No joy in Highland

Zoning board of appeals dismisses violation

By LAURIE STUART
Posted 9/23/20

ELDRED, NY — No one was happy at the Highland Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on September 17 as the board unanimously dismissed the April 24, 2020 Notice of Violation Order to Remedy for the …

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No joy in Highland

Zoning board of appeals dismisses violation

Posted

ELDRED, NY — No one was happy at the Highland Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on September 17 as the board unanimously dismissed the April 24, 2020 Notice of Violation Order to Remedy for the Stickett Inn. 

In the 12-minute meeting, which was a follow up on an August 20 hearing, chair Larry Fishman read a prepared resolution that outlined the process for the record. The Stickett Inn proprietors, Roswell Hamrick and John Pizzolato, were appealing the violation that they were operating a hotel / motel drinking establishment without site plan approval and a special-use permit. These approvals would have been part of their two-year application process in front of the Highland Planning Board beginning in 2010. 

Noting that there had been no complaints in the eight years of being in business, and that the property and establishment were beneficial to the Town of Highland, the resolution reiterated that the violation notice was valid. The resolution indicated that there were mitigating factors that led to the waiver of both the site plan approval and the special-use permit. Even though, Fishman said, there was nothing in the planning board minutes that indicated that a special use permit was needed, he said it was incumbent on the applicant to understand what was required by zoning. He said that while represented by counsel, the proprietors ought to have been aware of what was needed.

After the vote was taken, Fishman added a personal addendum. He said that he and every town official that he had spoken with thought that what the proprietors had created was an asset to the town. “Neither I nor anyone else wants to shut you down,” he said. While wishing them well, he said that he did not understand their behavior throughout the process, which he categorized as “maligning officials, bullying, personal attacks and outright falsehoods.” 

Nearly 40 people attended the August 20 meeting to voice their support of the Stickett Inn and to take town officials to task for targeting the couple. There was much drama and contentious posts on social media.

“They were under attack,” attorney Steven Mogel said. “And now they are being taken to task for defending their livelihood.” He mused how many other properties were being examined for procedural mistakes in the past. “Is the town going through all of their files?” he asked.

Property owner Hamrick had a different take. “We followed everything that we were told to do 10 years ago,” he said in a subsequent interview. “We filed plans and architectural drawings. Anyone who could read a plan would have known what these plans were for. We were advised to limit the number of rooms, from six to four, because that was the number of beds that were in the original structure.” He also indicated that the code enforcement officer specifically suggested wording the building permit to include mixed-use and commercial.

“You’ll be covered for anything you want to do,” he recalled the code enforcement officer at the time saying.

Almost as a warning that more could come, the resolution stated that the findings were narrow and did not preclude any other agency from looking at any other part of the project.

Pizzolato remarked, “We’ve already heard about the driveway permit.” 

This was the first time the Zoning Board of Appeals had to rule on a violation appeal. 

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