OLEAN — A new public hearing will be necessary for a proposed housing development in a former warehouse building on East State Street.
The Zoning Board of Appeals announced Thursday that a new public hearing has been set for Dec. 13 for two variances for the proposed 46-unit rental apartment redevelopment of the former Market Basket warehouse at 422 E. State St. The hearing was called for after it came to light that there were issues with a notarized document on the mailing of notices to neighbors, said Capt. Ed Jennings, head of the city’s code enforcement office.
Jennings said the notification was not received until just recently, and it indicated that the letters were mailed three days too late to legally notify neighbors of the previous public hearing. State law requires the notifications to be mailed at least 10 days before public hearings on zoning variances.
“We have to start the clock all over again,” Jennings said, adding that a third party pointed out the issue. After speaking with the city attorney, the board was advised to convene a new hearing.
“I’m sorry if we’ve inconvenienced anyone, but we legally have to abide by this,” Shayne Certo, chair of the board, said.
Board Secretary Tom Enright lamented the decision, calling on Jennings to detail what exactly was done improperly.
“It bothers me that we weren’t aware of this until tonight or yesterday,” Enright said. “It just doesn't sound right.”
An Oct. 25 hearing lasted for almost two hours, with comments from neighbors concerned over the size of the development, the impact on the neighborhood from increased traffic and possible effects from lighting and storm runoff.
Board member Darryl Bloom was concerned over the admissibility of the information gathered at the first hearing.
“Will that be able to be used, or do we have to have all the people re-testify?” Bloom said.
“You already had a public hearing with the information in the minutes,” Jennings said, adding he spoke with the city attorney on the topic.
The $13 million project, planned by nonprofit CDS Monarch and Directions in Independent Living, would see the two-story structure converted to affordable housing, but two variances to the city’s zoning law are needed. A use variance is required as the general commercial zoning district allows for residential use, but not on the ground floor as proposed; and an area variance, as city code calls for 81 parking spaces for the number of housing units and only 71 are proposed.
Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, only one ZBA meeting will be held in November, leaving Dec. 13 as the next meeting date. Due to the Christmas holiday, the next meeting after that — the earliest the board may make a decision — is not until January 2019.
(Contact reporter-editor Bob Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)