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Terry Platt

January 30, 2014 - 2:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Terry Platt.

(File Photo)

A Buffalo judge ruled this morning that the city must issue a rooming house permit to local rental property owner Terry Platt for a 12-room rooming house at 316 E. Main St., Batavia.

The city's planning board turned town Platt's application in May following strenuous objects from neighboring property owners and other residents, so Platt filed an Article 78 action asking the court to step in and review the case.

Judge John Curran found that Platt's plan did not violate the city's master plan, as the city maintained in its argument against granting the permit.

The city didn't contest, according to Platt's attorney Michael Perley, any other aspect of Platt's application.

Curran found, Perley said, that the city's master plan allows mixed use on East Main Street, and the rooming house fits within permitted uses.

But even if the master plan didn't allow for mixed use in that area of the city, Perley said Curran indicated he would have ruled in Platt's favor because he would have found the city's plan flawed.

"My client is pleased and I'm pleased for my client," Perley said. "We thought all along it was a proper and appropriate project. Mr. Platt has always run these dwellings in the city and he has run them well. We believe it will be an asset to the city and the city will be pleased with the rooming house and how Mr. Platt operates it."

Previously:

November 21, 2013 - 3:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, planning, zoning, Terry Platt, Platt Properties.

Local landlord Terry Platt has brought an Article 78 action against the City of Batavia over a planning committee's denial of his application to open a rooming home on East Main Street, and the Erie County judge presiding over the case indicated in court today he leans in favor of Platt's side of the case.

When Larry O'Connor, representing the city's insurance company, told Judge John Curran that he thought the case was straightforward, Curran responded, "I think it is straightforward and you're running up hill."

O'Connor said he got that feeling after listening to Curran pepper Platt's attorney, Michael Perley, with questions about how the case should be decided.

Platt sought approval from the city in May for a rooming house at 316 E. Main St. and several neighbors came to a meeting of the Batavia Planning and Development Committee and objected to the plan.

The committee voted to deny Platt the necessary approval for the project.

In the Article 78 action, Platt's attorney argues that the proposed use is both allowed by existing zoning, fits the mixed use nature of the neighborhood and could not be denied on any legal basis.

O'Connor said the committee had the authority to deny the application based on the city's Comprehensive Master Plan.

That, however, raises what Perley characterized as a "fatal defect" in the city's case -- there's no proof on the record that the city ever formally approved its master plan.

O'Connor did not provide proof of plan approval prior to arguments in the case and Curran said the record is now closed. O'Connor said, however, he could provide proof of an approval. (Outside of court, O'Connor said Curran could "take judicial notice" of the approval, even if it's not part of the record).

Perley said the city couldn't produce a copy of the master plan when Platt issued a FOIL request for the document earlier this year.

A copy was found and it is now part of the case.

City Manager Jason Molino confirmed later in the day that the City Council did ratify the master plan Feb. 25, 1997. Molino could not comment further on the case.

According to the discussion in the Erie County courtroom of Curran today, Curran must weight the role of the master plan in the committee's decision, whether the master plan gives the committee the authority to reject Platt's application, and whether he should take the extreme step of overturning the decision of a group of community volunteers over a zoning issue.

Curran spent a lot of time asking the attorneys questions about how they propose he decide the case.

"The property is properly zoned?" Curran asked.

"Correct," said Perley.

"There's no defect in the application?"

"Correct."

"There's no request for a variance?"

"There's no need for a variance."

"There's no request for a change in zoning?"

"No."

"There's is no need for a special-use permit?"

"No."

"Both you and Mr. O'Connor have experience in municipal law," Curran said. "You and I both know a lot of municipal law. If I run a (report) for special-use permit legal cases to come up with standards or if I run it for variances to come up with a standard, we know what I'll find. What do I run for this one?"

"The standard you apply is whether or not this decision was arbitrary and capricious," Perley said. "How does the committee deny an application that is proper for the property before it without misapplying the zoning law?"

O'Connor argued that the denial was consistent with the master plan, and Curran honed in on the section that says the permitted uses of buildings on that section of East Main Street (zoned C1, which is mixed use) includes professional offices, small restaurants and other small businesses, but says nothing about single-family residences, so how can the city argue that it wants to preserve the historic nature of the single-family residences?

The master plan as a whole is about preserving and enhancing current single-family residences, O'Connor told Curran.

"This is an area of single-family homes along with limited commercial use," O'Connor said. "The city wants to preserve the integrity and character of that area."

Then Curran laid out his underlying frustration: Neither attorney had filed a memorandum of law.

Such memorandums are often filed by attorneys to provide a judge with their views of how the law and prior legal precedents apply to a particular case.

Perley said he wrote such a memorandum and was surprised it hadn't been filed with the case. Since O'Connor hadn't received such a memo, he hadn't written a response.

Curran agreed to give both attorneys time to file such memos and continued the case to Jan. 30.

The options before Curran include: upholding the committee's decision; overturning the decision and permitting Platt to open the rooming house; or overturning the committee's ruling but ordering the committee to reconsider its decision.

May 22, 2013 - 10:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Terry Platt.

Terry Platt, a landlord who owns numerous properties, says he's done investing in Genesee County.

On Tuesday, the City of Batavia Planning Board voted unanimously to disapprove Platt's proposal to convert a single family home at 316 E. Main St. into a boarding house.

"I hate to say it, because I would love to stay here and spend my money in the city, but after today, I think they've proved to me that Terry Platt's not wanted in this city," Platt said. "Therefore I will be looking to sell some things, but keep many so I can keep the income and take it to a different city that deserves it."

According to Platt, he put down $5,000 on a purchase offer for the property after city officials assured him the parcel was properly zoned for a rooming house and approval of his application wouldn't be a problem.

Then, last Friday, in a meeting with the city, he got the impression the attitude had changed.  Sudden, he said, city officials had found laws that limit the size of the rooming house.

He was told that instead of 12 rooms, he could only have nine, if approved.

At Tuesday's meeting, council members Rose Mary Christian and Kathy Briggs, along with John Roach and two neighboring property owners spoke against Platt's plans.

Christian noted that 316 E. Main St. is next to a pair of well-maintained Victorian-era houses, including one that won an award from the Landmark Society this year.

"These are extraordinary properties that are well maintained and cared for by the owners," Christian said.

Both Christian and Briggs noted that converting a single-family home to a multi-unit dwelling goes against the city's recently adopted strategic plan, which aims to convert many of the existing apartment buildings that were once single-family homes back to single-family homes.

Roach objected to the idea that Platt would likely take in NYS parolees as tenants.

Christian noted that some of Platt's properties have sex offenders living in the dwellings.

April Walroot, Platt's property manager, said out of the 28 rooms the company has rented now, only four are the homes of registered sex offenders.

She also said that because the house is within 500 feet of a school -- St. Joseph's -- NYS Parole won't allow sex offenders to be placed in the residence.

According to this online mapping tool, St. Joe's is more than 800 feet from the house, as is the Richmond Memorial Library. 

Elizabeth Jess, who recently acquired the red brick home next to 316, said she and her husband bought it because the neighboring homes were single family and well maintained. She said she was worried about sex offenders moving into a residence next to her family.

"If there was ever any indication this could happen, we never would have bought this home," she said.

The Bialys, who own the recently designated Landmark home, have invested thousands and thousands of dollars into maintaining their house and they are concerned that putting a rooming house two doors down from their home would diminish the value.

Platt said, yes, his company does work with NYS Parole to find homes for former prison inmates. He also said all of his rooming homes are supervised and there are rules enforced on the residents. There's a strong motivation to obey the rules, Platt said, because offenses get reported back to parole officers.

It's an advantage to the city, he said, to have parolees living at his properties rather than elsewhere in the city because they are expected to follow certain rules and are monitored by the property manager.

The conversion also fits within the city's strategic plan, Platt said, because they city wants more residents downtown.

"We have a location downtown where people will be able to walk to everything and be able to spend their money downtown, keep the traffic downtown," Pratt said. "It will be a positive for the city."

After the application was denied, Pratt talked of possible legal action. He said he will consult with an attorney.

He feels there is an issue with the city giving him indications it would be approved and then, from his point of view, changing the rules at the last minute, and he also feels the city is discriminating against a certain class of people.

"There is a shortage of this type of housing for the good people who need a place to live," Platt said.

The denial is just one more piece of evidence, Platt said, that the city doesn't want him around so he's going to stop investing his money locally.

"It's pretty obvious the City has made many gestures and many ways to let Terry Platt know he's not wanted in the City of Batavia," Platt said.

Asked if the City isn't also making it harder for other landlords to do business, or was he just being singled out, Platt said, "It has lot to do with Terry Platt and his rooming houses, because how can they let a single-family home on Oak Street be converted to a rooming house several years ago and now all the sudden they don't want to see rooming houses near downtown where they need the traffic?"

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