Sep 02, 2014 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
It’s a gorgeous three-level, 14-room home at the base of Birch Street facing Onondaga Lake Park. Since it was constructed by Liverpool businessman Val Lamont two decades ago, the house has remained vacant.
Lamont initially planned to move his family into the mini-mansion at 101½ Birch St., but when his late wife, Victoria, decided against it, he put it on the market for more than $500,000. Known by many as “the Christmas Tree house” because a holiday fir stands year-round in one of the home’s many expansive windows, the property attracted interest but no serious offers.
Now a potential buyer, Janet Marie Urban of Nedrow, says she’ll purchase the house if she can secure a special permit from the village to allow her to operate a home-based business there. A tobacco treatment specialist, Urban’s permit application is presently under review by the Village Planning Board.
If permission is not granted, she said, she’ll withdraw her purchase offer.
The board’s Aug. 25 public hearing drew more than three dozen village residents most of whom oppose Urban’s plan to establish a business there named Wellness at The Lake.
“She says she may allow 24-hour stays for some of her clients,” said Matt Bobenhausen of 105 Birch St. “If that’s the case she’ll be operating an in-patient rehab center there.” Bobenhausen worries that such usage could change the character of the neighborhood and possibly lower property values.
Jack Fisher of 102 Hickory St. said, “I have nothing against the young lady is trying to do — helping people who need help is good — but this is just not the right thing to do in a residential area.”
Former chairman of the Onondaga County Legislature Bill Sanford, of 105 Iroquois Lane, pointed out that Onondaga Lake Park is essentially 101½ Birch St.’s front yard.
“There’s a lot going on on the other side of the lake right now,” Sanford said. “Any property on the shore of this lake should not be commercially developed.”
Planning board attorney John Langey pointed out that a special-use permit would not technically make the 4,822-square-foot home a commercial property. “She’s simply planning to run a home-based business out of the house that she will occupy,” Langey said. “No zone change is being considered.”
A home-based business can utilize 500 square feet or 25 percent of one floor of the house where services can be provided, the lawyer said.
Urban, who is known professionally as “Ms. Motivator,” offers a variety of programs to help nicotine addicts including individual consultation, customized treatment plans, outpatient group counseling and intensive outpatient group counseling.
Regardless, Sanford said, “It’s not the right thing for the neighborhood, and especially right next to Onondaga Lake Park, a family park.”
Francine LaValle of First Street said Urban’s business would increase traffic in the area. “There are already too many people walking up and down First Street going to the park,” she said, “and this would just make it worse.”
Tim Weber of 312 Third St. pointed out that, as an addiction therapist, Urban would have to guarantee confidentiality to her clients. “Because of that,” Weber said, “she won’t even be able to identify what they’re being treated for. Drug and alcohol abuse treatment is a whole different animal, one that would stigmatize our neighborhood.”
On the other hand, village resident Norm Andrzejewski noted that 101½ Birch St. has been unoccupied for 20 years, and welcomes Wellness by the Lake. “If someone’s here in our village providing services to help people addicted to tobacco, that’s a blessing,” Andrzejewski said.
Planning Board Chairman Joe Ostuni Jr. held the public hearing over to next month’s meeting on Sept. 22. Before adjourning, the board voted unanimously against forwarding Urban’s application to the Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency.
“We don’t know enough yet,” said planning board member Mike LaMontagne.