No resolution to access road for Red Swan Inn project

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    Warwick — Last month, the Village Board asked both parties disputing ownership of Clinton Avenue Extension to submit proof of their claim in order to end the disparity. That seemed cut and dry, but it wasn't. The village's attorney, Michael Meth, said that Larry and Fern Parkin, through their attorney, Jay Myrow, filed a deed to the small road, declaring they own it by fee. They own the road to the center line, and, since they own the property on both sides of the road, that encompasses the entire road, Meth said. The Red Swan Inn owners, who want to use Clinton Avenue Extension as a secondary access to their proposed development on the site of the Pioneer Farm, have not submitted documents claiming ownership. Instead, its representatives have submitted a tax map and a document from the county tax department saying it won't abandon the road. Meth wanted a title search from the Red Swan Inn saying they have an interest in the road. But he insisted the village should not make any determination based on these documents. "I recommend the board can't consider this a secondary access," said Meth. "I don't want to approve it and have the Parkins put up a fence. By approving or not, you are making an assumption of ownership. This board is not an arbiter. It can't decide ownership." But a judge can. And that may be where this issue is headed. There are other issues as well. In order for this project to progress, a zone change will be required and a new zone created. The village is currently updating its zoning code to coincide with its new Comprehensive Plan. Village officials can update the zoning and create the new zone simultaneously. The Village Board named itself lead agency on the zone change. It also wants to name itself lead agency for the site plan for this new development, which includes residential housing units, commercial businesses, retail establishments, and the new Red Swan Inn. The Planning Board, which is usually lead agency on building projects, objected to the Village Board being lead agency on this one, mainly because of the board's lack of expertise with a project so big. "We can have two boards doing two different SEQRs (State Environmental Quality Review)," said Meth, "but I don't recommend it. You could make the Planning Board an involved agency. Then you will have their expertise." To Steven Spiegel, attorney for The Red Swan Inn project, this is getting confusing. "From the applicant's standpoint, we still haven't been given a roadmap to the process," he said. "We've tried to respond in a timely manner. It's a confusing process. There is a lot going on." Spiegel does not think the process has to be this confusing or as time consuming. He suggested that the board utilize a process called 7703A that was put into law last July by New York State. This law, which is sometimes referred to as a Planned Unit Development (PUD) process, allows villages, towns and cities throughout New York to do site-specific zoning - also known as spot zoning. The 7703A law also allows the village to do everything at one time but in smaller pieces, according to Spiegel, instead of doing the zoning process first, then the planning. He does not agree with the "old fashioned" way of doing things for this project, which is to create a floating zone and then place it on the property. Spiegel thinks the state legislature looked at that as a way to get around spot zoning, which is illegal, and came up with this new procedure, which allows site-specific zoning. "They can do it all at the same time," Spiegel said. "They can look at the totality of the issue. This will allow the public and the private developer to come up with what is right for the site." If the traditional way is used, Spiegel wants the village to provide a detailed roadmap to him and the developer. "It just doesn't make sense to me to do it this way," he said. "But if they don't want to do it the new way, then you tell me how to do this. Otherwise, we will keep having stumbling blocks." The big hurdle now is in naming a lead agency. With the Planning Board not agreeing on naming the Village Board as lead agency for the site plan review, the village may have to turn to the Department of Environmental Conservation to decide. "You must designate the lead agency first," said Meth, "or the DEC will do it for you."