Sep 20, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Christenson building at the corner of Nelson and Peterboro roads in Fenner will not be torn down, and the town will receive reimbursement for legal costs for the four-month process it has taken to reach the resolution with the building owner. The deal between the Fenner Town Board and town resident Jim Christenson was reached at the board’s Sept. 11 regular monthly meeting.
An addition to the building was constructed without a permit more than a decade ago, and this past May Christenson applied for a variance. Since then, the town board has been working with Christenson to resolve the situation, whether by forcibly removing the building or adding stipulations about the future use of the building.
The town has been considering razing the building addition due to concerns that it impedes visibility on such a highly traveled intersection. The Madison County Highway department, which got involved in the issue in July, also said the building’s roof drains empty into the county highway and in winter causes dangerous ice buildup.
Christenson, who was present at the board’s Sept. 11 meeting, gave a brief history of the building and his ownership of it. He disputed the statements that it obstructs traffic visibility or drains water into the highway, but admitted he built the addition illegally.
Town Attorney Jim Stokes said the building addition was clearly illegal, according to the records of the case, and although the town has the right to forcibly tear the addition down it is not obligated to do so. “The question is: Is there a public interest in removing this building?” Stokes said. He suggested that the $2,100 of Christenson’s money, currently in an escrow account owned by the town as part of a previous agreement with Christenson, could be forfeit as a civil penalty to the town rather than used to pay the cost of demolition.
Christenson said he would be willing to give half the amount to the town to cover its legal fees in this case and wanted half to be given to the Perryville Cemetery for maintenance and upkeep.
After a 10-minute executive session with Stokes, the board unanimously agreed — minus absent member Hank Stoker — to approve an agreement with Christenson in which he agrees to pay $1,000 to the Perryville Cemetery and the remaining $1,100 in the escrow account to offset the town’s legal costs. The town in turn agreed not to remove the addition to his building on the condition that Christenson receives a variance from the town zoning board of appeals to permit the continued existence of the structure.
Also at the meeting, Stokes reported to the board his legal opinion on the efficacy of current town zoning laws to regulate gas drilling in the town, specifically the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing. His opinion, which he also provided to the board in writing, was done to satisfy a request by a group of town residents who believe a drilling moratorium and ban are necessary to stave off gas company interests. The town board has maintained that its zoning laws are sufficient and residents requested Stokes’ legal opinion to prove it.
Stokes said that in the town’s zoning laws gas drilling is not a permitted use in any of the three districts in the town and there is also nothing in the code that would “logically include” gas drilling in any sort of “general” instance. He said drilling is similar to the Fenner Wind Farm when that was approved years ago — the town board had to change the zoning code to allow the wind farm because there was nothing in the code that permitted the wind farm.
Stokes said that while any landowner in the town has a right to apply for a land use variance to allow gas drilling on their property, it would be “extremely unlikely” that such a request would be approved because “it is a very difficult test to meet.”
The board also unanimously approved the expenditure of $9,491 to replace the tires on the town loader, and heard from Supervisor Russ Carey that according to the recently released tax base growth factors for cities and towns for fiscal year starting in 2014, the town of Fenner had the second-largest growth of any town in Madison County at 1.0120 percent. The largest growth was had by the town of Madison at 1.0125 percent. Cazenovia had 1.0052 percent and Nelson had 1.0019 percent.
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.