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Committee Moves Developer’s Zoning Request To Planning Board

OSWEGO, NY – A petition for a zone change regarding some property on Oswego’s east side was gain met with resistance

At its meeting Monday night, the Planning and Development Committee forwarded the petition from Matthew T. Kerwin, on behalf of Chris A. LaBarge, to the Planning Board for an advisory opinion.

It wasn’t without nearly a half hour of debate, however.

LaBarge, contract purchaser of real property located in the Second Ward at 134 and 140 E. Thirteenth St., wants it changed from an R-3 Residential District to a B-1 Neighborhood Business District. The purpose is to allow him to erect a new hotel.

LaBarge said he looking to buy the property from Steve Thomas, “pending rezoning.”

The proposed project would be an 81-room Holiday Inn Express and Suites (behind and to the north of Ruby Tuesday).

Previously, Mr. LaBarge did meet some resistance from the neighbors, according to Mike Myers, committee chair.

“The neighbors were not in favor of this. At which time he pulled his petition,” he said.

If the zone change went through, it would impact not only the motel business already in the area but the residents as well, he added.

James Eby, the attorney representing the owner, told the committee “This is like déjà-vu all over again for us. I remember coming here, meeting with you folks on this very same issue. And, that wasn’t the first time, either. This thing keeps coming back and coming back. I’m not aware of anybody in that neighborhood that is in favor of this. Why go back again on this thing after it’s already been looked at? This would be the third time.”

People in that neighborhood have a right to rely on the zoning that’s there, he added.

He also took exception to some of the comments in the petition.

For example, he pointed to: “The city’s current hotel accommodations are limited to aging, out-dated motels and hotels that lack the amenities desired by today’s travelers.”

“We’ve got somebody coming into the community taking shots at the establishments that are here,” he said, adding that the Broadwell family is “building a state-of-the-arts facility. We have to start looking at taking care of the people that are here already, paying taxes, employing people here in the city already … before we start going on changing something that has been in place for a long time; that no one in the community wants to see changed.”

There is on-going litigation regarding the property. Eby has been retained to contest the sale because of a restricted covenant in the contract. That action is pending and LaBarge has filed an answer as has (owner) Steve Thomas, Eby pointed out.

The city hasn’t been named as a party in the litigation, Gay Williams, city attorney, said.

“It’s strictly a civil matter,” she said. “I don’t think that the litigation will have anything to do with whether the zone is changed or not.”

The next step for the committee would be to send the request to the planning board, as all zone change requests are done, she continued.

“If you change the zoning to allow a hotel to be built there, that brings in the question of this guy can walk out of his contract because it’s been violated. But isn’t there another hotel trying to come in down the river (East First and Utica streets)?” asked local resident Sue Matthews. “How many hotels do we need? And, wouldn’t it be better to stimulate them from the inside rather than big corporations coming in from the outside?”

“The question is it’s not the city of Oswego or one hotel versus another hotel or a third hotel. The question is does Mr. LaBarge have a right to petition us to go in front of the planning board? And, do we have the right to deny him due process to go in front of the planning board?” Councilor Bill Sharkey pointed out. “Do we have a right to say ‘no’ or are we obligated to give him his due process?”

The process is it comes to the City Clerk’s Office and then to the council to be forwarded to the Planning Board for an advisory opinion, Williams said.

“When it comes back to the council, the council has the discretion to grant or not grant it,” she said. “But, it should at least follow the process. The council isn’t obligated to follow the advisory opinion. But it should follow the process.”

“I think that everyone has a right to apply to this committee to go to the Planning Board. I don’t think we can deny someone that whether we’re for a zone change or not,” Councilor Dan Donovan added.

Jim Restuccio, an area resident, wanted to know how many times this issue would keep coming back to the council. He pointed out that Office Max was also turned away from the area a few years ago.

“How many times do we have to say ‘no?’” he asked. “Evidently, there’s no rules here. When Mr. Thomas bought it, it was residential. It should stay residential.”

In the contract, Thomas reportedly stipulated that there wouldn’t be another hotel within two miles of the area. “How can he make that promise?” Councilor Connie Cosemento asked.

“We have to move this to planning and give them due process,” Sharkey said.

Mayor Randy Bateman agreed.

“Follow the process,” he said. “Send it to planning.”

Donovan and Sharkey voted in favor of the resolution. Myers voted against it.