Sep 10, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Farnham Street residents presented a petition to the village board this week opposing the requested zone change of a house on their street from a residential to a commercial district. The petition is the latest salvo in the continuing — and increasingly passionate — uprising of the Farnham Street neighborhood against the proposed “Farnham Kitchen” at 8 Farnham St. that will, if it comes to fruition, create a wedding cake business and ready-made meal business inside a historic house on the edge of the neighborhood near Albany Street.
The neighborhood petition was submitted to the board at the end of a 45-minute public hearing on Sept. 3 during which multiple residents continued their vociferous and vocal opposition to the zoning change. This recent public hearing differed from the first two meetings where this issue was broached, however, in that Farnham Street residents were much more heated, even personal, in their comments, at times suggesting shady backroom deals, purposeful omission of facts, ignorant municipal policies and statements of outright fabrications by petitioner Susan Light all in the name of selfish profit motives.
Light has said at previous public meetings, and reiterated at the Sept. 3 village board meeting, that the anticipated business operations in the two-bedroom colonial house would be “very small scale,” one-person endeavors: her custom wedding cake business and her business partner Jennifer Wong’s ready-made meal business. There would be a commercial-grade kitchen and two second-floor offices. All ingredients would be from local farms and any customers visiting the building (by appointment only) would park in the driveway, on Albany Street or in public village lots.
Farnham Street resident Fred Jung said if the zone change is approved Light will “ride in and make money” while the neighbors lose money from declining property values. “It doesn’t seem fair to me to vampirize a neighborhood” when so much retail space is available in Albany Street and in the Tops plaza, he said.
“I don’t like the motives; I don’t like the sham that she’s outgrown her own kitchen. To think that this [business] remains small is ludicrous. I hope you’re not trying to make some kind of cookie-cutter, yuppie community like Skaneateles,” Jung said.
Gavin Jones who owns a house on the street but does not live there, said Light’s statement that the business’ customers — mostly senior citizens — will park in village public parking and walk to 8 Farnham was “bovine excrement.” He said he measured the distances from public parking to Farnham Street, which ranged from about 1,500 to 3,00 feet round-trip, and nobody will end up walking that but will park on the street, double park on the street or park in other people’s driveways or the fire department parking lot. He also questioned the lack of conformity currently at 8 Farnham St. to setback, buffering and parking requirements in the village code.
“I’m a little surprised that none of these were brought up” previously by the village board, he said, suggesting the board was ignoring the rules and regulations it is supposed to follow.
Jones also suggested Village Planning Board Chair Rich Huftalen was distorting the record by claiming his board received more letters in favor of the zone change than against it, even though many of the letters were from non-village residents.
While the village board members sat stony-faced at the accusations, Mayor Kurt Wheeler did respond and said that the board’s job at this early stage in its consideration of the zone change request was to gather facts, public comments and village attorney advice and input and take all that into account before they make a decision on the application.
The village planning board is expected to take up the zone change issue again at its Sept. 9 meeting, after which it will issue an opinion on the request to the village board. The village also asked the Madison County Planning Board for an advisory opinion regarding the zone change, which also has not been received. Once those two opinions are received, the village board expects to make a final decision on whether or not to approve the zone change at its next regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 7, Wheeler said.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.