Warwick village review board scrutinized for construction approval confusion

Warwick. AHRB accused of failing to follow proper procedures.

| 19 Sep 2023 | 11:32

Questions were raised over the village of Warwick’s property construction approval process, during the Warwick Village Board meeting held last Thursday, Sept. 14.

At issue was a planned development of a three-family dwelling at 43 Wheeler Ave., which, according to Mayor Michael Newhard, had not gone through the proper steps before seeking final approval from the village board. According to Mayor Newhard, the development would first need official approval from the Village of Warwick’s Architectural and Historical Review Board (AHRB). This was further confirmed in a report submitted to the village board by the law firm Drake Loeb PLLC, which represents the developers.

“The planning board secretary retired, and we are unraveling a few knots. The procedure may not have been done in sequence. One of the things that happened was, because it is a commercial application, it needs to go before the AHRB,” said Newhard.

Patrick Corcoran, who submitted the application for the special use permit for the property at 43 Wheeler Ave., claimed that he had already received approval from the AHRB via email correspondence, when he addressed the board during public comment.

Trustee Thomas McKnight read from a copy of said letter, which noted that three of the five members of the AHRB had reviewed the application and stated that it had no objection to the proposed changes.

Mayor Newhard explained that email approval could not take the place of an official meeting by the AHRB where the public is able to be present.

“There were never minutes, it was done on the phone, that’s completely against our open meetings laws,” said Newhard.

Mayor Newhard further noted that this is New York State municipal law, adding that this issue has occurred before and needs to stop.

“It sounds to me like it’s internal and I shouldn’t have to suffer consequences,” said Corcoran, who called into question the process and noted how business is often conducted over email and was under the impression that he had received a majority-vote approval from the AHRB.

“The application was sent to the AHRB in April, and since then I have spent upwards of $5,000 to village attorneys, village engineers, and everybody else in the village to review all this. This is the first time it’s coming up. Had I known about this, I would have been prepared. Honestly, it seems like splitting hairs at this stage,” said Corcoran.

Newhard and the trustees present apologized for the inconvenience incurred by the failure of the AHRB to go through the proper process and acknowledged Corcoran’s concerns about the time and money he has spent pursuing approval for his property.

8 Forester Ave.

Also present at the meeting was Bo Kennedy, whose firm was seeking approval for a special use permit to modify its existing commercial property at 8 Forester Ave. Kennedy said he was told by the Village Planning Board that the AHRB was okay with the plans. He also commented on the length of time that had passed without the matter being included on the village board agenda, to which Mayor Newhard responded by noting it was due to a need to discuss these issues with their counsel.

Hearing Kennedy’s concern about a delayed decision forcing him to push back work later and later, the board agreed to make a motion to refer the special use permit application for 8 Forester Ave. to the AHRB.

This motion was passed, as was the motion to refer the special use permit for 43 Wheeler Ave., which was included in the original agenda for the Sept. 14 Village Board of Trustees meeting.

“There were never minutes, it was done on the phone, that’s completely against our open meetings laws,” said Village Mayor Michael Newhard.