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October 23, 2012

Board tables zone designation request

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — ONEONTA — The Oneonta city attorney told an applicant before the Zoning and Housing Board of Appeals on Monday night that a request for a variance, not just an interpretation of code, was required by a court order.

And after a dispute couldn’t be resolved on a zoning designation for 10 Irving Place, Brody Smith, attorney for applicant property owner Robert Martella, sought more time to prepare the case. The ZBA tabled the matter until next month’s meeting Nov. 26.

About 20 people, including some neighbors of 10 Irving Place, attended the meeting in City Hall.

Smith told the ZBA that Martella seeks an interpretation on code questions pertaining to 10 Irving Place, a rental property, and regarding occupancy by more than three unrelated individuals, which Smith said has been a practice since before Martella bought the property in 2009.

“We want an interpretation, not a variance,’’ Smith said.

However, Oneonta city attorney David Merzig told Smith that the application to seek an interpretation couldn’t be submitted without a request for variance. Merzig cited a May 22 settlement in Oneonta City Court, which stipulates that Martella agrees to submit an application to the ZBA for “an interpretation/variance’’ regarding occupancy violations, and Merzig said Smith drafted the document.

Smith replied that he disagreed on the need for a variance request but that he would “broaden the application.’’

The stipulation was part of a settlement regarding code violations at 10 Irving Place for which Martella had been issued an appearance ticket and pleaded guilty in Oneonta City Court.

In presenting Martella’s case before the ZBA, Smith said the property was in a RD-5 zone, but his information was challenged.

Smith, along with the current and former code enforcement officers, consulted a map detailing 2009 zone lines, and former code officer Peter Friedman confirmed that 10 Irving Place was in an area designated as RD-4, or a multi-family transitional district.

When ZBA chairman Ed May asked if Smith would accept this information as fact in the case, Smith replied, “No, sir,’’ saying his map taken from the city’s website indicated otherwise.

Smith accepted the ZBA’s offer to return next month, and members of the audience requested to be notified in case of a scheduling change.

In other business Monday night, the ZBA considered the code on front-yard versus back-yard parking and denied a request for a parking area as submitted by Joseph Ruffino Sr. for his rental property at 24 River St.