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Zoning Board of Appeals January 30, 2020 Minutes

Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals in attendance by roll call were:

Chairperson Douglas Purcell — here
Kenneth Coirin — here
Frank Malagisi — absent
Kathleen Ellerby — here
John Byrnes — here

Members of the public in attendance: John Bellinger, Gail Girvin.

Chair Douglas Purcell opened the public hearing at 7:00pm.

Chair Douglas Purcell asked if there were any corrections or additions to the minutes of the October 24, 2019 meeting. There were none. He then asked if there was motion to waive the reading and accept the meeting minutes as published.

Kenneth Coirin moved to waive the reading and accept the minutes as published. John Byrnes seconded the motion. The vote was unanimous.

Douglas Purcell said these are two-part hearings for each application. The first part of the meeting is a public session where we ask the applicant to state what is is they are doing and look for comments from the public and any correspondence there may be. We then close the meeting and at that time we will ask questions from the board of the applicant. We are going to do them in numerical order.

Douglas Purcell said we are going to start with Application Number Z2019-07, by John & Lenore Bellinger, 492 Crooks Grove Road, Ballston Spa NY 12020, for the property located at 325 East Stoner Lake Road and identified as parcel SBL#24.7-1-41 in R-10 zoning district, APA Low Intensity.

The applicant proposes to build a new dock in a zoning district that prohibits docks per Article 4, Section II, Subsection D of the Zoning Ordinance. Article 4, Section III lists the uses permitted by right, by site plan review, and by special use permit for each zoning district. A Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) variance, if granted, will then be referred by the ZBA to the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The APA has 30 days after it receives a complete referral to reverse the granting of the variance. If the variance is granted by the ZBA and not reversed by the APA, then the applicant must further obtain approvals from the other regulatory agencies required for permitting of docks. Only then would building plans be reviewed and a determination made about whether to issue a building permit.

Douglas Purcell asked John Bellinger if he would like to speak on that.

John Bellinger said what he is trying to do is put in a dock and, separately through the Adirondack Park Agency, to put in a boardwalk. The reason he is here is he is asking for permission for the dock.

Douglas Purcell asked if there was anything else John Bellinger would like to add.

John Bellinger said the reason it is out as far as it is: the lake is very, very shallow at that end of the lake. To get two feet of water, he has to go out that far.

Douglas Purcell asked is it 200 feet from the shoreline?

John Bellinger answered yes.

Douglas Purcell asked if there was anything else he’d like to add.

John Bellinger said he’d been in contact with the Adirondack Park Agency and NYSDEC. The impression he had was that he needed to go through them first before going to the Town. The paperwork has been submitted to the Adirondack Park Agency. The biologist from the APA, Mary O’Dell, has visited the parcel. He claimed Mary O’Dell said that his plan was the least evasive [sic] way to do it.

Douglas Purcell asked the secretary if there was any correspondence. There were three items that the secretary had provided to each ZBA member.

Douglas Purcell read into the record a letter from Robert E. Lewis:

Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2020 20:47:34 +0000 [15:47:34 EST]
From: Robert E. Lewis
To: james@jameslong.com
Cc: Treg Lewis
' Subject: Bellinger Zoning Request Stoner Lake

James, as much as we strive to be good neighbors on Stoner Lake we are not in agreement with this request. Please note our response as an effected property owner. Respectfully, Robert E. Lewis

Douglas Purcell read into the record a letter from Treg Lewis:

Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:26:27 +0000 [12:26:27 EST]
From: Treg Lewis
To: James Long
Subject: Application Number Z2019-07

Dear Mr. Long and Fellow Members of the Board,

I am writing in response to Application Number Z2019-07 by John & Lenore Bellinger for rezoning to build a dock on the property located at 325 East Stoner Lake Rd. I am genuinely happy to have new neighbors on the lake and I am someone generally in favor of common sense development, but I must oppose the proposed dock.

I urge the Zoning Board to consider the following:

Our family has been on the lake for over 90 years and there has been much development. However, this project threatens one of the last areas of wild shoreline on Stoner Lake and a critical habitat for loons, ducks, wetland vegetation and other life that are critical to the Stoner Lake ecosystem.

With respect to the Bellinger family, I respectfully ask the Zoning Board to deny this request in the interest of the lake.

Treg Lewis
345 E. Stoner Lake Rd.

Douglas Purcell read into the record a letter from Thomas Lewis:

Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2020 16:46:01 +0000 [11:46:01 EST]
From: Thomas Lewis
To: james@jameslong.com
Subject: Bellinger boardwalk proposal


Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts regarding the proposal for a boardwalk on Stoner lake. My family has been part of the Caroga Lake/Stoner lake community for 5 generations. As do many, we find peace and tranquility when we spend time on the lake with all of its natural offerings. We ourselves are in a shallow portion of the lake, however we have a short 20 ft removable dock that is not intrusive to the natural surroundings. We find other means such as canoe/kayak/float to access deeper or other areas of the waterway, all in which being mindful that we are stewards of the environment.

It does not seem as though the Bellinger group has the same thoughtfulness of the environment. They have already clear cut and drastically changed the landscape of the area with the site work they have performed and based on prior practices, I do not see how any buildouts going forward will be any different.

Growing up in WNY I have first hand witnessed transformations of entire areas that started out as a simple policy change or rewriting of building code. These changes or exceptions always result in precedent for the next situation going forward and generally snowball out of control.

On a final note, I would like to extend our appreciation to all of the people who work hard behind the scenes and for those who maintain the area so we can enjoy for years to come. Thanks again, Tom Lewis and family


Thomas Lewis | Batavia Branch Manager
O: (585) 300 4156
C: (585) 746 1670

Douglas Purcell asked Gail Girvin if she had comments on the Z2019-07. She did not.

Douglas Purcell asked John Bellinger for comments.

John Bellinger said this was the first he’d heard of that. He said he did not take any trees out that he wasn't allowed to take out by the town, the state, or anybody else. He said he had not done anything he wasn’t allowed to do.

Douglas Purcell closed the public portion at 7:08 pm.

John Byrnes asked if the letters were all from the same family.

John Bellinger said the letter writers owned different parcels.

Douglas Purcell said, for the sake of the Zoning Board of Appeals, he is going to table further action on the application for two reason: First, in accordance with Article 11, Section III(B)(10)(a), all completed use variance applications shall be referred to the County Planning Board pursuant to General Municipal Law Section 239-m. No action shall be taken on applications referred to the County Planning Board until its recommendations have been received or 30 days have elapsed after its receipt of the complete application. He explained to John Bellinger that the reason he is doing this is, although the applicant’s diagrams show the project as more than 500 feet away from the state land, the property is within 500 feet of state land. Since the application is for use of the property the Zoning Board of Appeals has to refer this to the County Planning Board.

Kenneth Coirin concurred, saying that ties the hands of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Douglas Purcell went on to the second reason. He noted that the applicant started the process correctly by going to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, going to the Adirondack Park Agency, and going to the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Prior to 2019 – and the project was started in 2018 – the process for getting a dock is doing exactly what the applicant started: one obtained approval from the NYSDEC, the Army Corps of Engineers, and from the APA, and then proceeded to the Code Officer to get a dock permit. In January of 2019, the Zoning Ordinance was changed so that docks are a right in certain zoning districts but not for this applicant’s zoning district (R-10 residential ten acre). That’s why the APA sent it back to the Town of Caroga. The second thing the ZBA wants to do is to refer it to the Town of Caroga Planning Board and ask them to make a recommendation on this appeal application: why did the Planning Board change the Zoning Ordinance from one in which the docks were taken care of by other entities to a use “by right” and also the rationale for excluding R-10, since the applicant’s parcel is one of approximately a dozen on East Stoner Lake that can’t put a dock in because of the way the Zoning Ordinance is written. He is looking to the Planning Board to make a recommendation.

John Bellinger asked what it means that it gets passed to the Planning Board.

Douglas Purcell reiterated that the application had to go to the County Planning Board, but he was also exercising the ZBA’s discretion to seek a recommendation from the Town of Caroga Planning Board. He wants the Planning Board to explain how we got into this situation (vis-à-vis, docks for R-10 being excluded from the Use Table).

John Bellinger asked if his application could be considered grandfathered.

Douglas Purcell explained that under the old Zoning Ordinance, the APA would have rejected the application because boardwalks were disallowed accessory structures. Thus, the same thing would have happened. The APA would have received the applicant’s application for boardwalk and dock and rejected it because the Town of Caroga Zoning Ordinance does not allow accessory use structures.

John Bellinger asked how long this would take.

Douglas Purcell said the County Planning Board would have thirty days and he is hoping to have this application before the Town of Caroga Planning Board at their next scheduled meeting on February 5, 2020.

Douglas Purcell said because application Z2019-07 is tabled, the ZBA does not need to go through the Hearing Notice process.

John Bellinger asked if this would come back in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Douglas Purcell said yes and the ZBA would take into consideration the recommendations from the Planning Board and the feedback from the County Planning Board.

The secretary asked for clarification on the logistics of submission the Planning Board.

Douglas Purcell said he would write a letter to the Planning Board. He said it was important that an Environmental Assessment Form had been created because both the Adirondack Park Agency and the County Planning Board had asked Douglas Purcell if that form had been filled out.

Douglas Purcell reconvened public session at 7:19 pm to hear Application Number Z2020-01, by Gail Girvin, 708 Glen Avenue, Scotia NY 12302, for the property located at 398 South Shore East Caroga and identified as parcel SBL#83.14-1-4 in LF 2.5 zoning district, APA Low Intensity.

Applicant built a carport without obtaining the proper building permit. The applicant proposes to keep a carport in its present location. Property is a legal noncomplying lot. This consideration involves the following section(s) of the Zoning Ordinance

Article 4, Section I, Subsection B lists the applicability of regulations and states: “No building or structure shall herein be erected, constructed or altered to exceed the dimensional standards of the zoning district said building or structure is located within.”

As per Article 9, Section VI, Subsection B, “where two-thirds of current minimum yard setbacks and other dimensional requirements cannot be met, the owner shall have the right to apply for one or more area variances.” The carport is located 10 feet from the western property line. As per the 1/3 allowance of the 20 foot side yard setback, this is encroaching by 3.2 feet.

A Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) variance, if granted, may then be referred by the ZBA to the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The APA has 30 days after it receives a complete referral to reverse the granting of the variance. If the variance is granted by the ZBA and not reversed by the APA, then building plans would be reviewed and a determination made about whether to issue a building permit.

Douglas Purcell asked applicant Gail Girvin to speak.

Gail Girvin is asking for a variance for being too close to her side property line by 3.2 feet. She asserted that she could not move the structure. She thought the required distance was ten feet. She was unaware of the requirement.

The secretary read into the record the Gronbeck letter:

Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2020 13:20:23 -0500 [13:20:23 EST]
From: Lori Gronbeck
To: james@jameslong.com
Subject: Application number Z2020-01

Mr Long,

I am writing in response to the Zoning Board of Appeals Hearing Notice I received concerning the carport installed by Gail Girvin at 398 South Shore East Caroga. My sister, Wendy Bunker and I are the owners of the adjoining property at 402 South Shore East Caroga. We have no objection as to the structure nor the placement of the structure. We were fully informed as to Ms. Girvin’s choice of structure as well as the placement of the structure prior to its installation.

If you need any additional information, please contact me at LWG3220@gmail.com

Lori W Gronbeck

Sent from my iPad

Douglas Purcell asked if there were any other comments before the ZBA goes into closed session. There were none.

The ZBA entered closed session at 7:22 pm.

Douglas Purcell asked when Gail Girvin put in the carport.

Gail Girvin said September 2019.

Douglas Purcell asked why the applicant thought the setback was ten feet.

Gail Girvin said that was just what she thought it was

Douglas Purcell said the reason for his asking was that prior to 2019, the Zoning Ordinance allowed a side setback of eight feet. It was based on the amount of frontage relative to the minimum.

Douglas Purcell said there was no building permit sought.

Kenneth Coirin concurred that there was no building permit sought.

John Byrnes asked what was there before.

Gail Girvin said there was a seasonal temporary one with white canvas.

Kathleen Ellerby asked if Gail Girvin had paid a fine yet.

Gail Girvin said she has not been fined yet.

Douglas Purcell asked board members if they had any other questions. There were none.

Douglas Purcell went through the criteria for an area variance: In making its determination, on an area variance application the ZBA shall take into consideration the benefit to the applicant if the variance is granted, as weighed against the detriment to the health, safety and welfare of the neighborhood or community by such grant. In making such determination the ZBA shall also consider:

  1. Whether an undesirable change will be produced in the character of the neighborhood or a detriment to nearby properties will be created by the granting of the area variance. All ZBA members said no.

  2. Whether the benefit sought by the applicant can be achieved by some method, feasible for the applicant to pursue, other than an area variance. All ZBA members said no. Kenneth Coirin said “no, its already installed, its in place, the anchors are in”.

  3. Whether the requested area variance is substantial. All ZBA members said no.

  4. Whether the proposed variance will have an adverse effect or impact on the physical or environmental conditions in the neighborhood or district. All ZBA members said no. Kenneth Coirin elaborated: “the neighbors are OK with it”.

  5. Whether the alleged difficulty was self-created, which consideration shall be relevant to the decision of the ZBA, but shall not necessarily preclude the granting of the area variance. All ZBA members said yes it was self-created.

Douglas Purcell asked for a motion.

Kenneth Coirin moved to approve application Z2020-01. Kathleen Ellerby seconded the motion.

Douglas Purcell said a yes vote will be to approve the application and a no vote will be to deny it.

Roll call vote:

John Byrnes: yes.

Kathleen Ellerby: yes.

Kenneth Coirin: yes.

Douglas Purcell: yes.

Douglas Purcell explained that at this point the application gets referred to the Adirondack Park Agency for their review. The APA has 30 days after they receive a complete referral to reverse it or take no action.

Gail Girvin asked why it goes to the APA.

The Secretary explained the APA referral process.

Douglas Purcell said that typically in these situations where we are making a decision on a structure that was already built, the ZBA makes a recommendation to the Code Enforcement Officer to apply penalties as deemed necessary.

John Byrnes asked John Bellinger if he was going to take the dock out seasonally.

John Bellinger said no.

Kenneth Coirin moved to adjourn. John Byrnes seconded the motion. All were in favor.

The meeting adjourned at 7:32 pm.

Respectfully submitted
James McMartin Long
Town of Caroga Town Board Member,
acting as Zoning Board of Appeals Clerk and Zoning Board of Appeals Secretary

Copyright © James McMartin Long 2017-2021