Annual Meeting Minutes Now Available!

Original Date: September 21, 2013
Last Modified: November 3, 2013

Here they are.

JULY 20, 2013

The meeting opened at 9:00. President Tom Close affirmed a quorum, 76 members present. The membership approved the minutes of the July 21, 2012 annual meeting. The Treasurer reported a balance on July 1, 2012 of $12,035.48, income of $2090.00, expenses of $3860.30, and an ending balance on July 1, 2013 of $10,265.18. The current membership is 325. Tom Close stated that he accepted responsibility for the organization’s contribution to the Finger Lakes Museum. It was moved, seconded, and voted to elect Wendy Disbrow, Marcia English, and Rodgers Williams as directors. Wendy Disbrow was elected Treasurer and Martha Johnstone was elected Secretary. Nicole Landers will continue as an advisor to the organization and Art Adams continues as an ex officio member of the board. Thanks were expressed to retiring directors Ray Copson, Scott Demmin, and Lisa Saether. Lisa will continue as a liaison from BPA to the Finger Lakes Land Trust; former director Ray Copson will manage the website.

The legal name of the organization has been changed from “East Bluff Drive Homeowners’ Association” to “Bluff Point Association”. BPA is waiting for a clarification in its tax status from the IRS; application has been made for 501(c)(4) status; dues are not tax-deductible. The BPA by-laws, last revised in 2011, were amended to reflect numbering and typographical errors. It was moved, seconded, and voted to approve these changes.

Local Updates
Jim Crevelling, Vice Chair of the Town of Jerusalem Zoning Board and Chair of the AgRes Zoning Review Committee addressed the meeting. An issue before the zoning review committee is to clarify the “maximum building coverage to area of lot” in the AgRes District. Apparently, the original intent was to restrict the coverage of a building (or combination of buildings) to the specified percent of lot coverage; it has been pointed out, and successfully argued, that the language of the AgRes zoning regulations does not include “or combination of buildings.” The town board has tabled the issue, to be reviewed at a public hearing within a year.
Donna Gridley, member of the Town of Jerusalem Planning Board, described the “scenic overlay district” designed to protect the scenic viewshed along Route 54A. Specifics are available on the Town of Jerusalem website. She discussed the “Right to Farm” regulation being reviewed by the committee on Agriculture and Open Space, designed to maintain the viability of agriculture as an integral part of the community. Members are urged to patronize the Branchport Farmer’s Market held on Tuesdays. Art Adams discussed the refinancing of water and sewer bonds which will save the town $1 million by negotiation of a lower interest rate. Jerusalem and Penn Yan governments continue to discuss the town’s waste water usage; Jerusalem uses much less than the contracted amount but the rate the town is charged has not changed. Art urged members to attend Yates County Legislature meetings held at the County Office Building and become informed of the issues that determine our county tax assessments.

Taylor Fitch, chair of the Yates County Legislature, spoke on components of the county budget. The budget for 2013 was approximately $41 million. Approximately 68% of the tax levy consists of state-mandated categories including Department of Social Services, Finger Lakes Community College, pensions, education, Workers’ Compensation, early intervention, landfill maintenance, and unemployment. Medicaid contribution is capped at 3%. Flexible mandates include jail, probation, public defender, district attorney, social service administration, personnel, and community services. Positions have been cut by 10%; Department of Social Services costs continue to increase. The county does not share sales tax revenue with the towns or schools. Suggested remedies to manage escalation of taxes include cost-sharing partnership with Schuyler County and increased sales tax. Taylor urged BPA members to contact their New York State legislators to express concerns about mandated costs and the tax cap. Mark Morris, county legislator, urged that citizens become en involved by calling and emailing legislators with their concerns and by voting. Gwen Chamberlain, editor of the Chronicle Express newspaper, encouraged citizen input via letters to the editor.

David Hamilton, Superintendent of the Penn Yan school district, reported that the tax rate increase for 2014 will be 2.54%. Approximately 42% of revenue comes from properties on the Bluff. Student enrollment is declining. A goal of his is to find savings wherever possible and to “put the money where the kids are.” State aid has been reduced and is now at the level it was in 2008. Sharing staff and resources with neighboring school districts has resulted in savings and other consolidations are being considered. The graduation rate for seniors is 98-99%; 85% graduate in four years. Dr. Hamilton thanked the BPA members for valuing education in our community.

Elizabeth Newbold, Land Protection Specialist at the Finger Lakes Land Trust, spoke on the opportunity for land owners to preserve the uniqueness of their land and prevent future development by donating conservation easements to the Land Trust. This is a permanently binding legal agreement to limit development on the land while retaining private ownership. A total of 13,500 acres in the Finger Lakes are now protected from development. There are some income and property tax benefits to a land owner. An easement has recently been added at the tip of the Bluff, consisting of 4.2 acres and 500 feet of shoreline. It is a habitat site for migratory birds in the winter; there is no public entry at the present time. BPA members have established a Conservation Fund through which donations can be made to the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

Rolf Zerges, a member of the Finger Lakes Museum’s Board of Trustees, gave an update. The museum has received $2 million from organizations and foundations and grants of $2.9 million from New York State to be matched by private funds. The Discovery Center, formerly the Branchport Elementary School, is being renovated for use as a headquarters and canoe and kayak center; the driveway is being extended to 54A near the firehouse. The Branchport Winterfest and July 4th celebration along with programs for children and youths have brought the museum closer to the community. Rolf introduced two new staff members, Angie Cannan, a naturalist formerly with the U.S. Forest Service and Pat Atkinson, a retired Penn Yan teacher, who have been added to the museum’s staff. He encouraged members to become “Friends of the Finger Lakes Museum” by volunteering their services.

Jim Barre and Joe Hoff gave an update on hydrofracking. The BPA joined with the KLA in resolving not to permit high volume horizontal hydrofracturing in the Keuka Lake watershed, including Yates and Steuben counties. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s health study is anticipated to be released later this year. Joe Hoff stated that 210 communities are now protected by legislation and 90 more are working on it. There has been a proposal to use fracking flowback water on roads as a de-icer in the winter; members need to contact local governments to urge a ban on this practice before it begins.

New Business and Comments
The BPA website has been expanded and can be seen at BPA Audit committees have been established to report on the activities of local government. Reports can be found on the website. A committee is working on the placement of two permanent signs at the 54A scenic overlook, depicting the natural and cultural histories of the region. The NY Department of Transportation has reviewed the matter and has approved the concept. A resolution was proposed stating that “the BPA supports the original intent of the ag-res law to be interpreted as limiting total building coverage on a given lot to 10% of the lot’s total area, NOT individual buildings.” It was seconded and voted to approve this resolution. A resolution was proposed that BPA “immediately communicate to the Yates County Legislature the opposition of this membership to the Local Law currently being considered by the County Legislature which will over-ride the state-imposed annual 2% annual tax levy cap for fiscal year 2014.” It was seconded, and voted to approve this resolution.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:55 a.m.

Martha Johnstone