Upcoming hearing brings concern of how to notify public

KNOX — In Knox, town board members debated how to notify town residents of an upcoming public hearing for a proposed business district at the intersection of routes 157 and 156.

It could have cost the town up to $6,000, depending on how it’s done. The supervisor wanted to spend the money to notify every Knox resident; none of the council members seconded his motion.

At the June 1 special town board meeting, Councilman Earl Barcomb said that he had called for the meeting to discuss including with mailed notices of the public hearing the allowed uses that would be permitted should a new business district be established, located under Article IV, Section 44 of the town’s zoning law.

The hearing was recently pushed back from its original June 12 date and will be held on Tuesday, July 11, at 7 p.m. at the Knox Town Hall.

Councilwoman Amy Pokorny suggested also listing uses that would no longer be allowed should the residential- and agricultural-zoned areas become a business district — while a much shorter list than allowed uses, these would include pig farms, trailer courts, seasonal camps, and cemeteries.

The attachments eventually totaled 10 pages, which included all uses allowed and not allowed in all types of zoning districts in the town. Pokorny later said it could be compressed to three pages.

Councilman Daniel Hanley pointed out that there are other sections of the zoning code referenced in the list of uses.

“People are going to look at these charts and not have any clue what they mean,” he said.

Town Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis agreed, saying residents may not realize a non-permitted use could be allowed with a special-use permit.

“It’s not all or nothing,” said Barcomb.

Lefkaditis said the original notice — which had been filed on May 24 and has already been sent out to impacted property owners — included a note that the zoning code is available online or at request of the town clerk.

“All we’re doing is opening up a can of worms,” he said, of the attachments.

“If it’s a can of worms, we need to hear about it,” said Pokorny.

Lefkaditis then suggested that, since everyone in the town could be affected by a new business district, the notice of a public hearing should be sent to all residents.

“If you’re sending a public notice,” said Barcomb, “you send it to the people that are affected — you don’t send it to the whole municipality.”

According to the notice, 18 parcels of land are included in the proposed district.

Lefkaditis said he doesn’t want to leave any cause for complaint from residents.

“So my argument is, send this, as well as the description — the ‘Cs’ and the ‘As’ and the procedures — to the whole town, everybody,” he said.

He made a motion to do just that, to send notice along with Article IV, Sections 40, 41, 42, and 44; as well as Article V, Section 50D; and Article VI, Section 61F, of the zoning ordinance to all Knox parcels listed on the tax rolls. It would cost $2,000 to do it that way, Lefkaditis estimated. No one seconded the motion.

The town’s attorney, John Dorfman, said certified letters have to be sent only to those in neighboring areas.

State law requires written notice at least 10 days prior to the date of the hearing to those with property within 500 feet. Contents of the notice must include the date, time, and location of the hearing and a brief statement of the hearing’s purpose.

Since Lefkaditis estimated it would cost around $2,000 to mail the letters to all residents with the attachments, Barcomb asked if the supervisor would pay for this — later adding he would support the motion if he did. Lefkaditis said he would not.

“This is going to be a $6,000 bill,” said Hanley, referring to the two other public hearings that are scheduled to be held by the town for the other proposed business districts.

“Is this a good use of taxpayer money?” asked Barcomb.

“I think it’s a great use,” said Lefkaditis. “This is a very controversial and desirable alternative for the town of Knox.”

The sole town resident in the audience, Ed Ackroyd, suggested leaving copies of the zoning code at the town hall for anyone to pick up.

The board eventually voted to send the notice, with the before-mentioned attachments, to all those residing within the business district. Pokorny, Barcomb, and Hanley voted yes. Lefkaditis voted no, saying he was opposed because he believed the information should be available to all town residents. Councilman Dennis Barber was absent.

The proposed business district at the intersection of routes 156 and 157 is one of three proposed districts. The others are an area on Route 146 in the vicinity of Street Road and Middle Road, and the intersection of Route 157 in the vicinity of Ketcham Road. Knox currently has one business district in its hamlet.

The districts have long been debated, with the board unanimously agreeing to hold public hearings on them after all but one member of the planning board rejected the proposal. The one member who voted against this, Thomas Wolfe, had argued more public input was needed to make a decision.

 

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