Zoning Law Decision Tabled; Revisions Proposed
By Jann Wiswall
“I am happy to be back on the Village board again,” said newly elected Village of Ellicottville Mayor John Burrell before opening the first board meeting of his term on Monday, April 11.
Burrell was elected mayor in March, but the job isn’t new to him; he held the post in the 1990s. In the interim, he served for eight years as supervisor of the Town of Ellicottville.
Burrell also congratulated Patra Lowes for winning another four-year term on the board and Joe DiPasquale for being elected to his first term as a trustee.
The first item on the meeting’s lengthy agenda was a public hearing on amendments to the Village Zoning Law. The amendments were prepared by the Village Planning Board and first presented to the Village board for comment and approval nearly a year ago.
Some village residents attended the hearing and expressed concern about changes to accessory building regulations.
The new zoning law proposes to limit the height and square footage of accessory buildings to no more than 60 percent of the main building’s height and 50 percent of its total square footage. The existing law’s limits were 75 percent of both height and square footage.
The residents argued that the second story of a detached garage that met the new parameters, for example, would not be tall or large enough to be useful. They felt that people who just want more storage space might have no other choice than to erect multiple small storage structures.
Village Planner Jason Paananen explained that the intent of the law was to safeguard against accessory buildings becoming larger than the lots’ principal buildings – i.e. having two full-size residences on single lots. The planning board felt that this would damage the character of the neighborhood.
There is no zoning law regulating the number of accessory buildings, however there are green space requirements and property setbacks that would limit the multiple storage building approach.
Another area resident (not of the Village), asked if zoning law addressed residential property upkeep. He specified two homes in particular that are in exceptionally poor condition. “It’s rude to neighbors and other residents, and they bring down property values,” he said.
Paananen said that the village code enforcement officer (CEO) can condemn homes for safety and fire code violations, but that beyond that, government is limited in what it can do.
Burrell himself also had some comments and concerns about some of the changes to the zoning law.
First, he noted that the section on maintenance of the historic overlay/four corners area (which includes the buildings and grounds at the corner of Jefferson and Washington Streets) calls for design review of any changes or additions by the Village Board. He asked if the new planter on the front lawn of the Village/Town Hall had been approved by the board. It had not. He felt that was an oversight.
Second, he felt that rules regarding sandwich board signs are still somewhat vague. Third, he thought that the new maximum size of cloth banners that are used for a short term to promote events are too small.
With those comments, Burrell asked for a motion to close the public hearing, which was done.
Board member Lowes then made a motion to approve the new zoning law as written. The motion was not seconded, so it failed.
Board member Sherman Wilkins then moved to table the vote. That motion was approved four to one, with Lowes voting nay.
Burrell said any necessary revisions would be on the agenda for the May meeting of the board. Village attorney Bob Simon said he would have to wait to see what changes are recommended then before knowing if another public hearing should be held. He said it will be a matter of determining if further changes are “substantial” or not.
Simon also noted that the next version of the revised law must be resubmitted to the county for approval.
In other business, Burrell asked the board to approve his appointment of Greg Cappelli as Deputy Mayor. The request was approved.
Burrell also suggested that several issues have come to his attention and he will ask the board for its help addressing them in the near future. They include:
Brush removal: Burrell has received many complaints about the fact that the village reduced the number of yard waste pickups to two per year. He feels that is not sufficient for people to practically maintain their properties and there should be more discussion. Board members pointed out that yard waste can be bagged and put out for weekly trash pickup, or it can be taken to county transfer stations without charge.
Sewer demand charges: Burrell also has received many questions about a sewer demand charge that was on first quarter 2016 sewer bills. Nussbaumer & Clarke engineer Jim Campolong said that this is an annual fee to cover peak usage in winter. Burrell questioned whether the fee should be annual even when there is a fund balance. The issue will return to a future agenda.
Village benches: The Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce has, for many years, offered people an opportunity to purchase benches as memorials to someone. The program has been very popular, but many existing benches are wearing out and there has never been a plan for their maintenance, which has fallen to the village. Chamber Executive Director Brian McFadden spoke with Burrell about perhaps purchasing high-quality plastic benches that will last longer. Burrell suggested that the Chamber also address the maintenance issue.
Other Business/Department Reports
Reorganization meeting: The village reorganizational meeting will be held immediately following the next regular board meeting.
DPW: DPW Chief Harold Morton said the department has received its new dump truck and has ordered new five new garage doors, two of which will be billed in the next fiscal year. This year’s check from the NY Consolidated Local Streets and Highway Improvement Plan (CHIPS) will be $25,492.60, some $6-7,000 more than last year. Morton and Burrell are working on developing a sidewalk improvement plan for the village. In the process, they recognized that the new sidewalk along Fillmore Street, constructed by Sprague Development, is not ADA compliant. The sidewalk, which has not yet been dedicated to the Village for maintenance, must be corrected.
WWTP: The new wastewater treatment plant is now 92 percent complete. However, some manufacturing delays required Nussbaumer & Clarke to request a one-month extension of its target completion date, which will now be June 30. The good news, however, is that Trillium Way has not suffered the roadway damage engineers originally anticipated. As a result, village officials have been asked to re-estimate repairs. If repair costs will be lower than expected, funds might be available for a few other items that were cut for budget reasons.
Burrell asked for permission on behalf of the Fire Department to hang a banner promoting a firefighter/EMT recruitment event. He also requested the board’s approval to hold the annual Village-sponsored community Lawn Sale on Memorial Day weekend. Both requests were approved.
A request by an American Cancer Society Relay for Life team to hold a boot drive on Washington Street was rejected by the board. One board member felt that the money is collected in the community but does not necessarily come back to the community. For that reason, he felt it wasn’t worth stopping traffic in the center of the village.
Finally, Lowes made a motion to ask the town of Ellicottville to extend its existing water agreement with the village. The agreement formally ended in January. If the town approves the extension at its April 20 meeting, the new agreement will be retroactive to January 10 and will end on May 31, 2017. The board approved the motion.
Simon was asked to craft language for the agreement that will ensure that it renews automatically unless action is taken by either party to end or change it.
The next meeting of the Village Board will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 9 in the Village/Town hall.