The Wales Town Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Auctions International have reached an agreement on a special use permit that has embroiled the three parties in lawsuits for the past few years.
The settlement was reached Tuesday after Town Attorney Ronald Bennett and Auctions International operator Russ Scherrer’s attorney Charles Ritter hammered out an agreement. At a special meeting, the Town Board unanimously approved the settlement.
One provision of the settlement calls for the dismissal of a lawsuit against the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
The problem among the three parties arose when the town issued a special use permit to Auctions International on Oct. 27, 2011, for construction of two buildings, which included a stipulation that limited the project to a maximum of 50,000 square feet, based on town building code.
But on Dec. 20, 2011, building inspector Walter Raichel told Scherrer he was partially denying the permit application because the square footage exceeded the 50,000 square foot limit.
Around June 2012, Scherrer applied for another special use permit to confirm the October permit and sought another permit for the construction of an additional building for vendors. At that time, Raichel told Scherrer he could apply for a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals or modify his building design. At this point, according to Raichel, Scherrer’s plans for the three buildings exceeded town code by 18,412.84 square feet.
Raichel had calculated the square footage from the footprint, including the basement and second floor, based on the definition of a building area as defined in the New York Uniform Fire and Building Code and not the square footage or footprint the building covered on the lot according to the town code created back in 1925.
When Scherrer found this out, he sought and received a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals up to 68,412.84 square feet in October 2012.
The town then started a legal proceeding against its own zoning board, claiming the granting of the variance exceeded the board’s authority.
The settlement included eight criteria, requiring that a 1500-square-foot single-family house on the property owned by Auctions International should not be included in any calculations for square footage as long as it is used strictly for residential purposes and not for business.
The settlement also requires that the footprint of Building 1 of 5,000 square feet, Building 2 of 2,390 square feet and the vendor building of 4,143 square feet, when added to the auction’s existing buildings – which are part of its flea market and auction operations – amounts to a total of 48,227 square feet, as calculated by KMG Consulting Engineers.
Based on that, the Town Board agreed to withdraw it lawsuit against the zoning board. It gives permission to have the project go forward for Buildings 1 and 2 and gives an amended special use permit for the vendors building. The Town Board acknowledged there may have been an ambiguity in the interpretation of the square footage limitation, which led to confusion among the parties.
Nothing in the agreement will prevent the town from enacting any amendments to the zoning code applicable to any square footage or lot area that would affect the right of Auctions International to construct or operate its facility.
Nothing shall prevent Auctions International from seeking approval from the town for additional buildings via permits or, if needed, through a variance or code interpretation from the zoning board. The Town Board must act promptly on the 2012 application, and the town and Scherrer must agree on a reasonable timetable for the construction of the buildings.