OSWEGO, NY – The people spoke and the council listened Monday night.
The Common Council voted 3-4 against a zone change for 134 and 140 E. 13th St., from R-3 Residential to B-1 Neighborhood Business.
Chris LaBarge sought the zone change in order to purchase the property and build a hotel there.
However, nearly a dozen residents of the area spoke out against the plan at the council’s public session.
Matt Kerwin, an attorney, representing LaBarge, told how the four-story hotel would actually fit in the neighborhood. At one point he described the area as not one of the city’s “pristine residential areas.”
That comment drew the wrath of Second Ward Councilor Mike Myers later during the regular meeting.
“The Second Ward residents have come forward and spoke. I hope everybody listened,” Myers said. “Mr. Kerwin – ‘pristine’ – an attorney comes in here from out of state, out of town, wherever you live, and say that about my city. I don’t like it. How do you think these people feel out here? They love their properties, they’re nice. So you know what? People like you, no, get out of town!”
A hearty round of applause from the gallery interrupted the councilor.
“That is the second time you’ve trashed a city person. And no way am I going to sit here and stand for that. I love this city. These people out here love their property. Thanks for coming to a city and trashing it without even knowing anybody,” he continued.
Fourth Ward Councilor Shawn Walker said he walked around his ward, which borders the Second Ward. He surveyed many of the residents and found most were against the hotel or wanted to see it in a different location.
“That’s what I’d like to say. Let’s put it in a different location,” he said.
During the public hearing, residents protested the requested zone change. Several of the residents offered possible alternative sites.
They weren’t against progress and development, they said. However, there are other suitable locations elsewhere in the Port City that are appropriately zoned, they added.
One resident reminded councilors that in 1999 there was an attempt to locate an Office Max in that area. That plan was also defeated, he added.
Once you have changed a residential district into a business district, “there is no going back,” another speaker said.
Another cautioned that changing residential districts into business districts would “kill the city.”
This issue has been brought back to the council a couple other times and was denied then, some of the residents pointed out. The councilors were warned that to OK it now after all that could plunge the city into a lawsuit.
“We need to say enough,” one woman told the council. “Take a step back. Look at it, review it. This is our lives, our children’s lives. There area lot of other options.”
“I find it hard to turn any business away from our city,” Fifth Ward Councilor Dan Donovan said. “But, the fact remains, we were elected by the people to represent them. The people have spoken, I listened. I can’t support this.”
“This has been an issue we’ve all spent a great deal of time on,” Council President (Seventh Ward) Ron Kaplewicz said. “This is one of those issues where if your heart and your head don’t match up, you’re really in a difficult place. We need to be progressive as a city and not regressive.”
“I do support this because I do feel it is in the best interest of the city and the people who elected me,” said First Ward Councilor Fran Enwright. “The people I have talked to, I have had a positive feedback; I have talked to neighbors and some of the hotel people involved.”
Betty Gray, director of the Neighborhood Watch Program, urged the councilors to “look out for the community, stick up for our city. Build some place else.”
Voting in favor of the resolution were Kaplewicz, Enwright and Sixth Ward Councilor Erik VanBuren.
In opposition were Myers, Walker, Donovan and Third Ward Councilor Mike Todd.