A few days ago we blogged about the zone text amendment request made by Mr. Adler and received by the town clerk's office at 12:49 p.m., just hours before the 7:00 p.m. town board meeting scheduled for November 16, 2011.
We noted in our blog that a couple of days after the town board meeting we visited the town clerk's office and asked for a copy of the petition submitted by Mr. Adler...according to the town clerk there was none on file. There were only some papers requesting the change in the zone text in the Planned Development Park District [PDPD].
Today, more than two weeks after the zone text amendment request was brought before the New Hartford Town Board, we called the Town Clerk to again ask for a copy of the petition that was presented on behalf of New Hartford Group, LLC. The Town Clerk once again said all she has on file is a letter; a letter that is merely signed "Larry Adler" on what appears to be Cameron Group, LLC letterhead.
The town clerk said she did not believe that a petition was necessary for a zone text amendment; she believed it was only necessary for a zone map amendment. She then asked what section of Town Code we were referring to so she could look at the code herself. She further stated that after reviewing the Town Code if she found it necessary, she would ask for an opinion from the town attorney as to whether or not the code referred only to a zone map amendment and did not apply to a zone text amendment which is what Mr. Adler had requested.
Let's take a look at Chapter 118 of New Hartford Town Code titled "Zoning".
Chapter 18, Article XIV - Amendments; § 118-85. Statutory authorization states:
This chapter or any part thereof, including the Zoning Map [emphasis added by this blogger], indicating the various district boundaries, may from time to time be amended, supplemented, changed, modified or repealed by the Town Board in the manner provided by § § 264 and 265 of the Town Law.Sounds pretty straight forward to us. The operative words in this section of the Town Code are..."this chapter or any part thereof...including the Zoning Map...may be amended, supplemented, changed, modified or repealed by the Town Board." It doesn't say the code is referring only to zone map amendments...in fact by the very wording "including the Zoning Map" one would be led to believe that zone map changes are only part of the equation.
The next section of Article XIV, § 118-86 states there are only three (3) ways that a zoning amendment can be initiated:
A. By the Town Board upon its own motion.We know for sure that A & B didn't happen so in order for the process to begin someone must have been relying on C...so why is the town unable to provide us a copy of a "duly signed petition"?
B. By resolution of the Planning Board, filed with the Town Clerk, wherein certain changes to or repeal of specific provisions of this chapter are recommended, in which case, it shall be the duty of the Town Board to act on such proposed amendment within 90 days of the time such resolution is filed by the Planning Board with the Town Clerk.
C. By petition duly signed and acknowledged from the owners of 50% or more of the acreage in any district or part thereof requesting an amendment, supplement or change in the regulations prescribed for such district or part thereof, in which case, it shall be the duty of the Town Board to act upon such petition for amendment within 90 days of the time such petition is filed by the petitioners with the Town Clerk. Said petition shall be accompanied by the applicable fee in accordance with the fee schedule established and annually reviewed by the Town Board.
We have numerous concerns regarding the process being used by town officials as it pertains to Mr. Adler's request...
First, there is a specific process for initiating zoning amendments...that's why a law was adopted...to outline the process so that everyone would be treated in a 'fair and like' manner. A letter does not constitute a petition, at least that's what we've been told when we have had occasion to file petitions. We have been told that we had to follow strict rules in order for the petition to be recognized as legitimate.
Secondly, Mr. Adler didn't sign his "letter" as a duly appointed representative of New Hartford Office Group, LLC or as the principal owner of acreage in the zone where he is requesting the text to be changed...he just signed it Larry Adler.
According to the town assessment database, neither Mr. Adler nor Cameron Group, LLC [the letterhead used by Mr. Adler to submit his request to the town clerk] are the owner(s) of any of the business park acreage. As a matter of fact, according to the town assessment database, neither Mr. Adler as an individual nor Cameron Group, LLC are listed as owners of ANY property in New Hartford. New Hartford Office Group, LLC is listed as the owner of part of the business park and Cameron Housing, LLC, apparently another subsidiary of Cameron Group,LLC. owns property near Sitrin.
Additionally, the map of the PDPD zone we were provided by the town is outdated; the town actually owns some of the land for the roads servicing the business park; and the property that The Hartford building is situated on is not owned by Mr. Adler or New Hartford Office Group, LLC.
Third, the town attorney is already on video acknowledging that he would have to confer with the town assessor to confirm that Mr. Adler owns at least 50% of the acreage in the zone. So if this section of the Town Code doesn't apply to zone text amendments, what part of the town code is Attorney Cully relying on when he states that he and the assessor would have to determine whether or not Mr. Adler owns at least 50% of the acreage in the zone that is to be amended?
Is there another section of the town code that applies or are we to believe that the New Hartford Town Code is meant to be applied "buffet-style"...pick and choose the section of code that best suits the individual applicant's "wants and needs"?
Without a petition duly signed and acknowledged from 50% of the owners of the acreage, we would like to know how the Hell this ever got to the town board table in the first place and what basis was used by the Town Supervisor and Town Attorney to ask the town board to approve sending this request on to the New Hartford Planning Board and the Oneida County Planning Board; one of the first steps in the process for the approval and adoption of a local law for a zone text amendment; of course, that would be right after a "duly signed petition" is filed in the town clerk's office along with the applicable fee...we still don't know if the fee has been received from Mr. Adler.
But we will wait for an opinion from the town attorney...this should be interesting to say the least.