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Oak Street resident can keep his ducks, but must comply with new conditions

By Howard B. Owens

An Oak Street man with a fondness for waterfowl will get to keep his ducks and continue some of his hobbies in his yard, but with new restrictions.

As part of a plea bargain, Ron Graziaplena, of 172 Oak St., admitted to keeping debris in his back yard, a violation of city code, and agreed to a number of conditions on his continued ability to keep 10 mallard ducks as pets and grow tomatoes and build waterfowl-related projects.

The deal was worked out Friday afternoon over three and a half hours, at a time when his trial on numerous alleged code violations was scheduled. Almost all the negotiations were held in open court with Batavia City Court Judge Robert Balbick presiding.

Balbick told Graziaplena that he would be fair with him if Graziaplena made substantial progress toward complying with the plea agreement between now and his sentencing on April 15.

The main agreement regarding the ducks is that Graziaplena can keep only 10, except when there are hatchlings, which must be released in an Elba swamp owned by Graziaplena's family before Oct. 1 of each year.

A neutral, non-governmental, qualified inspector will visit the property twice a year -- on or about July 1 and on or about Oct. -- to ensure Graziaplena is maintaining only a 10-duck population and they are kept in sanitary, humane conditions.

Graziaplena will be required to build a six-foot-high stockade-type fence along his south property line from the garage to the back corner of the lot and for some distance along the back property line. 

He must also install a stockade-style gate across his driveway from the southeast corner of his house to his property line on the south.

The gate is intended to create a visual barrier for anything on his driveway, from construction materials for his projects and his tomato boxes.

Graziaplena prefers to work on his projects in the front yard. He can continue to do so during the day, but come nightfall, he will be required to put all construction materials behind the gate.

He must also keep his BBQ grill behind the gate rather than in the yard.

In recent months, Graziaplena has mounted a number of duck decoys atop 10-foot-high poles along his south property line, and more recently added waterfowl-themed wind vanes that he said he made.

He acknowledged that some of his neighbors are aggravated by the poles, but said the decoys are left over from his hunting days and just a symbol of his hobby. He said he plans to start selling the wind vanes.

"I've gotten many compliments on them, your honor," Graziaplena said. "Several of my friends want them for themselves. Perhaps you would like one?"

Balbick said he couldn't accept the offer.

The judge ordered that all of the pole structures be taken down before sentencing and that they remain down for at least the duration of Graziaplena's conditional discharge (a six-month period after his sentence in which Graziaplena must remain violation free to avoid having the original charges reinstated).

Graziaplena also keeps a boat on the north side of his house. He must either put a driveway on the north side to set the boat on or start keeping the boat on his south side driveway.

About a half dozen of Graziaplena's supporters were at the courthouse Friday, many of them planning to testify in the trial. One neighbor who is unhappy with the situation on Graziaplena's property attended the hearing.

"I want to see that property code compliant," Balbick told Graziaplena after accepting his guilty plea. "I'm not going to punish you just for the purpose of punishing you, but I do have an obligation to the people of this city to see that the yard is safe and there isn't debris strewn about throughout the yard and that the yard is sanitary."

Photos: Take at Graziaplena's residence on Friday.

David Horning

People need to mind there own business. As long as no one is being harmed leave others alone. Remember the next person who has a complaint lodged against him or her may be you!</p>

Feb 20, 2011, 8:25am Permalink
Mark Laman

Ditto. There are to many other things in this world to stress about. Whomever is making these complaints should get a job and mind there own business. If you don't like wildlife/agriculture move to Buffalo or find a concrete ghetto somewhere. Leave this guy alone...

Feb 20, 2011, 5:01pm Permalink
Irene Will

Too bad Mr. Grazioplene doesn't live out here in Alabama, near the swamps and the game preserves - if he did, he'd sell a BUNCH of them, I would think !!!! And, I TOTALLY AGREE with the " leave this guy alone " comments.

Feb 20, 2011, 8:57pm Permalink
Jason Crater

I think you would all be singing a different tune if you lived next door to someone like this and were trying to sell your house.

Feb 21, 2011, 8:23am Permalink
Ken and Cheryl Collins

The article, the "Duck Man", featured in the Batavian some time ago portrayed Ron Grazioplena as an avid water fowl lover as he was featured at his swamp on Norton Road. In a related article, "Dispute Over Ducks", Grazioplena stated, "I have always been fond of ducks and geese." Always is a long time. A few questions arise which could only interest a logical reader. A visit to RG's hallway at 172 Oak Street features photos of himself and fellow hunters with dozens of dead fowl he and his friends shot. These photos happened during the same time the "Duck Man" claims to be fond of water fowl. Does that mean he is fond of their taste?
The pent up ducks in his sunless back yard offer a very small area in which to swim, preen feathers,and essentially act like a wild duck, almost. They are not allowed to fly and the females are forced to breed. There is no escape.
Another fact noted in the "Duck Man" is glorification and kudos for the nesting boxes RG built and had installed at the swamp on Norton Road. The article shows employees from the Center for Disabilities Rights (CDR) working, and you, the taxpayer paid for it. The swamp seems to offer a clean and adequate water supply that does not get washed on the back lawn. This site is now claimed to be a safer place to hatch youngsters. Last Spring, several ducklings at the Oak Street site were killed by a neighbor cat.
Logically, the swamp on Norton Road is a perfect place for the pent up fowl to be. Currently, hunting is not allowed there. During the same time Grazioplena claims to be fond of water fowl he rented out the swamp site to a hunter from Pennsylvania. He undoubtedly used the revenues to buy feed for those who survived.
The "Duck Man" is an appropriate name for Ron Grazioplena. Possibly, through overindulgence and the adherence to the seven deadly sins he has received handicap status. To supplement his income he sold his home and swamp, but with lifetime use. This qualifies him for more perks: Social security, food stamps, and help from the CDR that adds up to 20 hours per week. He also qualified for Community Weatherization and his home has been renovated. The cost of all this is passed onto the honest, hard working taxpayers who are not "Duck Men."

Feb 21, 2011, 2:39pm Permalink
Mark Laman

I do own my own home and I strongly believe in an individual's right to persue their own interests. If he wants to have some ducks, great., let him. Are you going to start telling him what color his house should be and how short he should mow his grass? As far as the last comment is concerned you are getting awfully personal, it seems as if some of this info should be priveledged. Again, people need to mind their own business.

Feb 21, 2011, 10:53pm Permalink

I own my own home, with my wife. I can see aggravation from neighbors but that doesn't mean it justifies personal attacks. I am not on S.S. I take no money from anyone reading this though I have spent the last year(nearly) on LOA from my job due to a genetic disease that I was diagnosed with four and half years ago. In short my body is destroying itself at the muscular level. I am optimistic that I will be back to work soon, but always in the type of pain that only slow constant muscle death causes. My biggest issue is making assumptions as to what has put anyone in the position of being disabled. "Sins" or not. All I did was be born with mitochondria that lasted only until my late twenties. While I am not disabled yet, the doctor has been honest that at 36 I haven't a great future of strength and mobility ahead of me. All this guy wants is a hobby that gives his life purpose, and I can relate. I am not saying that I agree with keeping a yard that is a hazard, but I also don't agree with vilifying a man over one flaw and assuming that it reflects somehow how his whole life is. And winterizing his home is certainly not the worst use of my tax dollars that I have heard of this month. I would just as soon see more of my money used that way than paying for ten internet connected computers in the pre-school classes at my school district or giving congress another raise.

Feb 22, 2011, 12:57am Permalink

Mark, you didn't state where your house was located. I hope for your sake, because of the nature of your comments, that you live outside of the city.

What color? No. But they can tell you to paint your house.

How short? No. But they can tell you that you need to mow your lawn.

Not sure of how it works, but I've heard, first a verbal warning, a second in letter form, then you can be fined. Like I said, not sure. I've never had to go through the process.

Maybe the neighbors did get a little personal. Having had similar problems with a neighbor(some issues resolved in the courts - others continue to this day) I can understand their frustrations. Some people just don't get it.

Ordinances not only keep property owners in check, they protect the neighbors also.

Feb 22, 2011, 12:57am Permalink
jim luttrell

have read the response from the Collins-I understand the frustration on both sides -but I have nothing to do with this it has been going on a lot longer than I have been there-- If I could make things better on both sides I would ,but I can't -They mentioned CDR a couple of times which is a good organization for the disabled it saves some from nursing homes of which would cost alot more money. I work for CDR and really do not know what I have done to them other than go to work with the person they are not happy with. I have to work for insurance-my husband is retired and we need insurance -this is above and beyond the dispute -this is effecting peoples lifes-you are blessed for not having to be in a postion of having to be someplace everyday when natually I would rather enjoy my grandchildren and children and working around my own house but I can not right now so please leave me out of your conflict with Mr. Grazioplena- I Understand that you are upset with issues but I have done nothing -All I want to do is go to work do my job and go home - it is an uncomfortable feeling when you know the neighbor is out to get you- and no I am not an F-------retard like you called me in court I resent the use of the term it is cruel -I wish you nothing but a good and healthy life -Look around there is so much more to be Thankful for and not stress over. I am sorry if this upsets you that is not my goal. Just want PEACE

Feb 22, 2011, 4:57pm Permalink
Ken and Cheryl Collins

FYI We NEVER made a reference of F____ retard toward you. You were not the only one there. As far as that goes we had no contact at all, that we, "THE COLLINS" can recall. We sat off by ourselves and had no contact with any of the SUBPOENAED witnesses. All you want to do is your job and leave. We can't leave and are stuck right next door to the filthy mess that seems to be directed right toward us. We have to be next door every day. No sane person would buy our home. At least you can leave.

Feb 22, 2011, 6:01pm Permalink
jim luttrell

I do not want to get into anymore than I have but I heard you -you can deny it if you want and thats o.k. I just think this has become way to personal and losing site of what you are really angry over.The Ducks and the Yard - right? This is about peoples lives that are being affected.Including yours.Try to reflect on more positive things -I know sometimes it is easier said than done- but you all liked each other for years.I want to see everyone satisfied and happy.

Feb 22, 2011, 6:55pm Permalink

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