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Black River board considers alternate ZBA member position

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BLACK RIVER — Following a controversial denial of an area variance by the village Zoning Board of Appeals, the board chair approached the village Board of Trustees to request a local law to permit the appointment of a ZBA alternate.

Mark Wonderly, ZBA chair, told the trustees two recent decisions were default denials due to a board member recusing himself because of a conflict of interest. He reasoned having an alternate step in for such cases would eliminate the problem of a split vote and make the decision more fair.

According to village law, alternate members are permitted under the same conditions as regular members. The law prohibits members of the village Board of Trustees from serving on the ZBA and requires the members to reside with in the village and be at least 18 years of age. Members also must undergo four hours of annual training.

In the recent ZBA case, Adam Brown requested an area variance to divide his property at 187 Maple St. into two lots. Since the road frontage is 132 feet, the division would create two parcels of 66 feet along the road. Village code requires 100 feet of road frontage.

The board heard from six residents and attorney David Renzi, who represented Mr. Brown at the hearing, and received eight letters.

Most were in favor of granting the variance, including neighbor Carol Ambrose, who stated constructing on the lot was better than leaving it vacant.

“I say grant the variance and allow the village to accept taxes and water rent while improving the appearance of our neighborhood,” Mrs. Ambrose said.

Charles and Melissa Liversedge concurred, stating they believe “adding this house would not in any way have a negative impact on the neighborhood.”

Neighbor Russell Stegemoller, however, cited village zoning regulations in his rebuttal to the request for the variance. Referring to the first of five area variance criteria, he said allowing the variance would “create an overcrowded condition.” He said although the benefit cannot be achieved by means other than a variance, Mr. Brown knew the road frontage when he purchased the property.

Knowing a house could not be put next door influenced Mr. Stegemoller’s purchase, he said. “I liked the amount of space between the houses in the neighborhood and it provided me a sense of privacy on that side of my home,” he wrote.

The last criteria asks “is the alleged difficulty self created?” To which Mr. Stegemoller replies “Yes, this difficulty was self induced since Mr. Brown should have known requirement for new construction was 100 feet of road frontage and lot of 189 Maple St. was only 132 feet.”

Despite the public’s support, the five-member board was split 2-2 with chairman Wonderly recusing himself due to a conflict of interest. Board members Ronald Palmer and William Reichard voted no; Michael Zecher and Daniel Darroch were in favor.

The Board of Trustees agreed to research the alternate ZBA member proposal.

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