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10 Questions: Irvington Candidate Mark Gilliland

IRVINGTON, N.Y. – Elections for village trustee take place on March 20, and The Daily Tarrytown is preparing by asking each Irvington trustee candidate ten questions about local issues, what they hope to accomplish and why residents should vote for them.

Three candidates are vying for two open seats on the Board of Trustees. Incumbent Republicans Walter Montgomery and Rocco Rasulo are running against challenger and Democrat Mark Gilliland.

The following questionnaire was filled out by Gilliland. Check back on Friday for Rasulo's answers. Montgomery's answers can be found on our topics page .

Please tell us a little bit about you:

My wife Marion Asnes and I have lived in Irvington since 1998, and both of our daughters graduated from the Irvington schools. I am an NYBG-certified Landscape Designer, a Cornell Master Gardener, and a graphic and web designer providing services to individuals and small businesses. Previously I spent more than 20 years in software development as a software coder, system architect, technical manager and Vice President of Product Development/Technology.

We were attracted to the “look and feel” of Irvington—a small village with lots of trees, interesting properties, the Aqueduct and other great parks—as well as the excellent school system and easy commute to the City.

I love the views of the Hudson and the Palisades from the Main Street hill, especially at sunset or on a crisp blue sky day with whitecaps on the river. Riding Metro North along the river, watching the birds and the water, the changing seasons, the shifting light, provides an experience unique to living in a Rivertown.

What qualifications make you the best candidate for village trustee?

I believe in thoughtful decision-making that combines fiscal responsibility, environmental understanding and sustainable practices with the goal to efficiently manage budgets, taxes and revenues. This approach can foster “smart growth,” protecting the unique beauty, charm and viability of our village.

"Sustainability is Good Business" –especially now with the winds of climate change and soaring energy costs. With an understanding of the underlying systems, constraints and issues, creative problem solving can often be used to define a "win-win" solution which is both economically beneficial and environmentally beneficial. My perspective will provide an important voice to the trustees' deliberations and decisions.

I have established strong working relationships with many volunteers as well as elected officials who serve at the town, county and state level, as well as in our neighboring villages. These relationships will help to bring useful resources to our village.

What committees and organizations are you involved with in the village and area?

Over the last 8 years I have offered extensive volunteer work in the village which includes serving on the Environmental Conservation Board, Climate Protection Task Force, Green Policy Task Force and the Tree Commission (currently as chair), as well as providing leadership in grant writing, branding/logo design and outreach for projects such as the ongoing “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” leaf mulching initiative. I have also actively pursued community issues such as the protection of street trees from excessive pruning by Con Edison (e.g.; 2009 public campaign to protect our heritage sycamore trees along South Broadway). Finally, I have worked closely with environmental organizations such as the Greenburgh Nature Center, the GEF LORAX working group, and SWEAC.

How would you address the tax cap and residents' concerns about higher taxes?

We need continued careful oversight of village services, expenses and revenue projections to best manage taxes. We especially need to be mindful of future personnel costs and pension commitments. We also need to re-examine where "shared services" might make economic sense and be acceptable to village residents. Finally, we should explore passing local village “home rule” over the budget process. Albany shouldn’t control our village budget forcing automatic reduction in desired services.

What would you do to help revitalize the Main St. business district?

We need greater business diversity, enhancement of the Main Street "streetscape" with amenities (such as benches, receptacles, lighting and signage) that accent the historical look & feel of the village, and continued emphasis on building private-public partnerships to increase tourism focused on special events, the Aqueduct Trail, and the unique access that the village can provide to the river.

What are your opinions on the Waterfront Rezoning?

Bridge Street Properties has done a magnificent job of revitalizing the old Burnham factory, bringing offices, stores and restaurants to the village waterfront. The re-zoning is to allow mixed use (including residential) in the waterfront area (north and south parcels). However, the real focus of concern is the “undeveloped” area now constrained to parking by a previous legal agreement.

The residents of the village have been clear over and over that there are really three core requirements of waterfront rezoning that must be met in order to be publicly acceptable: a) protection of river viewsheds; b) guaranteed public access to the river front; and c) protection of the historical facades of the Burnham factory buildings. Coupled with these core requirements, is the public’s concern about parking – how will this be provided when further development occurs? And also concern about the further impacts of traffic on our streets. Frankly, the current zoning draft does not adequately address any of these concerns.

What are your opinions on the Mercy College expansion?

While all businesses (including non-profits) have a right to develop their property to further their business goals, such development must fit in not only with the appropriate zoning laws, but with the character and livability of the surrounding neighborhood. The Planning Board must carefully analyze how the proposed development negatively impacts the neighbors and the greater community of both Irvington and Dobbs Ferry. The SEQR EIS (environmental impact analysis) process is intended to do just this. However, as a result of this environmental impact review and through associated public hearings, it is all too evident that the college and the village have both been remiss in enforcing Special Permit requirements agreed to previously. The neighbors are right to be suspicious of any new development. How will the Planning Board ensure better compliance this time around? Is a third party monitoring and enforcement agent required?

Furthermore, any EIS and resulting site plan agreement must ensure Mercy’s funding of public amenities (such as: new sidewalks, traffic calming measures, hourly/daily parking restrictions, adequate replanting of trees and landscape screening, and support for student use of public transportation) so as to adequately mitigate the list of negative impacts on livability, safety and property values.

What are your thoughts on working with other municipalities and government agencies to share services?

See answer to No. 4 and No. 9. In addition to shared services, there can be greater effort towards reducing shared costs – as with the leaf mulching initiative, which can save Irvington residents both in terms of village budget (more than $100,000 in possible savings), but also in terms of county taxes (up to $4 Million in county budget)! The leaf-mulching program is an all-volunteer grant-funded homeowner and landscaper training and compliance outreach effort which is spreading throughout many Westchester municipalities. The more residents and municipalities that take up leaf-mulching practices, the better the environmental and cost-savings benefits to us all.

What other issues need to be addressed within the village?

We might explore refinancing municipal debt to discover if further rate reductions are possible. We have to (re)examine village services for smart reductions (such as leaf-mulching) and for possible sharing (although to date, no inter-municipal sharing concept has proved to be acceptable to the public.) Energy enhancements to village buildings and vehicles should provide a win-win being both good environmentally and resulting in long term cost savings (especially with ever-increasing energy costs!) Further analysis and advanced planning for climate change impacts and mitigation, as outlined in the Climate Protection Task Force’s 1998 report, should be undertaken. Finally, we must carefully analyze whether new business or residential development brings net revenue to the village or actually serves as a drain on village services/budget.

Why are you running for the position of village trustee?

I want to be able to bring my voice, my skills, my experience, and my perceptions directly into play in village governance. Although I have been active for years on a volunteer level, my concerns about the waterfront, Mercy College and other ongoing development, open space, water quality and so forth have made me realize that I needed to take an even more active role in shaping our village’s future.

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