ZBA denies appeal of resident in Hardwood Manor project
The Village of Caledonia Zoning Board of Appeals took up two important appeals at their October 1, 2008 meeting before a crowded audience. The village’s legal counsel was also in attendance to advise the board.
Chair Allen Roggen brought Dr. Laurence Schweichler’s appeal to the board for review. Schweichler, through his attorney, Alan Knauf, filed the appeal that argues that the proposed Hardwood Manor apartment project being built by James Sickles, owner of Hardwood Properties, at 260 North Street, Caledonia does not meet the village’s R-3 zoning requirements. Further, the appeal maintains that the village code enforcement officer and planning board’s review and approval of the site plan on June 23, 2008 is erroneous. Knauf told the board that, in his opinion, the project requires not one, but two variances from the ZBA in order to obtain site plan approval.
Attorney for the village, Ronald G. Hull, advised Roggen that the permitted time for an appeal of the planning board’s decision (within 30 days) had elapsed after July 23, 2008. He further added that the ZBA did not hold the jurisdiction to overturn the PB decision and recommended that Schweichler’s appeal be denied.
Roggen evidently showed his disagreement on the matter and instructed the board members to consider Schweichler’s appeal on its own merit as though it had been received within the 30 day time frame of the PB’s approval.
"I don’t want anymore lobbying to be done by the village attorney," Roggen told the board.
ZBA member Steve Wilson answered Roggen saying that the board must follow the procedures, which he said, calls for appeals to be made within 30 days of a planning board decision.
"The planning board has already made its decision. He (Dr. Schweichler) had 30 days to file (the appeal) after the decision. We have no jurisdiction in this matter," Wilson emphatically said, pointing to the local code outlined in the municipal law book and handing it across the table to Roggen, who then told Wilson he had just repeated what Hull said.
Knauf stood up to address the board and explained that his client is not appealing the site plan approval, but rather is appealing Hull’s and the code enforcement officer’s determinations of the zoning code setbacks and other requirements in the days prior to the planning board’s approval. He continued to maintain that the project requires variances in order to proceed.
"We hope to avoid going back to court but you may force us to," Knauf told Roggen and the board members.
Kristopher J. Vurraro, attorney representing Hardwood Properties, addressed the board, objecting to Knauf’s comments.
"Mr. Knauf indicated that the project needs two variances. He is supposing that the planning board made errors. The planning board decided it met all the requirements without variances," he stated.
Roggen continued trying to advance his opinion that the ZBA exists to answer appeals made by residents until the board voted to move into executive session to further discuss the matter. Alternate member Barry Ganzhorn was called to sit in on the discussions and subsequent board vote.
When the board returned from executive session, each member was offered an opportunity to express their opinion before the vote was taken. Wilson, Ganzhorn and Nothnagle all said they acknowledged the planning board’s June decision and maintained that the ZBA did not have jurisdiction to call that decision into question. The board members voted 3-1 to deny Schweichler’s appeal due to the lack of jurisdiction on the matter at the present time.
Schweichler has opposed the local board’s handling of the Hardwood Manor apartment project for more than two years. He’s filed litigation in the appellate and supreme courts against the Village of Caledonia and Hardwood Properties on several points. The courts have upheld the local board’s actions in the Hardwood Manor project but did require the planning board to reconsider the site plan application in June 2008 using alternate members. The late Neil Alhart presided as chair over the June 23 meeting where the planning board unanimously approved the Hardwood Manor site plan application.
The appeal of Jeffrey Deragon, in his application for a parking lot at his Main Street business, Alhart Funeral Home, was scheduled for review on October 8, 2008.
Frustration builds over Village ZBA handling of appeal cases
Village of Caledonia Zoning Board of Appeals Chair Allen Roggen says the board will review two pending appeals at its October 1, 2008 meeting. Both Caledonia residents who filed the appeals attended the September 17th ZBA. Roggen, however, and the attorney representing the Village of Caledonia, Ronald Hull, informed them that the meeting was a scheduled educational workshop and added that the appeals needed to be better advertised in the local newspaper before being reviewed at a public meeting.
The two cases before the ZBA are that of Lawrence Schweichler and Alhart Funeral Home/Jeffrey Deragon. Schweichler is appealing the determination to designate corner lot status to the North Street property where construction of the Hardwood Manor apartment complex is planned. He is also appealing the interpretation/application of building lot set backs of the current site plan of Hardwood Manor. Deragon’s appeal is regarding a two-year old application for a variance to build a parking lot adjacent to the Main Street funeral home. The NYS Department of Transportation recommended no parking along Main Street at the time of the highway reconstruction project, which created a parking shortage for visitors to the funeral home.
Schweichler said both he and his attorney were aware that his appeal was not going to be reviewed at the September 17 meeting and agreed that it needed to publicly advertised in the newspaper. He attended the meeting anyway to determine when Roggen would set a date for the review.
Caledonia Mayor Joe Caluorie was at the meeting and questioned Roggen about the need for a workshop meeting when there are pending appeals and the residents who filed them were at the meeting.
"I’m very frustrated that these appeals again were not addressed and the chairman scheduled a workshop meeting instead of dealing with matters that have been on the table for several months. These are not mandatory workshops and the board members are not receiving credit for them. While I understand the merit of them, we have matters on the table that need attention," the mayor commented.
Roggen maintains that he notified the village board at their previous meeting that all ZBA meetings, except for public hearings, are educational workshops so that members can keep current regarding zoning issues and added that all ZBA meetings are open to the public.
Both appeals will be publicized in the County News prior to the October 1st ZBA meeting which gets underway at 7:30 p.m., at which time the board will review both pending appeals and make a determination if they will require a public hearing. The meeting is open to the public.