MASSENA A member of the village Planning Board is under investigation after acknowledging during Wednesday nights board meeting that he had reached out to developer Richard E. Maginn and offered to help him, for a fee, gain approval for a Nice N Easy store.
Mayor James F. Hidy said Thursday afternoon that village police are investigating Brian A. Schafers conduct in the matter, and that his future on the Planning Board depends on what they find.
Mr. Schafers alleged actions came to light Monday night following a presentation by John Hagan, a Syracuse architect who designed the plans for the proposed Nice N Easy at Main and East Orvis streets.
Mr. Maginns attorney, Mark F. Snider, told the Planning Board that Mr. Schafer had met with Mr. Maginn and offered his assistance to move the development through the planning process.
We wanted neither his assistance or obstruction on the project. Either of these would be considered an impropriety, Mr. Snider said.
Mr. Snider called Mr. Schafers explanation not only vague, but misleading. Mr. Schafer requested to be paid for his services to bring about the successful development of the corner by Sandstone Development LLC.
Mr. Schafer, who made a 10-minute presentation to the board complete with drawings that would reduce the two proposed entrance/exits on Main Street to one and add a second entrance/exit to East Orvis Street, acknowledged that he had contacted Mr. Maginn on three occasions.
The retired mechanical engineer from Alcoa said he had done the work at his own expense, including paying to have drawings done, after hearing numerous concerns from residents and fellow board members that two new entrances off Main Street near East Orvis would create traffic problems downtown.
That conversation only went to, This represents an option if your people were interested; that would be the Valentine brothers, I guess. If your people were interested to call me without any further delays, Mr. Schafer said during the meeting.
Mr. Schafer said he had two messages from Mr. Maginn on his answering machine.
Id be happy to play them for you, he said. I told him, I have two hats here. If I put the other hat on, which is get it (project designs) through him, that would benefit you guys.
Mr. Schafer said that on one of the messages Mr. Maginn said he spoke with the Valentine brothers, the developers of Nice N Easy stores in the region, who told him they werent interested in his offer.
However, by that time, Mr. Schafer said, he began having second thoughts.
At that point in time I told him I had already gone too far. I have no further interest. I cannot go to the Valentine brothers. I could have done this through you, if they had some interest, and that was it. Im done.
Just minutes after calling Mr. Hagans presentation the best hes seen in all his years on the board, Mr. Schafer moved to approve the proposal, if members agreed to the conceptual modifications he had presented. That motion failed to get a second, but the project ultimately passed 5-1. Mr. Schafer was the lone no vote. Brian R. Trzaskos was not at the meeting.
While the project ultimately was approved, Mr. Snider said Mr. Schafers actions had an impact on his client.
He voted no every time there was a vote, Mr. Snider said, noting there were two previous votes that ended 4-2, with B. Joseph Cardinal also opposing the plans.
When Mr. Hagan agreed to eliminate two more parking spots to meet the countys recommendations, Mr. Cardinal changed his no vote to a yes, and while a supermajority to overrule the county recommendation no was longer needed, one was achieved and the project passed.
Mr. Hidy said an investigation into the matter continues.
Planning Board Chairman Frank D. Hutt said he and other board members have been suspicious of Mr. Schafer, who has a civil engineering background, for quite some time.
It has gone on with other things before, Mr. Hutt said. There are at least a few times that myself and other board members are aware of. The last time he was appointed about a year ago, I didnt think that would happen, but it did. There must have been people somewhere saying he was doing a good job.
Attempts to reach Mr. Schafer on Thursday were not successful.