Stafford ZBA's denial of fence variance reversed on appeal
The Stafford Zoning Board of Appeals decision that denied James Pontillo a variance for a fence behind the former Odd Fellows Hall, was reversed in state Supreme Court on Friday.
The Hon. Mark J. Grisanti said the ZBA’s September decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”
Grisanti’s decision followed an hour-long hearing at the Genesee County Courthouse.
Pontillo’s attorney, Peter J. Sorgi, said he was gratified by the judge’s decision.
“But I’m incredibly frustrated that it has taken this much time and money,” Sorgi said. “The money he spent on this should have been put into that building.
“The town would have a really nice building instead of paying lawyers and doing all this nonsense,” he added.
The ruling apparently ends a two-year tussle over the fence.
Pontillo bought the historic building at 6177 Main Road in 2010. In 2013, he built a wood fence along the west property line behind the building.
The town issued a stop-work order, and the matter ended up in court. A town judge ordered the fence removed, and that decision was upheld on appeal by Superior Court Judge Robert C. Noonan.
Pontillo’s request for an area variance was denied by the town ZBA on Sept. 15.
On Friday, Grisanti said the ZBA considered the harm the fence would cause. But there is no evidence the board weighed that harm against the benefits to Pontillo, he said.
“(The decision) seems to be a violation, in a sense of their own procedure,” Grisanti said.
The town could appeal the decision. Sorgi said an appeal would cost “a minimum of $10,000” and take a year to reach a courtroom.
“If they want to throw more money away on this, they have that right,” Sorgi said.
Town Attorney Kevin Earl said he would not recommend an appeal.
“I believe this will end it,” Earl said. “It’s up to the judge to make a determination. He made it, and we have to live with it.”
Pontillo was joined in court by about a half-dozen friends and supporters. The group gathered afterward at Coffee Culture.
Pontillo wasn’t in a celebratory mood.
“In a way, they won,” he said.
The legal case has prevented him from finishing work on the fence, a job that will now not resume until the spring.
Also postponed, was work on the building’s exterior, lot paving and roof replacement.
“Because of this delay I really had no desire to do anything more with the building until I saw that I could prevail and move forward with the process,” Pontillo said.
Still, he said, he feels no regret about buying the building.
“I still believe there’s potential there,” Pontillo said. “And I still believe I get good support from the community.”