ELIZABETHTOWN - The Elizabethtown Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) met on Monday or did it?
Issues with the legality of the ZBA simmered under the surface as about 20 residents attended the first meeting of the board in years on Sept. 10.
Board members unaware of appointments
ZBA chairman Brent Vosburg said he didn't know he'd been appointed as the chairman of the ZBA until four days before the meeting. Vosburg said he was "flabbergasted" by the appointment, adding that he had no time to prepare to serve in the role. He attended the meeting, but resigned from the board immediately after.
Board member Jeanne Frisbee was upset about the meeting, calling it illegal, bringing copies of state laws and ZBA procedures. She said she had been interested in serving on the board, but found the current situation untenable.
If you're not going to follow the rules, especially with the board of appeals, we're set up for liabilities that are unbelievable. I don't think I want a part of that. Mr. Vosburg and I are mostly here tonight out of an obligation to the community, said Frisbee.
The third person appointed to the three-person board had no interesting in being a member.
Town supervisor Noel Merrihew called the problems with the ZBA an oversight. He explained that it had been several years since the ZBA met, and town officials had gotten into the habit of reappointing the same people at the regular organizational meeting annually.
Merrihew said that the town had problems finding people to serve on the boards, and was seeking interested individuals to serve on the ZBA.
Garage construction allowed to continue
Vosburg opened the meeting up to take public comment on Rita and Gary Mitchell's 8229 River Street property. Work on it had been stopped after it was determined that there had been confusion in the hamlet's zoning laws.
Gary Mitchell said he had a building permit for the garage dated July 11, but that issues had arisen after it was discovered it was too close to the boundary line. He also had a letter from neighboring property owner Electa Vaughn, who stated she didn't have any issues with the project.
No other property owners spoke on the project. Gary Mitchell said he was under the impression that the final decision would be made by the ZBA.
We were just told that no decision would be made, said Frisbee.
Frisbee left the room to confer with town supervisor Noel Merrihew, and returned to encourage the Mitchells to continue the project.
I suggested you and your builders just go and build a garage, said Frisbee, who said Merrihew would send a letter of permission.
MLS services discuss plans for Elizabethtown
The ZBA then held a public hearing for comment on Mountain Lake Services' (MLS) plans to acquire another property in Elizabethtown.
Deb McKenna, director of administrative services for MLS, explained that that MLS was working on right sizing homes, breaking up its larger residences to create smaller, more home-like environments. The organization currently has three properties in Elizabethtown - one on Park Street, one on Dougan Lane and one on Lord Road.
The Lord Road home currently has 12 residents, who would be broken up into three houses - including two in Lake PLacid. A third would be purchased on River Street, and the Lord Road home would be converted into a day habilitation site.
There's a number of individuals who want to remain in Elizabethtown, said McKenna.
Resident Philip Jackson spoke in favor of allowing the project to proceed. Jackson, who has a son who lives in the MLS residence on Dougan Lane, felt that the affect of removing the property from the tax rolls was insignificant, and said that the organization's benefit to the region outweighed the lost revenue. He added that there were several projects currently underway that would add to the town's assessed value.
One Lord Road resident spoke to encourage residents to support the plan.
I'm a big asset in Elizabethtown - I've been in the Elizabethtown Fire Department, and I'm a big help to the fire department and volunteer advocate for some of the people in MLS, said Joe Thomas-Train. I think it would be a lot more convenient, since i'm in the fire department, to go to a call if i'm across the way on River Street.
The issue for some residents of the town is that while MLS pays a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) to the town, it does not pay county or school taxes. Frisbee wondered what the saturation point would be for Elizabethtown.
How many houses do you feel you may be needing down the road in Elizabethtown? asked Frisbee.
McKenna said that currently the organization had no further plans to expand in Elizabethtown. She said that purchasing another home in Elizabethtown would create another seven jobs in the community.
Realtor Bruce Pushee, who is representing the seller of the River Street property, happens to live across the street. He said he felt MLS would be good neighbors, since the homes are well-maintained and residents are quiet.