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Zone Change Request Denied

OSWEGO, NY – At Monday night’s Common Council meeting, aldermen shot down a request by Steven Thomas for a zone change in the Second Ward.

Ron Kaplewicz (Seventh Ward) was the lone yes vote.

Voting against the request were Connie Cosemento (First Ward), Mike Myers (Second Ward), Cathy Santos (Third Ward), Shawn Walker (Fourth Ward) and Bill Sharkey. Council President Dan Donovan was absent.

Noting that he had recently spoken with Thomas, Myers unsuccessfully sought to have the resolution tabled to give the businessman an opportunity to address the council.

“The majority of the neighbors aren’t for this at this time.  I did speak to Mr. Thomas and he asked me if I could table this, so he could be here to explain his side of the story, which I think is fair,” Myers told the other councilors “But, also by the same token, I have to say that my constituents spoke and I have to back my constituents also.”

The request had received a favorable recommendation from the Planning Board.

Prior to the council meeting, a public hearing was held on the proposal to change 134 E. 13th St. (southerly portion) and 140 E. 13th St. from an R-3 Residential District to a B-1 Neighborhood Business District.

A handful of residents addressed the council; some in favor of the change, others opposed.

Frank L. Conaway owns the property adjacent to the parcel Thomas wants to rezone.

“My family has owned this property for over 120 years. I’m against the proposal due to the concern of giving blank checks going from residential to commercial,” he said.

He also read a letter from Jim Jaskula, a neighbor who couldn’t attend the public hearing. He was against proposal as well. He wrote that he isn’t against development, but he’d like to know what the parcel would be used for.

“It would be nice for the residents to have a say about what is being built in their backyards,” he wrote.

Right now, the property is useless to anyone, according to Greg Thomas.

“The best use of that property would be commercial use. The only concern I would have would be traffic, which would be addressed at that time,” he said. “As far as the shape the city is in for tax purposes, it definitely should be changed.”

Roy Clark of nearby Dunkin Donuts pointed out that there isn’t much use to the property, “until it’s developed.”

Carl Rounds spoke on Thomas’ behalf and encouraged the council to approve the request. Also in favor of the zone change was Roger Modi, owner of the motel next to Dunkin Donuts.

Jim Restuccio said he was opposed to the change until there is more information about what the property is going to be used for.

“Unfortunately, it is one of those places in the city where the boundary between residential and commercial property come together; it’s a tough balancing act,” Kaplewicz explained. “It seems to be one of the ideal places for appropriate development consistent with the neighborhood.”

However, the other councilors wanted more information.

“There are some concerns about what will happen with the property, how it will be developed,” Santos said.

She suggested Thomas present a plan to the council on how the property would be developed.

Walker noted that he has had numerous calls from people concerned about what might be in their backyards.

Cosemento said she respects Thomas for what he’s done for the city. But, she also respects the neighbors’ wishes, she added.

She said she’s in favor of development, but wants to know how and by what business the property will be used, adding the neighbors should have a say in the matter.

The majority of neighbors he has spoken with “are not for this,” Myers said.

This was the second time Thomas brought the request to the council floor.

On Jan. 27 of last year, he submitted a petition to re-zone both of the parcels in their entirety. The petition was acted on favorably by the Planning Board in March.

However, when it reached the Common Council, it was determined that there was some opposition by local neighbors. Because of that, the petition was withdrawn.

Earlier this year, after meeting with the neighbors, Thomas said he decided to re-petition the council by reducing the size of the land of the land that he requests to be re-zoned.

He asked that all of one parcel and only the most southerly portion of the other (which coincides with the northerly street line of East Bridge Street, which is currently not open) be re-zoned.

All of the property north of the aforementioned line would remain zoned R-3.

“I just think we need to know what his plans are. (The council) agrees that citizens need to know what is going in in their backyards,” Santos said following the meeting.