The Le Roy Zoning Board of Appeals conducted a public hearing Thursday on Frost Ridge Campground. Pictured, is Board Member Thomas Spadaro and Chairperson Debbi Jackett. (Photos by Howard Owens.)
After months of legal wrangling, the argument over concerts at Frost Ridge Campground on Thursday returned to where it began.
With the Le Roy Zoning Board of Appeals, whose members listened to about 90 minutes of testimony and public comment on whether the concerts are an allowable, non-conforming use under town zoning law.
The board adjourned without voting. Debbi Jackett, chairperson, said the ZBA has 62 days in which to issue a decision.
About 60 people attended the hearing, which was held in Town Court. The hearing was conducted a day before a deadline set by a Supreme Court judge earlier this month.
The ZBA in 2013 ruled concerts allowable. Neighbors as well as the Town of Le Roy subsequently filed lawsuits aiming to reverse that decision.
On Thursday, the ZBA heard formal testimony from David Roach, attorney for Frost Ridge owners David and Greg Luetticke-Archbell; and from Mindy Zoghlin, an attorney representing families who are opposed to the concerts.
Roach maintained that the “campground and attendant recreational activities, including amplified music/concerts and limited food service” are all prior, non-conforming uses.
Citing case law, he said larger outdoor concerts may represent a change in degree, but do not alter the “essential character” of the facility and are still considered an allowable prior use.
Zoning law draws no distinction between concerts by small bands with lower amplification, and performances on a large stage using a professional sound system.
“What’s the difference? They both emit sound — that’s what we’re dealing with,” Roach said. “The primary difference is that one is louder than the other.
“What I suggest to you is that’s not a land-use issue, that is a noise ordinance (issue),” he added. “Anyone who has an issue with the decibel levels can seek relief through the noise ordinance, not through the land-use argument.”
Zoghlin urged the ZBA to reject the Frost Ridge application. Outdoor concerts of the type Frost Ridge has been hosting, are beyond what could be reasonably considered prior use.
“Even if music was played in the campground for skiers and campers in the past, Frost Ridge has illegally expanded that use,” she said.
“There’s a big difference between using an amplifier to play radio music, and hosting large commercial concerts on a specially constructed sound stage using professional audio equipment,” she said.
“Concerts with national acts, a professional stage and a sound system that attracts hundreds of people at a time were never held at this campground until 2010,” Zoghlin said. “Therefore they cannot be a prior non-conforming use as a matter of law.”
Reid Whiting, attorney for the Town of Le Roy, was offered the opportunity to give formal testimony but declined.
Thirteen residents also spoke, several of them in support of Frost Ridge.
Barbara Buchanan has lived on North Road near the campground since 1974.
“Frost Ridge has a history of providing music from different venues,” she said, including amplified music on the ski slopes.
“None of the music, over 40 years, has ever bothered us,” she said. “We consider the campground to be a very good neighbor — we don’t have a single complaint against them.”
Not so for Nancy Palmer, who has lived on Wilcox Road since 1997. She said summer concerts at Frost Ridge are too noisy.
“I find it very disturbing,” she said. “I can hear it through my house … I can hear the bass pounding through my walls and through my windows.”
Palmer said the concerts are loud enough to spook her horse.
“For those of us who are close, it is very loud and it is very disturbing,” she said.
Others speakers cited the positive impact Frost Ridge has on the community, such as fundraisers for the Le Roy Fire Department.
David Pullyblank, of Parmalee Road, said Frost Ridge campers support local businesses — including the farm market he owns on Lake Street Road (Route 19).
“Campers are people that want to come to our community and spend money,” he said. “I think it’s essential to have their business in our area.”
The Luetticke-Archbells have owned the Conlon Road campground since 2008, and have been hosting concerts in an outdoor amphitheatre since 2012. In 2013, the ZBA found the concerts permissible under zoning law.
Neighbors of the campsite and the Town of Le Roy both filed lawsuits challenging the ZBA’s ruling. Supreme Court Judge Robert Noonan invalidated the decision in April on technical grounds, and ordered the ZBA to conduct a new public hearing.
In November, the Town Board set a Dec. 10 public hearing on a local law to establish a new, town-only zoning board. Earlier this month Interim Supreme Court Judge Mark Grisanti ordered the town to cancel its hearing, and ordered the existing ZBA to conduct a hearing on Frost Ridge by Dec. 18.
Jackett set a number of ground rules at the beginning of Thursday’s hearing. Attorneys submitted written statements and evidence, but were given limited time to address the board directly. Residents who signed in, were allowed one minute to speak.
ZBA member Robert Scott, who ran unsuccessfully for town supervisor against incumbent Stephen Barbeau in November, recused himself from any involvement in the Frost Ridge application.
Jackett did not indicate when she expects the ZBA to issue a ruling. Comments on the matter will be accepted in writing by the Town Clerk until Dec. 27, she said.