In a surprise move, the Wales Town Board ended a battle with developer Russell Scherrer over his plans to add space to his Auctions International site at 1167 Big Tree Road. The board voted to give Scherrer a special use amendment that he had requested in June 2012.
In July 2012 the Wales building inspector caught the error that Scherrer’s plans were over the 50,000 square foot limit for commercial buildings when the overhangs, porches and basements were included in Scherrer’s expansion plans.
At the time Scherrer said “when we found we were over the town code, we decided if we were going to go through the legal process for permits and hearings, we might as well get another building to house 12 more stalls next to the auction barn.” This required Scherrer to return to the board to seek an amended permit, which was refused.
At the time the board thought Scherrer’s architect and engineer should have known what the state code is and was trying to get more than he originally requested.
After a 30 minute executive session, Tuesday night, the board voted to grant the permit based on the town building code that according to the court is too vague. Supervisor Rickey Venditti said the town code is based on footprint only, which is the square footage within the four walls of a building. The board now wants to update the code, which was first written 25 years ago. The new clarified code will include the same regulations as the state code, making it clear that overhangs, porches and basements must be included in the square footage.
The town building inspector interpreted Scherrer’s plans according to the state code. The vote by the board now makes Scherrer “technically compliant,” said Venditti. “This is not very comfortable for any of us.”
In 2012, all agencies had been contacted on Scherrer’s behalf for a state environmental review and a public hearing was held, but the town refused to give in regarding the footage issue.
Scherrer went to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance and was granted one, which resulted in the Town Board suing the Zoning Board to have it reverse its decision because of what the town called misinformation from Scherrer. The Zoning Board has not reversed its decision.
The Town Board at Tuesday’s meeting proposed a local law that would tighten the Wales code by including the square footage to mirror the state code and will hold a public hearing prior to the June 11 board meeting.
The town was in the unusual situation of having Town Attorney Ron Bennett represent it against Scherrer and had to hire a separate counsel, Michael Purley at $180 an hour, to defend its own Zoning Board of Appeals against the Town Board.