PB reviews plan for parking area on Main Street

   The Village of Caledonia Planning Board held a public hearing to gather public comment regarding the application of Jeffrey Deragon, owner of Alhart Funeral Home on Main Street, for site plan review and approval of his plan to develop a parking area there.

   Deragon needs planning board approval to combine the two contiguous properties, the one on which the funeral home is situated and the property to its immediate west, a residential property where a two-story home once stood and where the parking area is planned. Deragon purchased the property several years ago and demolished the home to make way for additional parking. This came following the NYSDOT’s reconstruction of Main Street and subsequent parking restrictions that eliminated on street parking. During calling hours, funeral home visitors had been parking along Main Street. Deragon maintained that the parking regulations severely impacted his businesses and inconvenienced visitors to the funeral home.

   Because both properties are located in an R-2 residential zoning area, Deragon sought a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals for the project. The ZBA chair, and immediate neighbor to the property where the parking area is to be situated, Allen Roggen, recused himself from the process and in April 2009, the ZBA ruled 3-2 to grant the variance, pending planning board review and approval.

   The site plan application calls for combining the two properties into one parcel. It includes specific details about the parking lot, traffic flow, fencing, lighting and other landscaping effects. The Livingston County Planning Board reviewed and approved the plan prior to its return to the local planning board.

   Planning board member Mary Catherine Hamilton presided over the public hearing in the absence of chair, Mary Ann Merritt. Deragon’s architect presented the details of the proposed subdivision and site plan to the planning board. About 16 people attended; two of them submitting comments opposing the plan.

   Gail Milner has been following the plan since the beginning. She was unable to personally attend the hearing but prepared opposing comments that were read by her husband and submitted in writing to the planning board. Milner maintains that the funeral home is a pre-existing, nonconforming property located in a residential zoned neighborhood. She argued that extending that condition to include the creation of a parking lot on the property is unlawful.

   Roggen, neighbor to the Main Street property, also provided comments opposing the plan, pointing to the fact that a parking lot, in his opinion, should not be permitted in a residential area.

   The planning board could have deliberated and rendered its decision on the application that night or it could take some or all of the allowed number of days to consider all written comments for and against the project before rendering a decision. The planning board exercised neither of those options because there is a legal proceeding pending on the ZBA’s April 2009 decision to grant Deragon a variance.

   Roggen filed an Article 78 proceeding in State Supreme Court challenging the Village of Caledonia ZBA’s decision to grant a variance permitting the parking lot in a residential area. Judge Ann Marie Taddeo is expected to decide the case sometime this fall.

   Hamilton says the PB will, at that time, render a decision for or against the site plan application, based on the outcome of the Article 78. If the court overturns the ZBA variance, then there is no purpose for a site plan approval. The planning board says it will hold a special meeting if need be to act on the application as soon as the court rules on the Article 78 proceeding.