Support for Shufelt

The Enterprise — Jo E. Prout

Working men: Supporters of Charles Shufelt’s applications for variances to continue running a truck repair shop listen as the zoning board conducts a public hearing on Nov. 17. 

NEW SCOTLAND — The zoning board last week kept two public hearings open for related variance applications by Charles Shufelt, who purchased and renovated a North Road home with a former commercial garage, where he planned to do large-truck repairs; the property is now zoned for residences.

“We would like some more time to go over the timeline and affidavits,” said the board chairman, Robert Johnson.

Shufelt went before the zoning board in October to appeal the denial by the town’s building inspector of his application to run an auto-repair garage. The inspector argued that the use had been discontinued for more than one year, and, according to town code, was no longer allowed. The town also raised questions of squatters on Shufelt’s property and whether or not they used the property in a similar way.

“Ownership is not the question,” said Shufelt’s attorney, Jeffery Jamison, of Girvin and Felazzo attorneys in Albany. “The question is whether or not the use continually existed during that period. The use never discontinued.”

The accessory building at 173 North Road is currently in a residential agricultural zone, and was previously used as a storage and repair shop for Kleen Resources, an environmental petroleum equipment and repair company, according to Shufelt’s application.

Kleen Resources worked with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation decades ago as a spill clean-up contractor.

“Mr. Shufelt will work with the town…to ameliorate any concerns,” Jamison said. “He has done a tremendous job cleaning up the site. He will continue with that pattern.”

One neighbor contradicted Jamison’s position, saying that a local farmer used the garage for storage, not equipment repair.

Other neighbors and business owners disagreed.

Jerry Wright, owner of Robert Wright Disposal and a New Scotland resident, said that he is familiar with Shufelt’s property because Kleen Resources had a commercial Dumpster there.

“I’ve seen vehicles in and out of that garage since 1988,” Wright said.

Jim Olsen, of Olsen’s Nursery in New Scotland, said that Shufelt operates a service that helps local business owners.

“He bought a distressed property in this town” and improved it, Olsen said. “He’s a lifelong resident of this town. The people in this town knew what was going on. He has building inspections from the town. The property built where it is, is the hardship.”

Olsen said that Shufelt is paying high town taxes and “doing a business people don’t want to do.”

Currently, Olsen said, he must take his trucks to downtown Albany to have them serviced.

“He just wants to work by himself,” Olsen said of Shufelt. “I would love a place in the town where I can keep my business. Here’s a guy who will lay on the ground under a snowy, muddy truck to be sure your garbage will be picked up in the morning.”

Olsen urged the board to consider emergency repairs if, after granting a use variance, it limits Shufelt’s hours of operation.

“Make it so the guy can still make a living,” Olsen said.

“Jim does snowplowing, I do trash pick-up,” Wright said. “It has to keep going.”

The zoning board requested an affidavit from Shufelt about the history of the property, which was in two parcels; what he paid for the property; and in what order the events occurred.

“People don’t want a 24-7 truck stop,” zoning board member Lance Moore said.

Moore and Shufelt’s attorney, Jamison, agreed that emergency repairs can be necessary.

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