November. That is how democracy works.

Q/C That survey the Subdivision Committee mailed was sent to 1,000 people. It was anonymous, and only 200-plus people responded. Per the 2000 Census the population of this town is 1,174. So, only half the citizens of the town were mailed those surveys. That's not representative.

A Coun. Smalley responded that the survey was mailed to all households on the tax roll; 256 responses were received by the March 28th deadline. This Town Board considers the positive responses received to be a valid basis for enacting this legislation.

Q/C Are those survey responses available for inspection?

A Coun. Smalley indicated the survey responses have always been available for inspection during normal business hours, although no one has come forth to review them.

Q/C If it's true that the Town Board can adopt this without a public vote, what's the sense of holding a public hearing?

A Mr. Smith replied that a public hearing is useful for legislative bodies in making decisions. The Town Board is empowered by State law to determine what is the best course overall for health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the municipality. The Board listens to public comment, but when it comes down to a vote, each member uses his/her best judgment.

Q/C This Board is not listening to the people. That survey they mailed out in March is not real; the petitions we presented contain legal signatures.

A Coun. Berg rejoined that assuming the Town has 1,175 population, the 113 signatures on the petition do not represent a majority.

A Mr. Smith commented that the Board gave due regard to both the mailed survey and the signed petitions. Neither is required in order for the proposed subdivision law to be enacted. Any criticism of either the survey or petitions is not important. What is of importance is whether the proposed law is good or bad for the Town of Franklin.

Q/C No one came to my house and asked for my signature of any petition. What did the petition say? How did you choose who you went to?

Q/C Nobody came to my house asking for a signature either.

Q/C Supv. Keith speculated how the petition was presented and explained. No one approached her for a signature on a petition either.

Q/C If the survey and the petition are invalid, why go through the process? Also, how much money did the Board pay Mr. Smith? Is the proposed law in final form?

A Mr. Smith answered that neither are legally significant. There is no sense in picking at procedures, that the Board has given due consideration to the public comments. In the end, it will come down to the decisions made by the elected governing body.

As for remuneration, he continued, the Town paid $1,950 for his review of and recommendations about the draft law. His fee for this evening is $175 per hour.

The proposed law is not yet in final form but will be by the first of next week.

Q/C The Board is aware that people do not want this law but will go enact it anyway without a formal vote by the people. What if we paid for it?

A Mr. Smith responded, as explained previously, a referendum cannot be held on this matter, and if others' money is used, the vote would not be legal or binding. State law is what it is, not what a few individuals want it to be. This is a definitive no on referenda. The law will be in effect prior to November.

Q/C What is the process for getting rid of this law?

A Mr. Smith replied the process is the same as adopting a law; to repeal a town law requires 3 affirmative votes (the majority of board members present) to take any action under NYS law.

Q/C The copy of the law available at the public hearing had 37 pages; this copy has 33 and the table of contents does not match the page numbers.

A The Town Clerk responded that in an effort to get as many copies as possible available to the public, two different computers, printers and operators were used to duplicate copies of the draft. Only formatting changes were made which accounts for the difference in the number of pages but that the text is exactly the same.


Coun. Smalley read into the record the "State Environmental Quality Review Negative Declaration, Notice of Determination and Non-Significance:

"Date: August 26, 2009
Project Number: Town of Franklin Local Laws 1 and 2 of 2009

This notice is issued pursuant to Part 617 of the implementing regulations pertaining to Article 8 (State Environmental Quality Review Act) of the Environmental Conservation Law.

The Town of Franklin Town Board as lead agency, has determined that the proposed action described below will not have a significant environmental impact and a Draft Impact Statement will not be prepared.

Name of Action: Adoption of a local law to regulate subdivisions for 5 o more lots or any number of lots with a new public road, and adoption of local law to create a planning board to administer the subdivision law.

SEQR Status: Type 1 Conditioned Negative

Declaration: No

Description of Action: The board legislation to regulate any division of a given track of land into 5 or more lots, parcels or sites; over any consecutive 10 year period following the effective date of the law, or any number of lots, parcels or sites which includes a new public road, and to create a planning board to administer the subdivision law.

Location: All private lands in the Town of Franklin, Franklin County, NY (approximately 67,602 acres)

Reasons Supporting This Determination: The proposed town legislation to enact a major subdivision law and to create a town planning board will not cause adverse environmental impact. In completing part 1 of the Environmental Assessment Form, the town board noted the significant natural and cultural features presenting the town, including but not limited to poorly drained soils, shallow soils to water table or bedrock, rock outcroppings, slopes greater than 25 percent, buildings and sites listed and eligible for listing on the State Register of Historic Places, ground water aquifers, habitats for species identified as threatened or endangered, community open space, many surface waters including the Saranac River and the North Branch of the Saranac River, agricultural district, wetlands, and highway corridors. Currently, the town does not have any land use regulations to protect the valued resources. Existing land use regulations administered by state agencies have limited jurisdiction and do not always give appropriate consideration to town and neighborhood concerns.

Enactment of the two town laws will not cause any environmental impact since no site specific action is proposed. However, future subdivisions and new public roads under town jurisdiction will be subject to established standards and guidelines intended to avoid, minimize or mitigate adverse impacts to the natural, cultural and open space resources of the town. Protection of resources in the town will be achieved by applicants' following the stepped planning process and incorporating the standards and guidelines in the subdivision design. Application of the review process to individual subdivisions will aid in avoiding actions that could adversely impact the resources. Furthermore, the law provides a process for public review, discussion and resolution of land subdivision issues, including a mandatory sketch plan conference with written notice to adjoining property owners and on-site review under provisions of the Open Meetings Law.

It is believed that quality and timely review of site specific subdivision actions can be achieved because there are residents in the town with interest and expertise for appointment to a planning board. Planning board members will be required to complete annual training as mandated by state law. In addition to many relevant reverence publications, when necessary, the planning board may obtain professional advice in review of technical information as provided by SEQR. The existing shared town code enforcement officer also has training and experience in subdivision review..."

Coun. Smalley continued, stating that submission of the document would cause the Town of Franklin being named lead agency under State Environmental Quality Review. Coun. Kretser commented that there are no surprises in the SEQR process, that the Town of Franklin had not received any negative responses from adjoining municipalities. This matter had been discussed many times prior to this. The Board concurred. Supervisor Keith requested a motion for a resolution authorizing submission of the document.

Motion for resolution (W.Kretser-C.Smalley m/s/p) ALL AYE

RESOLUTION NO. 31: AUTHORIZE EXECUTION AND SUBMISSION OF STATE ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY REVIEW NEGATIVE DECLARATION WHEREAS, the Town of Franklin Town Board adopted Resolution No. 21 of 2009, requesting the Town of Franklin be designated lead agency under the State Environmental Quality Review; and WHEREAS, no negative responses were received from adjoining municipalities; NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Town Board authorizes the Supervisor to execute and submit said document entitled "State Environmental Quality Review Negative Declaration, Notice of Determination and Non-Significance".

Those voting aye:

Supervisor Mary Ellen Keith
Councilman Walt Kretser
Councilman Allen Berg
Councilperson Janet Ordway
Councilman Cliff Smalley

Those Absent:


Those Abstaining:


Those Voting nay:



Attorney Smith explained that the Town Board is empowered to appoint a planning board, as do most towns in the Adirondack Park. The creation of a planning board goes hand in glove with any land use regulation (in fact, the Board could create a planning board without adopting the proposed subdivision law). The contemplated subdivision law relies on a planning board as the review body; very few town boards keep that function to themselves. Most municipalities appoint a planning board. After creation of a planning board, the Town Board's function would be to appoint members.

Coun. Smalley read into the record the provisions of the proposed law (which will be designated Local Law #2 of 2009):

(1) The Town of Franklin does hereby establish a Planning Board, pursuant to Section 271 of New York State Town Law.

(2) The Planning Board shall consist of five regular members, whose initial terms shall be one, two three, four and five years, respectively. All terms thereafter shall be five years.

(3) The Town Board shall, by resolution, appoint the members of the Planning Board, for said initial terms and all subsequent terms and shall also designate one member each year to serve as chairman.

(4) The Town Board may also, by resolution appoint two alternate members of the Planning Board, i.e., a first alternate and a second alternate who shall serve, in that order, when one or more regular members has a conflict of interest on a given matter, with initial terms of three years and five years, respectively, and all terms thereafter being five years.

(5) No person who is a member of the Town Board shall be eligible to serve on the Planning Board as a regular member or alternate member.

Coun. Berg asked if language could be added to paragraph (5) of the proposed law after "Town Board" or is related to a Town Board member by blood or marriage. Mr. Smith indicated that additional language was covered by the Town Ethics Law, but if the Board so wished, that language could be incorporated. Coun. Berg stated he would like the provision added. The Board concurred.

Mr. Smith then described the process of appointing planning board members. The Town could advertise for applicants, even prior to enactment of the proposed planning board law. The staggered terms and appointed alternates provisions guarantee a minimum of vacancies on the planning board.

Coun. Smalley speculated whether the proposed law should also include methods for appointing and review of candidates, but Attorney Smith advised not. However, the appointment process should be done in an open and fair manner. Supv. Keith suggested the Board advertise to see if anyone is interested in serving on the planning board. The Board concurred will consider and discuss this further. (change per 09-09-09 board meeting)

QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS. Those in attendance were asked for their comments:

Q/C So, if a developer has a new subdivision come up for review in January 2010, he's going to have to put up with five untrained people on this planning board?

A Coun. Kretser responded that there are a number of residents who are already qualified to serve on the proposed planning board.

A Mr. Smith added that planning board members will be reviewing applications, not enacting legislation. In addition it is considered normal to ask applicants for the position to indicate previous experience. There are also many good tutorials and treatises by the Department of State to train these individuals. The proposed law is set up to be appropriately administered by thoughtful individuals, whether or not they have experience.

A Richard Jarvis, Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Subdivisions, prompted all that the Town employs a Code Enforcement Officer who is proficient in subdivision review.

Q/C Planning Board members are not paid? And who pays for their training?

A Supv. Keith responded the positions are unpaid, and the Town would cover the costs for their training. Costs will be included in the budget.


a. NYSERDA GRANT APPLICATION. Each Board member received a copy of an email from the Town's Grant Writer, Ann Holland, requesting direction with respect to the NYSERDA grant application. The application was originally submitted with respect to the postponed possible construction at Kate Mountain Rec Park, and Ms. Holland indicated she was using it as a place holder for federal stimulus funding. However, the only stimulus funds are in the form of matching-fund grants and low-interest loans. NYSERDA is undergoing a review and cull of its grant applications and requested clarification from Ms. Holland. Supv. Keith suggested that as the Town had postponed the Kate Mountain project indefinitely, perhaps Ms. Holland should advise NYSERDA to drop the grant application. Coun. Kretser stated there was no choice, that the Town did not have funds to match the grant, and Coun. Smalley indicated repair and rehabilitation of the Garage was most important. The Board concurred. Supv. Keith noted this action would drop the Town from the federal stimulus monies list.

Motion for resolution (M.Keith-C.Smalley)

RESOLUTION NO. 32 AUTHORIZE GRANT WRITER TO WITHDRAW TOWN NYSERDA GRANT APPLICATION WHEREAS, the Town Board authorized Ann Holland, Grant Writer, to apply for grant funding with New York State Energy Research and Development Agency; and WHEREAS, the Town does not have sufficient resources to obtain a possible low-interest loan or funds to match NYSERDA grant monies; NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Grant Writer is hereby authorized to withdraw the Town's application for grant funding from NYS Energy Research and Development Agency.

Those voting aye:

Supervisor Mary Ellen Keith
Councilman Walt Kretser
Councilman Allen Berg
Councilperson Janet Ordway
Councilman Cliff Smalley

Those Absent:


Those Abstaining:


Those Voting nay:


b. REPORT ON TOWN MEMORIES DAY. Supv. Keith reported that Wednesday, August 19, 2009, Town "Memories Day" was held at the Town Hall and was a success. The Town Clerk scanned printed and displayed historic photographs and visitors to the Town Hall have been enjoying them all week. Enthusiastic responses were given by residents and out-of-towners alike. People are sharing their historic photos and documents. 22 copies of the "They Told Me So" booklets were sold, and the funds will be placed in the special Historian account established for the publication of another historic booklet.


a. HUD REVOLVING FUND MATTER. Supv. Keith was advised by a town resident who had received HUD funding has a problem with water runoff in her leach field. Supv. Keith would like to contact the individual who initially repaired the septic system under the HUD grant and utilize the funds remaining in the HUD Revolving account which may only be used to remedy HUD homeowner problems. The Board concurred.

Motion for resolution (W.Kretser-A.Berg m/s/p) ALL AYE

RESOLUTION NO. 33: AUTHORIZE SUPERVISOR TO USE FUNDS IN HUD REVOLVING ACCOUNT TO INVESTIGATE AND REPAIR RESIDENT SEPTIC PROBLEM WHEREAS, the "HUD Revolving Account" was established from payments from other agencies for installation of the Paye Road windmills; and WHEREAS, funds in the said account may only be used to rectify a problem arising out of the grant fund repair or replacement; and WHEREAS, a recipient of HUD funds for repair of septic is experiencing problems with leach field overflow; NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Supervisor is authorized to contact the contractor who performed the original repair of the resident septic system to investigate and rectify the problem.

Those voting aye:

Supervisor Mary Ellen Keith
Councilman Walt Kretser
Councilman Allen Berg
Councilperson Janet Ordway
Councilman Cliff Smalley

Those Absent:


Those Abstaining:


Those Voting nay:



a. LOCAL GOVERNMENT CONFERENCE, POTSDAM Supv. Keith announced the Local Government Conference will be held on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at SUNY Potsdam. There will be sessions devoted to planning and land use regulations. She will distribute copies of the brochure and suggested that Board members attend the conference.


The Adirondack Medical Center Mobile Dental Clinic will be at the Franklin Town Hall Thursday, August 27 and Friday, August 28, 2009. Any resident in need of dental work is encouraged to consider treatment. The Town of Franklin incurs no cost for this service. Electricity is supplied by the Food Pantry.


There being no further business to conduct, the meeting adjourned at 8:31PM. (M.Keith-J.Ordway m/s/p) ALL AYE

Respectfully submitted, Sandra J. Oliver, Town Clerk

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Town of Franklin
P.O. Box 209, Route 3, Vermontville, NY 12989  ·  Tel: 518-891-2189  ·  Fax: 518-891-6389  ·
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