Judge overturns New Scotland zoning board

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Tommell Livestock, LLC filed a lawsuit against the New Scotland Zoning Board of Appeals as well as the town’s building inspector in August 2019, looking to overturn a decision that denied Tommell the use of a commercial garage on his property. This month, a judge agreed and overturned the zoning board. ​

NEW SCOTLAND — Due to a judge’s decision, the Tommells will have another chance for a local board’s review to let them use the four-bay garage they own as a commercial garage.

Finding “no rational justification” for the New Scotland Zoning Board of Appeals’ “disparate treatment” of a use-variance application from Tommell Livestock, Albany County Acting Supreme Court Judge Kimberly O’Connor earlier this month annulled and “remitted back to the Board for reconsideration” a 2019 determination made by the board, which denied Tommell Livestock the use of a commercial garage on its property, a right “that had been permitted for decades,” according to original August 2019 court filing.  

Tommell Livestock, LLC — owned by Samuel T. Tommell and Adam S. Tommell — purchased the property at 173 North Road in New Scotland in 2018 from the estate of Charles Schufelt; the property contains a four-bay commercial garage that, since 1982, had “consistently and repeatedly” been used by four different property owners “to repair and maintain vehicles and heavy equipment,” the August 2019 court filing said. 

At its May meeting, the zoning board set a public hearing for its June meeting on Tommell’s variance application “to allow for the use of the parcel as a commercial public garage which is not a current allowed use for the parcel,” according to the zoning board’s May agenda. “The application is a request to ‘renew’ a use variance previously granted for this parcel to allow for the operation and use as a public garage.”

The property sits in the Residential Agricultural (RA) District, which doesn’t allow for commercial garages.

There are two buildings on the North Road site.

One building is designated residential — it was lawfully converted in 2014 from office space to a residence. The building is “encumbered by a life estate,” meaning Shufelt’s mother is allowed to live in the building until she dies; her husband had previously lived on the property as well but died. 

Around the same time that he received the residential rezone, Shufelt began “working on vehicles out of the garage on a small scale,” Building Inspector Jeremy Cramer said at May’s zoning board meeting. “And that’s when we noticed what he was doing [and] we had issued the violation notice. And he had come in and started his application … so that he could try to get the building approved for commercial use.”

The commercial use of that garage had been abandoned, which is why Shufelt had to come before the zoning board for another use variance. But Shufelt never finished the commercial use approval process.  

“That’s why Tommell Livestock is here to get the use variance, because technically that still remains an abandoned use as a commercial garage and [Tommell] has to come in for a use variance in order to be able to use the garage as a public garage, commercially … Otherwise, it still remains a residential property,” Crystal Peck, the zoning board’s attorney, said. 


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