ELDRED, NY — About 50 people gathered outside of the Highland Town Hall on Thursday evening, August 20. They brought signs to show their support for Stickett Inn proprietors John Pizzolato and …
ELDRED, NY — About 50 people gathered outside of the Highland Town Hall on Thursday evening, August 20. They brought signs to show their support for Stickett Inn proprietors John Pizzolato and Roswell Hamrick.
The proprietors were in front of the Highland Zoning Board of Appeals to contest a notice of violation-order to remedy for operating a hotel/motel and drinking establishment at their premises at 3380 Rte. 97 in Barryville without site plan approval or a special use permit approved by the Town of Highland Planning Board.
Represented by Steven N. Mogel, Esq. of Monticello, the proprietors are asking that the violations be dismissed and contend that they did everything that was required of them when they met with the planning board beginning in 2010. Mogel handed out a half-inch thick “instant submission” that documented the progress the project had in its inception, including five appearances at the planning board beginning on February 10, 2010 and ending on April 4, 2012. A building permit was issued on April 27, 2012 and a Certificate of Occupancy was issued on July 13, 2012. The project was also part of the River Corridor Main Street Program and had additional county involvement.
Generally speaking, the language of a building permit and Certificate of Occupancy states that the building or project “substantially conforms to all of the requirements of the applicable provisions of the law,” a point that Mogel made during the one-hour, 10-minute proceeding. Attorney Michael Davidoff, Esq. represented the town.
In a trial-like atmosphere with the lawyers making statements, the witnesses—Code Enforcement Officer Dave Preston and Town of Highland Planning Board Chair Berry Hafkin—were sworn in by stenographer Rose Meyers. Each gave testimony to the process and were questioned by both lawyers. Six members of the public were ushered in and out in 10-minute intervals by Town of Highland Constable Marc Anthony.
In his testimony, Preston said he was first alerted to a potential discrepancy when assessor Lorry King informed him that the Stickett Inn property was not being taxed as a motel/hotel. During a fire inspection on February 11, Preston toured the building. In checking the files, he saw that there was no special use permit for the operation of a motel/hotel and no approved site plan. Upon counsel, he issued a violation notice on April 24. It was sent first-class mail to the proprietors’ New York City address, where it was delayed for some time. According to Mogel, the service of the notice of violation did not comply with the town’s own code that stipulates that it must be sent by certified mail.
The Stickett Inn property contains two buildings: A large frame building and a smaller concrete one. The original application was for a retail establishment in the concrete building and three rooms to let and an apartment in the larger one. Drawings in the packet and planning board minutes indicate the small building was intended to be a taco stand. While unclear as to the nature of the rooms to let, a sworn affidavit by the project’s architect, Bernard Kozykowski, indicates that the number of rooms with private bathrooms was changed due to input from the code enforcement officer at the time and the planning board.
Approval of the site plan was on the agenda of the October 5, 2011 planning board meeting, and a copy was in the instant submission. There is no indication that the planning board took action and, according to Preston, no site plan map is in the town file.
In his argument, Davidoff told the body that he had filed a Freedom of Information request for county records for a copy of the 239M review that the planning board would have requested from the county. He reported that the county did not have any record of it. Section 239M of municipal law states the county must review site plans if the project is within 500 feet of a county or state road, among other stipulations.
Hafkin, in his testimony, said that the only question that he remembers is about the parking on the main road. With Hafkin reading parts of the planning board minutes, Davidoff highlighted that when asked at the April 4 meeting, the final meeting before the issuance of the building permit, whether all changes that [the proprietors] were making were within the accepted uses, Hamrick stated that the permit had not changed since the town signed off on it.
Chairman Larry Fishman asked whether there was any indication of what the town had signed off on. The answer was no.
The board received 70 letters in support of the Stickett Inn.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will issue a determination at its next meeting on September 17. If the board upholds the violation, the proprietors will need to apply for a special use permit and submit a site plan for approval.
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