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robbins nest

February 9, 2017 - 3:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, robbins nest, Presidential Acres, news.

A building permit for a duplex near Presidential Acres in Le Roy was legally issued, a judge has ruled in a multi-party lawsuit over the development in the subdivision.

The ruling is a victory of Pete McQuillen, a Le Roy businessman, who has been embroiled in legal battles with property owners in the area for years.

The latest round of legal action began in 2014 when 11 property owners in Presidential Acres filed an Article 78 proceeding against the Village of Le Roy, various officials in the village, and McQuillen and his business.

At the time, McQuillen had already completed two duplexes on 10 lots he owned on the west end of Presidential Acres, near Robbins Road. There had been no challenge to the building permits for those structures.

When a code enforcement officer issued a permit for Lot 18, that's when neighbors got together and tried to stop further development of duplexes in the neighborhood.

David Boyce, one of the plaintiffs, said in an affidavit that when he bought his lot on Filmore Drive, nothing in the record nor in the documents he researched, indicated that the neighborhood was zoned for anything other than single-family residences. He believes, he said, the presence of the duplexes lowers the value of his property. 

The plaintiffs also alleged that the duplexes run contrary to the comprehensive plan for the village.

In his affidavit, McQuillen said he relied on village board meeting minutes from when the subdivision was created to conclude that the subdivision was planned from the beginning to include 10 duplexes.

Judge Emilio Colaiacovo, who inherited the case from Judge Robert C. Noonan upon his retirement, ruled that based on the fact that the first two duplexes went unchallenged, that the code enforcement officer was acting within his authority to issue the permit, and nothing in the record indicated that the zoning board of appeals, upon reviewing the permit, acted in an "arbitrary and capricious manner" so he was compelled to rule in favor of McQuillen. 

Case law is clear, he said, that in the absence of evidence of an arbitrary or capricious decision, courts should respect the decisions of local bodies, such as the ZBA.

Before the duplex issue, McQuillen was involved in another legal battle over a planned senior community on property he owns next to Presidential Acres called Robbins Nest. He eventually lost that case, then subsequently built a storage shed on the back property line of Town Supervisor Steve Barbeau. A dispute over that structure resulted in a bit of shoving and the arrest of Barbeau. The storage shed was a subject of this lawsuit, alleged to be an illegal auxiliary structure, but Colaiacovo ruled that issue became moot once McQuillen built his single-family home on the lot once intended to be Robbins Nest.

We emailed Amy Kendell, an attorney for the plaintiffs, to ask if there was going to be an appeal of the ruling and we have not received a response.

UPDATE: We received an email response from Amy Kendell. She said there will be an appeal of the decision.

April 25, 2016 - 12:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in robbins nest, Le Roy, planning, land use, news.

Thwarted once, local businessman and developer Pete McQuillen is kicking the tires of an idea to revive his Robbins Nest housing neighborhood on the south end of the Village of Le Roy.

McQuillen started pursuing the project in about 2010, thought he had the necessary approvals to move forward, then a lawsuit forced him to go back to the village board for approval of the necessary zoning change.

At a September 2012 meeting, McQuillen learned that two village board members -- Bob Taylor and Mike Tucci -- would not vote on the resolution because they felt they had a conflict of interest.

Taylor's nephew is Steve Barbeau and Tucci worked for Tompkins Insurance under the supervision of David Boyce. Barbeau, the Town of Le Roy supervisor, and Boyce, were leads in the lawsuit against McQuillen.

The two men are neighbors in a neighborhood known as Presidential Acres, which abuts McQuillen's property he would like to convert into Robbins Nest.

At the time, McQuillen's plan was to build 26 homes on 13.1 acres east of Robbins Road and south of Fillmore Street, with prices ranging from $130,000 to $160,000, and sold as part of a planned community to seniors.

In order to move forward, he needed approval for a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which requires a zoning change, which requires approvals from the Zoning Board of Appeals (then a joint agency of the town and the village), the village board and the County Planning Board.

He got all of those approvals once, but then the lawsuit voided the village vote and without Taylor and Tucci willing to say yes or no, the board couldn't proceed and McQuillen had to drop his plan.

Now Tucci is off the board, so at a meeting April 13, McQuillen asked during public comments if he revived his plan, would the village board at least vote on it (he didn't ask whether they would approve it). Mayor Greg Rogers polled each board member and all said they would vote on it, if a proposal was brought to them.

Reached today, McQuillen said he is merely exploring the idea of reviving Robbins Nest at this time. Going to the village board was just the first step. He also wants to see how the county might respond.  

Rogers said he was surprised by McQuillen's request. Robbins Nest wasn't an item on the agenda. McQuillen just showed up and asked his question and that's all it was, Rogers said.

We reached out to Barbeau and Boyce for comment. We've yet to get a response from Barbeau; and Boyce declined to comment.

Boyce is one of several plaintiffs, all Presidential Acres residents, in another lawsuit with McQuillen as one of the defendants. The lawsuit is over several duplexes built on the west side of Presidential Acres, which the plaintiffs claim violates the subdivision plan. 

That lawsuit, filed in 2014, is scheduled to go to trial next week.

If you've read this far and the history of this development doesn't seem like enough of a twisted path yet, the history also includes Barbeau being arrested after an altercation with McQuillen over a barn McQuillen built close to Barbeau's property line. Also part of the history, Rogers took responsibility for allowing the village to pave a road owned by McQuillen at the time.

McQuillen said the next step for him to is to go the county to see what kind of response he might get, but County Planning Director Felipe A. Oltramari said there is nothing barring McQuillen from getting the paperwork started with the village. It would be up to the village to submit a request for consideration by the County Planning Board on the zoning change.

It isn't unusual for rejected or stalled proposals to come back up for reconsideration, Oltramari said.

"It often happens that applicants will come back a few months for few years later, depending on how political the issue was," Oltramari said.

UPDATE 8:56 p.m.: Earlier this evening, Steve Barbeau​ responded to our request for a comment.  Here is his statement: "There were and are numerous legal, practical, and ethical reasons why the property in question should not be rezoned."

August 11, 2014 - 4:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, robbins nest, Presidential Acres.

Residents of a development known as Presidential Acres in Le Roy and their neighbor Pete McQuillen are still scrapping over home building in the area.

In 2012, McQuillen had plans thwarted by a lawsuit to build a group of single-family homes for people 55 and older on 12 acres he owns off Robbins Road.

Now, McQuillen is one of nine defendants in a lawsuit brought by 12 homeowners in Presidential Acres.

The suit alleges that duplexes being built by McQuillen violate village zoning law and were improperly approved by the Village and the Zoning Board of Appeals. 

If the suit is successful, it could mean McQuillen would have to remove the buildings already completed and occupied.

The plaintiffs also alleged that the ZBA, as a hybrid body serving both the Village and Town of Le Roy, is an illegal entity that should be abolished. The village, the suit contends, should have its own ZBA.

After an initial hearing last week, Judge Robert C. Noonan issued a stay on any further development of duplexes, but primarily because the defendants didn't oppose the stay on one lot in particular and any lots not yet planned for development.

Preliminary injunctions in lawsuits are usually only granted in cases where a judge deems the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their case. 

"The Village's opposition and relatively complex zoning history of the subdivision, petitioners likelihood of success is by no means clear," Noonan wrote in his decision.

The plaintiffs in the case are Randolf Bartz, Jane Bickett, Candace Bower, David Boyce, Robert Boyce, Elizabeth Boyce, Joseph Condidorio, John Green, Joseph McKay, Stephen Moulton and Ronald Paganin.

The defendants are the Village of Le Roy, the Zoning Board of Appeals, Jeffrey Steinbrenner (code enforcement officer), Daniel Lang (code enforcement officer), John Gillard, Duzmor Painting, Inc., Circular Hill, Inc., Peter McQuillen, Judith McQuillen and John Does.

In 2012, McQuillen lost a lawsuit brought by Boyce and Town Supervisor Steve Barbeau, who both have properties adjacent to a 12-acre parcel where McQuillen planned to build homes for people 55 and older.

Boyce and Barbeau prevailed in that suit, which also named the village as a defendant, and that development was halted.

Subsequently, McQuillen started building duplexes on property off Filmore Drive, an -- at the time -- unfinished street connecting Presidential Acres with Robbins Road.

During this time period in 2013, McQuillen built a barn near the property line of Barbeau's residence.

Barbeau and other Presidential Acres residents challenged the legality of the barn, but after McQuillen requested a permit to built a house on the same property, the ZBA allowed the barn to stand.

The new lawsuit challenges that ZBA determination and seeks to have the barn removed.

In August of 2013, Barbeau confronted McQuillen over activity adjacent to Barbeau's residence. Barbeau allegedly pushed McQuillen and was later arrested. That criminal case is still pending.

(Previously: Barbeau and McQuillen feud building for months)

The main point of contention in the new suit (we'll call it the Bartz suit, after the first name listed on the Plaintiff's side) is that one side claims Presidential Acres is zoned R-1, meaning only single-family residents and other side claims that when the subdivision was created, it was planned to contain at least 10 duplexes.

McQuillen's construction of duplexes has been based on his belief, and approvals have been granted by the village and the ZBA, that Presidential Acres can have up to 10 duplexes in the subdivision.

The Presidential Acres subdivision was approved by the village in January 1989, with up to 10 duplexes permitted. 

It's the contention that development of the subdivision was suspended in 1999 and there were no plans at that time for duplexes.

A new zoning law that made the entirety of the village R-1 was enacted in August 1990. 

The plaintiff's contend, then, that the subdivision as once approved is no longer in effect and current zoning law makes all property in the neighborhood eligible for only single-family home development.

The ZBA issued a determination in June that the subdivision rules still apply to development within the Presidential Acres area.

In his own affidavit, Lang, a code enforcement officer with the Town of Batavia, who is part of a shared services agreement with Le Roy, states that if Presidential Acres is indeed R-1 and not a subdivision, several of the plaintiff's homes are out of compliance with zoning because their frontage doesn't conform to R-1 zoning.

Lang said he believes the subdivision rules still apply and the duplexes are permitted.

It will be matter for further court proceedings to determine which side is interpreting Le Roy's conflicting zoning rules correctly.

August 15, 2013 - 1:10am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, robbins nest.

Stephen R. Barbeau and Peter A. McQuillen, two strong-willed men of means -- both with deep roots in the Le Roy Community -- now find themselves quite literally on the opposite sides of the fence.

A long trail of disputes reached an apparent boiling point Monday morning when Barbeau, the Town of Le Roy supervisor, was arrested on a second-degree harassment charge.

Barbeau is accused of shoving McQuillen to the ground causing a minor injury.

The tipping point seemed to be a tree that fell from McQuillen's property into Barbeau's yard.

Sometimes, though, a tree isn't just a tree.

For Barbeau, the felled tree was just another provocation.

Sure, McQuillen said, he's bitter, but nothing he's done was meant to provoke Barbeau. He claims he's tried to patch things up with Barbeau but was rebuffed and he said he's offended that so many people seem to have forgotten what he's done for the community.

The roots of the feud go back to last summer when Barbeau and his neighbors learned that McQuillen had drawn up plans to build 36 homes on 13 acres of land he owns off Robbins Road.

Barbeau lives in a tony neighborhood on the south edge of the Village of Le Roy, The newer $170,000-plus (assessed values according to public records) estate-style homes are situated on big lots and are on streets named after presidents. It's a quiet family neighborhood and residents say they are a tight-knit group who look out for each other's interests.

McQuillen owns the 13-acre lot that abuts homes owned by Barbeau and David Boyce, an executive with the Bank of Castile. He also owns more than a half-dozen other parcels in the same subdivision. He purchased the 13 acres about three years ago from Carol Durney for $13,000.

The new subdivision was going to consist of single-story homes valued at about $150,000 and reserved exclusively for buyers 55 and older. McQuillen's vision was that the homes would appeal to longtime Genesee County residents who were approaching retirement and ready to downsize and to rid themselves of yard maintenance and the need to climb stairs every day.

He was going to call the development Robbins Nest.

McQuillen carried the project through 11 different village, town and county approvals. When Barbeau and his neighbors fought against the project, McQuillen circulated petitions in the village and gathered 400 signatures in support of his project.

Then in September of last year, Barbeau and Boyce filed a lawsuit against the Town of Le Roy Planning Board claiming that its approval of the project had violated the law.

Barbeau and Boyce prevailed. Robbins Nest is dead. Killed, in McQuillen's view, by NIMBYs.

"I had to eat all my engineering costs," McQuillen said. "I got approval after approval. Eleven times it was approved. It continued to get approved and I continued to spend money ... yes, I'm a little bitter, but that has nothing to do with what I'm doing now. Absolutely not. I'm doing what I need to do to get reimbursed on what I have in an investment."

At the same time, he's also still fighting a lawsuit filed by the property's previous owner, Carol Durney. Durney accuses McQuillen of not revealing to her his plans for a subdivision prior to his purchase of the property. McQuillen thinks -- though admits he can't prove -- that at least two presidential subdivision residents are financing the suit.

On two of McQuillen's 13 parcels in the presidential subdivision, he is building two duplexes. One is nearly compete just down the street from Barbeau's luxury home. The other one, with only a foundation poured so far, is on the lot next to Barbeau's.

In the process of construction, McQuillen has cut down dozens of trees.

Along Barbeau's west property line, McQuillen removed every tree on his own property. Those were trees that Barbeau believes would have provided a nice privacy barrier for his home and whomever might eventually live in the duplex.

One of those felled trees came down on Barbeau's house, though it didn't cause any real damage.

"Mr. McQuillen didn't even contact us," Barbeau said during an interview Monday. "There was no coming over to say he was sorry or to ask if everything was OK."

On Tuesday, Barbeau let a reporter onto his property but said under advice of his attorney, he could not answer any more questions. 

Barbeau will be represented in his harassment case by Larry Andolina. Andolina, a Buffalo attorney, recently represented Gregory Phillips, the former City of Batavia firefighter who was accused of bookmaking and drug possession.

Before getting warned off by Andolina, Barbeau e-mailed several photos to The Batavian showing the trees that had fallen on his property along with a good deal of junk and debris that Barbeau claims McQuillen piled up near the back property line.

Another neighbor, Randy Bartz, shared photos of construction materials that had been stacked on one of McQuillen's lots. While the material was entirely on McQuillen's property, the placement visually was practically in Boyce's front yard.

Bartz thinks the placement of the material by McQuillen was done purely out of spite, and it made the view from the front porch and dining room of the Bartz home pretty unpleasant.

"We sit here every morning and have coffee," Bartz said. "We sit here every evening for dinner. We just didn't want to have to look at that stuff when we didn't have to. He has a bunch of lots here that are unoccupied that are closer to where he's building, so why not use them, unless, quite honestly, he's trying to aggravate."

McQuillen said he hasn't been trying to aggravate anybody. At the time the material came in, that was the best place to store it for access during construction.

The area residents seem to forget, McQuillen said, what the vacant lots looked like before he bought them, though Randy and Beth Bartz both said the vacant lots to their southwest, even though they are overgrown with vegetation, look much better than they did a few years ago.

"I've only owned the lots for three years," McQuillen said. "I moved in and cleaned up the property. There was a semi-trailer I hauled away, a partially built log cabin, and I can't tell you how many loads of steel and miscellaneous building materials and different things I hauled away."

The south-facing backyard of Barbeau's property is only about 20 yards wide. At one time, Barbeau and his wife could sit in their living room or dining room at look out on a thickly wooded lot.

For the past several weeks, the main thing they've been able to see is a garage McQuillen is building just feet from their back property line (it is beyond the legally required setback).

Among the pictures Barbeau shared with The Batavian, there was a bit of junk piled up on McQuillen's property in that location. Much of that junk is gone now, but there is still an old recliner and aluminum stairway laying on the ground.

Nobody really seems to understand why McQuillen picked that spot for his storage garage, not Barbeau, Randy or Beth Bartz, nor Candace Bower, another neighbor who has been watching the dispute between Barbeau and McQuillen blossom.

"That barn he's building back there, he could have built it anywhere," Bower said. "He didn't have to build it right there, right behind Steve's yard, right there. I think anybody who spent $300,000 to build a house and then sees that would be incensed. I know he shouldn't have pushed Pete, but you can only take so much."

The location of the building has nothing to do with Barbeau, McQuillen said. It's the most logical location for him to store his construction equipment and materials now, and then serve as a maintenance building for his duplexes.

He decided to build the garage after discussing the building material storage issue with Jeff Steinbrenner, the town and village code compliance officer. It was a way to deal with complaints from neighbors about construction material being stored outside.

Steinbrenner -- who has been in the code enforcement job for just a few months -- issued a building permit to McQuillen for the garage and then a few days later had to issue stop-work order.

Dan Lang, the Town of Batavia code enforcement officer who is working with the village and town of Le Roy under an inter-municipal agreement to help train Steinbrenner, said the building permit, according to village code, should not have been issued.

According to village code, Lang said, a primary building -- in this case a single-family home -- must precede an accessory building. McQuillen has yet to pull a permit to build a house on his 13-acre lot, the parcel the accessory building is on.

The code also allows McQuillen to keep construction going while the stop-work order is under appeal.

The appeal goes before the village's zoning board Aug. 27 (meeting time, 7:30 p.m.). 

If McQuillen pulls a permit for a single-family residence on the parcel, the chicken-or-egg issue of the accessory building largely goes away, and McQuillen said he fully intends to build a home for he and his wife on the property.

The fact that he is eventually going to make his home in the neighborhood is one reason he feels frustrated with people saying he wants to bring down their property values.

The one duplex he's nearly completed is a well-constructed building -- even Randy Bartz said it looks good and he doesn't object to it -- and McQuillen said the one he's building next to Barbeau's house will be even nicer.

Still, Randy and Beth Bartz said they're not happy with duplexes coming into their neighborhood. When they built their home, they thought the subdivision was zoned R-1. They didn't know -- and Candace Bower said she didn't know it either -- that there was already a variance in place to allow up to 10 duplexes in the subdivision.

"If we had known," said Randy, a retired state trooper, "We never would have built our dream home here."

The lawsuit filed by Durney against McQuillen alleges that McQuillen misrepresented his intentions for the property, that he falsely claimed that there were wetlands on the property and that a $10,000 sewer line would need to be built down Robbins Road.

Durney states in the suit that she reasonably relied on these representations by McQuillen and lowered her price on the property (she was intially asking $35,000). 

Benjamin Bonarigo, representing McQuillen, said in his answer that Durney didn't have standing to file a suit on many of the issues it raised and that any representations not included in the written contract were not binding.

McQuillen said he couldn't discuss anything related to the lawsuit, which is still pending.

As for his feud with Barbeau, McQuillen said he's tried mending fences. He said he went to Barbeau about his plans for the property next door and about the only response he got from Barbeau was a demand to build a higher privacy berm, reducing McQuillen's lot size.

McQuillen said he's truly puzzled by the response he's been getting to his development plans.

"I've done a lot for this village," he said. "I've built village streets with my own dollars. The homes I've built are high end. I really don't understand the fight. If this was Chili or Henrietta, they would welcome the buildings I'm putting up. I'm increasing tax revenues and the overall assessment of the properties. Where am I doing something wrong? I've not done anything for this neighborhood other than build it up."

Accessory building under construction behind Barbeau's property. The string hanging in the lower right denotes the property line. (Photo by Howard Owens, taken from on Barbeau's property).

Photo provided by Steve Barbeau of tree that fell on his house July 11.

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Photo provided by Steve Barbeau of what he said it looked like behind his house, on McQuillen's property, before construction on the outbuilding started.

Photo provided by Randy Bartz of the construction material that had been piled up on McQuillen's property next to David Boyce's property.

UPDATE: I should have gotten a picture of McQuillen's nearly completed duplex when I was in Le Roy Tuesday. Pete asked this morning why I didn't. It was a good point. Just an oversight on my part. He provided this picture.

September 27, 2012 - 11:44am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, robbins nest.

It's been two years since local businessman Pete McQuillen decided to build a senior housing project on property he owns in the Village of Le Roy. The approval process has taken about a year longer than he expected.

And it's still not approved.

The final approval must come from the village board of trustees, but with two members of the five-person board declining to participate in the decision, the trustees are barred by local law from taking a vote.

In response, Village Attorney Laurence W. Boylan (photo: top inset) has drafted a proposed change to the law that would give trustees the authority to move forward.

A public hearing was held Wednesday night on the proposal and village residents expressed both a willingness to support the change, mainly for McQuillen's sake, and opposition.

McQuillen's plan is to build 26 homes on 13.1 acres east of Robbins Road and south of Filmore Street, with prices ranging from $130,000 to $160,000, and sold as part of a planned community to seniors.

Opposition to the project has come primarily from residents of Robbins Road (where McQuillen also lives), led primarily by Town Supervisor Stephen Barbeau (photo: bottom inset) and resident David Boyce. Barbeau and Boyce brought a lawsuit against the village that effectively overturns the board's previous approval of the project.

In order for the project to go forward, the village board must approve a zoning change to what's known as a planned unit development (PUD).

Because more than 20 percent of the residents in the immediate area signed a petition opposing the change, under current village law, it takes approval from four of the five trustees (known as a "super majority") to make the change.

Two trustees -- Bob Taylor and Mike Tucci -- have said they have a conflict of interest and recused themselves from making a decision, and voting, on the project.

With two members not participating, the remaining three trustees can't even vote on the issue, let alone achieve the super majority necessary for approval.

The proposed change in the zoning code would allow for a simple majority vote (only three yes votes required).

However, the change in the law would effect all requests for zoning changes in the future, and some at Wedensday's meeting -- even those who support McQuillen -- said that could open a potential Pandora's Box of unintended consequences.

Residents would lose some power to block unwanted zoning changes.

"We're supposed to be governed by law and not by men," Hank Barbeau said. "What you're trying to do here, it seems to me, is adjust the law to make it fit the man. It's that simple to me. Am I that ignorant that I can't see it? That's a very shrewd way, some might say, to get your way."

McQuillen noted that his proposal has been reviewed and removed by various agencies and boards nearly a dozen times and has received very little opposition from officials. If at any time he had been told no, the project would have ended, but officials have never found a reason to object to the project.

Now the project is in limbo because of the village board's inability to act and he's losing money. He needs to do some things to keep the project moving forward, but is hesitant to spend more money given the present circumstance.

"To come back and be told the board doesn't have a quorum would just be flushing money," McQuillen said.

Several residents implored Taylor (photo: middle inset) and Tucci to drop their recusals and participate in a vote.

Attorney Boylan has said that while a board member is free to recuse himself on a vote he feels he has a conflict with, the actual state law requiring recusal is very narrow and specific and he doesn't see it applying to Taylor and Tucci.

After repeated requests from residents for reconsideration by Taylor and Tucci, Tucci spoke up and said he feels he has a clear conflict of interest.

David Boyce is his boss and controls his compensation. He also has an employment contract with Tompkins Financial Corp. that requires him not to participate in any decision on the board in which he has a financial interest. He offered his code and conduct and employment contract up for any other attorney to review to see if it says something other than what he believes it says.

"I would love to hear another opinion on the matter," Tucci said. "It's pretty simple to me. It's inappropriate for me to vote on this knowing these facts."

The first time Robbins Nest came to the village board for approval, Taylor did vote on it. He voted no, and though he feels he cast his vote in good conscience, some residents accused him of voting no only because Steve Barbeau his is nephew.

That pressure convinced him that if his vote couldn't be viewed as impartial, he should not participate in the decision.

"People who know me know I wouldn't vote for him just because he's a relative," Taylor said. "You ask my nephew. I haven't always voted for him all these times. He's not always right."

As the discussion continued, Taylor expressed some willingness to reconsider his recusal, but Boylan said that may not be possible. He said he will need to research whether it's legal for an elected official who has recused himself from an issue to reenter the discussion.

Barbeau expressed frustration with people he believes pressured Taylor over his previous vote and now complain about him recusing himself.

"You know who you are," Barbeau said.

The proposed change in the law will now go to the county planning board for review. It will then come back to the village board for a possible vote. No date has been set yet for the vote.

September 26, 2012 - 3:56pm
posted by Billie Owens in Le Roy, robbins nest.

A proposed local law to change how voting is done regarding zoning amendments is the subject of a public hearing tonight at the meeting of the Village of Le Roy Board of Trustees.

No vote will be made this evening on the proposed legal change, but public input is sought and encouraged. The meeting is at 7 in the Village Hall at 3 W. Main St.

Called "Proposed Local Law #4 of 2012," it would amend Chapter 215 of the Village Zoning Code, sections 215-18, by adding a new subsection -- "F."

This addition would make it possible for a simple majority of the board of trustees, rather than a super majority (4/5), to approve a planned unit development (PUD) and the land use regulations, restrictions, zoning, boundaries, etc., pertaining to it.

Also, a simple majority vote in favor would "adopt and enact" the zoning changes regardless of whether the proposal has been the subject of a protest petition signed by 20 percent of the affected nearby property owners.

Of course, this proposal is directly related to the controversial Robbins Nest project -- contractor and lifelong Le Royan Pete McQuillen's plan to build 26 "patio homes" for people 55 and older on 13.1 acres east of Robbins Road and south of Filmore Street. His plans are not popular with many residents near the Robbins Nest site, who have signed a petition against PUD zoning. Others welcome the idea because, if built, it would help boost the tax base for sorely needed public services.

But to accommodate it, PUD zoning -- which is not currently in the village code -- would need to be approved, in order to establish a homeowners' association, walking trails and to permit the developer to retain ownership of the land but not the houses, among other particulars.

The proposed subsection was prompted by the voluntary abstentions of two of the board's five village trustees -- Robert Taylor and Michael Tucci. Both cite personal conflicts of interest. The village lawyer says it's entirely their prerogative to do so. Thus, there is no way under current configurations to vote on McQuillen's plans.

In the written legal proposal, the "legislative findings" of the village board, noted before the language of Subsection F, say that:

From time to time the board receives applications to amend, modify or take action on Chapter 215 of the zoning code. And "being a small village...members may often find themselves in situations where their business, social and/or family relationships present conflicts" that make it necessary or advisable to recuse themselves from voting on certain proposals.

And that the state Constitution and Municipal Home Rule Law provide separate legislative authority to adopt zoning laws, rules and regulations and the village board "finds it advisable to provide an alternate means of dealing with zoning law changes."

Subsection F itself reads as follows:

Pursuant to the New York State Constitution Article IX (2)(b)(3) and the New York State Municipal Home Rule Law (10)(1)(ii)(e)(3), that any land use regulation, restriction or zoning district classification or boundary, or any application for the designation or siting of a planned unit development, whether applied for or proposed pursuant to this Local Law or Chapter 215 of the Village Code of the Village of Le Roy, may be adopted, amended, sited, changed, modified or repealed by the said Village Board by adoption of a local law, and such local law shall be deemed to have been approved and adopted by a favorable vote of a simple majority of the entire Village Board, and shall then take full force and effect as provided in the State Law, regardless of whether or not the same has been the subject of a protest petition signed by the owners of twenty per centum or more, either of the area of the land included in or affected by such action, or of that directly opposite thereto extending one hundred feet therefrom, or of that directly opposite thereto extending one hundred feet from the street frontage of such opposite land, or any similar protest or petition.

August 28, 2012 - 3:59pm
posted by Billie Owens in Le Roy, robbins nest.

After more than two years of studies, mapping, approvals, controversy, lawsuits, finger-wagging and name-calling, the senior housing plan in the Village of Le Roy called "Robbins Nest" is a hornet's nest that shows scant signs of abating.

Some villagers view the proposal to build 26 homes on 13.1 acres east of Robbins Road and south of Filmore Street as progress -- an opportunity to provide quality housing for adults 55 and over, and increase the tax base to bolster public services instead of continuing to cut them.

Others argue it would destroy the neighborhood, flora and fauna while providing no guarantee that it won't become a burden for taxpayers or that the single-story homes -- expected to go for $130,000 to $160,000 -- will even sell.

At an informal discussion at last week's village board meeting, opponents and proponents tepidly agreed that bringing in a neutral mediator would be worthwhile. And village officials acknowleged that looking into how similar developments in other places have panned out would also be a good idea.

"My trust is at an all-time low -- we need an impartial view," said resident David Boyce, who characterized the whole thing as "a debacle."

It's clear that more give and take will be required on both sides to quell the imbroglio.

"There is a compromise," Robbins Road resident Laura Robinson said. "There IS going to be development. ... There is a middle ground here and we have an obligation to find it."

About 35 to 40 people were on hand Wednesday to hear the exasperated developer -- lifelong Le Royan Pete McQuillen who also lives on Robbins Road -- say he wants closure on a planning process that has become "a blunder on many levels."

His options include:

1) Holding onto the property and do nothing;

2) Scraping the plans he's already spent thousands of dollars and a couple of years on, and develop it under the current single-family residential zoning (R-1);

3) Selling to another developer;

4) Proceeding with current plans and/or become further mired in a legal battle;

5) Trying to find a solution most residents can buy into, which would almost certainly be easier said than done.

Safe to say everyone who's been caught up in the acrimonious drama would also like to move on.

Yet the end is not near.

Boyce and Le Roy Town Supervisor Stephen Barbeau have filed two lawsuits against McQuillen, the village and the town planning board. The town and its planning board approved the project but soon after Barbeau was elected he sued them over it.

Some approval procedures were deemed not in compliance with state law, forcing McQuillen to restart the process he began in early 2010. More approvals, including that of the final plan, are needed before construction would be possible.

"The county is laughing at us in Le Roy -- this is a joke," McQuillen said.

Supervisor Barbeau would normally have oversight of expenditures related to a lawsuit and consult with the attorney. But because he's a plaintiff, outside counsel needed to be hired and the funds to do that come out of the budget Barbeau helps write and approve.

Boyce, president and CEO of Tompkins Insurance Agencies, is not happy that his property is contiguous with the Robbins Nest site. If built, it would destroy his view, the character of the neighborhood and much of its natural habitat.

(Tompkins Insurance, like the Bank of Castile, is a subsidiary of Tompkins Financial Corp.)

The point was made that a property owner's aesthetic rights are only protected up to 35 feet from the property line. So if someone ripped out trees and put up a big garage at that juncture, it would have a similar effect on the view as would a 1,600-square-foot house (or houses).

In other words, there should be no expectation that the trees Boyce recalled romping through as a child behind his house will always remain, Trustee Jennifer Keys said.

Then there's the issue of density.

"It's like putting a whale in a sardine can," quipped a woman at the meeting.

But it's less about the merits of the project, Boyce said -- despite his statements about habitat destruction and devaluing his property -- it boils down to zoning.

Boyce contends the plan doesn't comply with the village master plan, although county planners concluded it does. Some at the meeting indicated they might be more amenable to McQuillen's plans if fewer homes were included.

The county planning board voted to recommend changing zoning from R1 (single-family residential), the property's designation since 1966, to PUD (planned unit development). PUD zoning allows a developer to build without having to ask for a lot of variances.

The village board has not yet made a decision and can't, in fact, until the environmental review process is finished.

A PUD zone, sometimes referred to as "spot zoning," would be needed to build a condensed development with more houses on less land than would otherwise be allowable. It also would permit the creation of a homeowners' association (to pay for outdoor maintenance), walking trails, and let the developer retain ownership of the land but not the houses.

But it requires a "super majority" to approve, which brings up another sticky wicket. Four out of five "yes" votes would be required for a quorum.

Mayor Greg Rogers and trustees Keys and Jim Bonaquisti are in favor of approving a zoning change. But two trustees -- Bob Taylor and Mike Tucci -- have abstained from voting on issues related to Robbins Nest, citing conflict of interest.

The village attorney said the men's decision to abstain is personal choice, not something they are legally obligated to do in this case, even though Tucci is an employee of Tompkins Insurance and therefore an employee of Boyce. That's why Tucci is gun-shy of voting on Robbins Nest. And supervisor and litigant Barbeau is Taylor's nephew, so Taylor doesn't feel comfortable voting on it either.

Big stalemate.

"I can take a yes vote or a no vote, but an abstention in my mind is unpatriotic," McQuillen said. "Take your bat and ball and go home -- don't stick your head in the sand."

Another point that was brought up is whether this sort of development is appropriate for the area.

Wilson Street resident Beth Bartz peppered village trustees with questions at the Aug. 22 meeting.

"Have you done your homework?" Bartz asked. "Have you researched other communities that have these kinds of developments? What if they can't fund a homeowners' association right away?

"Are you going to need a bond measure (to bridge the gap)? Are there enough people in Le Roy who can afford a $150,000 home, plus the high taxes in Le Roy, and the homeowners' association fees? What if the homes don't sell?"

Trustees indicated the questions were valid and worth looking into.

McQuillen says everyone he's spoken to in the community "to a man" is in favor of what he's trying to accomplish and they are supportive. The aging population, himself included, likes the idea of selling their big homes to their children and moving into a ranch-style place where they won't have to rake leaves and shovel snow.

"I think we need this," resident Pete Weaver said. "This is not a low-rent operation."

At the end of the day, something WILL be built.

"I hold the cards on what's going to happen next," McQuillen said. "I didn't buy the property to sit on it."

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