FULTON, NY – The Fulton Common Council revisited a zone change request after no action was taken following a public hearing in August.
Property owner for the locations listed at 837 and 839 Oneida St., Joseph Latino has requested the zoning to be changed from the current C-1 Commercial to R-1 Residential with the intent to sell the property.
With five councilmen present at the initial public hearing, all fives votes in favor were required to approve the zone change.
After two councilmen abstained their votes, no action was taken, Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. explained.
This resulted in the property owner approaching the Oswego County Supreme Court to file an Article 78 petition, described on NYSCourts.gov as “a Supreme Court case that can change an order made by an administrative agency.”
Mayor Woodward said Latino is able to follow through with the Article 78 if he does not agree with the final ruling on the matter, however, the second public hearing held Tuesday would allow an action to be made on the resolution after two abstaining votes resulted in no action initially.
“We’ve come back in an effort tonight to do it right,” Woodward said.
Public comment during the hearing allowed a neighbor on the street of which the properties are located to express the concerns he and other neighbors in the area have regarding the zone change.
Neighbor Doug Massena said he recalls the location being a business ever since before he bought his home in 1980 with no problems and still foresee the ability to attract another business.
“I think it should stay a C-1 zone, the property still has potential to be a good business,” he said. “Somebody with the right money and the right idea could come along and make this into a business once again which would be good for all of us.”
Additionally, he expressed his concerns regarding property values.
“We’re concerned about our property values,” Massena said. “The day may come in our later years where we may have to sell, we’re going to need the equity that’s built into that home to move on for whatever needs we will have.”
City code enforcement officer Kathy Yahner confirmed that two other C-1 Commercial zoned properties are located on the same block as the property in question, however, they are grandfathered in for residential use as single family homes.
A zone change for one C-1 Commercial property in the neighborhood would require all C-1 Commercial zoned properties to change their zoning accordingly to avoid spot zoning.
Spot zoning is defined as, “the rezoning of a parcel of land to a use category different from the surrounding area, usually to benefit a single owner or a single development interest,” according to the NYS Department of State’s Zoning and Comprehensive Plan.
City officials had regarded spot zoning as a predominant reason in which the resolution has not been considered.
Cathy Trowbridge publicly noted that aside from spot zoning being illegal, this zone change would not back up what the city has documented in the comprehensive plan.
Latino questioned how the zone change would affect neighboring properties, stating his belief that changing to a residential zoning would actually benefit the neighborhood as opposed to hindering it.
Latino’s wife said that they felt the initial ruling on the matter was discriminatory as there was comment from the public regarding an intended buyer’s motorcycle hobby that they feel affected the council’s vote.
“If you turned it down for motorcycles the first time, and now its spot zoning then we are getting two different fluctuations here,” he said.
“I do believe motorcycles are legal in the city of Fulton. Anyone in that neighborhood could buy a motorcycle or two,” his wife said. “If you’re against something that’s actually legal, that to me is discrimination.”
First Ward councilman Tom Kenyon was initially one of two councilmen to abstain his vote in August but not because of public comment regarding motorcycles, he told Oswego County Today.
“(The motorcycles) was brought up by someone in the audience but that was just hearsay,” he explained. “I didn’t have enough information on it to make a decision, so I abstained. This time, I voted no because the councilor of that ward canvassed the neighborhood and they all wanted it to stay the way it is. I think the council has an obligation to protect the neighborhoods.”
Latino also noted that the Article 78 petition was still pending.
Ultimately, all five present councilmen unanimously voted against the proposed zone change.
“I received input from several people that live around the property in question that want it to remain the same. If we did make the change, that would be spot zoning and that’s illegal,” said councilman Larry Macner of the Sixth Ward in which the properties are located on why he voted against the zone change.
“He bought it as a commercial because it was commercial. They got what they wanted out of it and I just don’t see it as a good reason to change the neighborhood because somebody wants to get a little more money out of it,” Woodward said.