February 09, 2007

Burglars strike area businesses


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Red X’s mark locations of 12 burglaries this week at businesses along routes 11 and 13 in Cortland and Cortlandville.

Staff Reporter

A rash of break-ins that took place on the east side of the city and stretched north and south into Cortlandville has three local agencies searching for suspects.
Police said 12 businesses were burglarized in similar fashion sometime late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, and they believe all of the incidents are connected. The culprit or culprits left minimal damage to each of the buildings and took only small amounts of cash, while leaving such valuables as computers, digital cameras and blank checks untouched.
The amount of cash taken totaled around $300, police said.
In every break-in except the one that occurred at Cortland Valley Dairy Services at 1791 Route 13, Cortlandville, the doors to the business were pried open with a crowbar, police said.
City police are investigating four burglaries, the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department is investigating five and State Police are looking into the remaining three.
At Cortland Valley Dairy, the thief got in through a broken window, police said.
“They didn’t ruin anything,” said Lorri Lockard, owner of the Consignment Connection at 114 River St., who added that, before leaving, the thief even locked the door that had been forced open.
Lockard said her fiancé, Ed Moore, came to the business — which they opened on Feb. 1 — at around 9 a.m. Thursday and found the back door pried open and the cashbox missing. While pointing out large boot prints in the snow behind the building and scratches on the door near the deadbolt, Lockard said the burglars left the cashbox in a nearby parking lot, taking only a $10 roll of quarters.
She, like many who were robbed, said nothing else was stolen, including such accessible items as a computer, fax machine and jewelry.
All three police agencies investigating the break-ins said this morning that no arrests have been made.
“We are pursuing leads,” said city police Lt. Paul Sandy.
Karen Avery, a manager at E&V Energy, 3951 Route 11, Cortlandville, also had boot prints leading to the back door of her business. The door had been pried open by a crowbar, she said.
Avery said none of the computers or mechanical hardware in the building’s office and storage area was taken, but the thief stole less than a $100 in change.
“They stole our soda and pizza fund out of the refrigerator,” she said, laughing. “They just wanted to carry quick stuff.”
Other businesses, such as Cortland Family Practice at 14 Kennedy Parkway, Cortland, were broken into but nothing was stolen. The same thieves attempted to break into the office of accountant Joseph During at 10 Kennedy Parkway but were unsuccessful.
Police said six of the businesses broken into had nothing stolen.
“I came in at 6:30 a.m. and the safe was still locked,” said Carol Cuck, a registered nurse at Cortland Family Practice, who discovered the burglary.
Cuck said nothing was taken from the offices and nothing was damaged besides the doorframe and door around the deadbolt.
The remaining Cortland businesses burglarized were Cortland Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation at 8 Kennedy Parkway and Yaman Real Estate at 185 Clinton Ave.
Additionally, Suburban Energy Services at 3833 Route 11, Modern Tank Service at 3897 Route 11, Economy Paving at 1819 Route 13, Quadra Flex at 1955 Route 13 and Austin Machine at 1838 Route 13, all in Cortlandville, also were robbed, officials said.
All 12 businesses are within approximately six miles of one another.



Election officials:

New machines unlikely until at least 2009

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Cortland County voters probably shouldn’t expect new voting machines until at least 2009, the county’s election commissioners warned the Legislature’s Personnel Committee Thursday.
The committee approved the acceptance of a $29,000 grant aimed at voter education and poll worker training for when the new machines arrive, but neither Republican Election Commissioner Bob Howe nor Democratic Election Commissioner Bill Wood was sure when the machines, and consequently the funding, would be available.
“At the moment no machine has been certified by the state, and I personally think we’re looking at 2009 before they finally get installed,” Howe said after the meeting.
New York is the only remaining state to not install electronic voting machines as part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), passed in 2003 in response to the controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election, and aimed at curbing voter fraud and making voting easier for people with disabilities.
Lee Daghlian, director of public information for the state board of elections, said that testing of potential new machines had been delayed, and that the most recent goal of having machines installed by 2007 is now unlikely.
“It’s pretty clear we won’t have new voting machines for this year,” Daghlian said. “We’ll have to sit down with the Justice Department and come up with a new timeline that’s reasonable, but at this point we’re not sure what that is.”
Wood said that election commissioners throughout the state were pushing to hold off on installing the machines until after 2008, a presidential election year.
“With a presidential election year, you’re talking about very high turnout, and it’s going to be hard to implement new machines, so we want them to hold off until at least 2009,” Wood said.
Howe agreed, saying that both political parties would likely support avoiding potential controversy in 2008.
“Each party is going to have an open field heading into this one, so I don’t know why Democrats or Republicans would say, ‘Oh sure, let’s go to a new system now,’” Howe said. “I’d imagine if New York hasn’t done anything prior to 2008, they’re just going to stay with the lever system.”
Daghlian said that similar concerns brought up by Howe and Wood regarding implementing new machines in 2008 had been discussed by the state.
“It is a concern, but of course it may not be a concern for the Justice Department,” he said. “It’s certainly possible it wouldn’t be 2008 either, in which case we’d shoot for 2009.”


Public comments on C’ville zoning

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Much of the comment at a public hearing Thursday on zoning changes in Cortlandville focused on lot coverage requirements and building sizes.
Many of the roughly 20 people who attended the hearing at the Tompkins Street fire station were members of Citizens for Aquifer Protection and Employment. Every speaker seemed relatively pleased with the revised ordinance as presented by the Town Board.
Nevertheless, they felt a few more changes would improve the document.
The Town Board will now review the comments and decide whether to adopt the revised ordinance as written, or address the public’s concerns and perhaps make further changes and hold another public hearing.
Lot coverage was a concern of Mary Miner, of Walden Oaks in Cortlandville, who pointed out that impervious surfaces contribute to flooding in the community.
Jamie Dangler, also a member of CAPE’s executive board, said that although she commended the town for its efforts, she felt that lot coverage requirements could be further revised.
The proposed revisions include three wellhead protection zones that vary based on distance from where water is drawn from the aquifer, with maximum lot coverage requirements beginning at 50 percent in wellhead protection zone 1a, moving up to 60 percent in zone 1b, and 70 percent in zone 2. Areas outside the wellhead protection zones have maximum lot coverage of 70 percent as well.
Existing lots or parcels of three acres or less would be allowed lot coverage of 80 percent, but the town Planning Board would be able to issue special permits to increase the coverage to 85 percent. Any parcel of three acres or less created by subdivision after the effective date of the ordinance could not exceed 65 percent lot coverage in zones 1a and 1b, and 70 percent in zone 2 and outside wellhead zones.
Any expansions to existing buildings, parking lots or impervious surfaces in general that are later increased by at least 500 square feet must follow the lot coverage requirements of the applicable zone, meaning that if a building in zone 1a is expanded by 1,000 square feet, 500 square feet of green space would need to be provided on the site.
In her prepared comments, Dangler, of Homer, urged that maximum lot coverage for wellhead protection zone 1b be reduced from 60 percent to 50 percent. She also asked the Town Board to assess the impact on the potential for flooding allowed by 70 percent lot coverage in zone 2 and outside the wellhead protection zone, as well as the lot coverage requirements of subdivided lots of three acres or less.
Work to revise zoning has been in progress since 2003, and an updated law was passed in May 2005. However, CAPE brought a lawsuit against the town, contending that the Town Board had not held a required public hearing following a substantive change to the document.
The lawsuit also alleged the Town Board had failed to comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act and failed to modify town district bulk regulations, which define, among other things, lot setback requirements and maximum building heights. A state Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of CAPE in February 2006.
“CAPE acknowledges the efforts made to write a better ordinance than the one made a year ago, ” CAPE executive board member Robert Rhodes, of Cortland, said during the hearing.
Still, he felt the proposed law is at times inconsistent, vague and ambiguous.
Miner said she was “perplexed, suspicious and fearful” that in the B3 zoning district, which is meant for large-scale retail sales and business enterprises, the maximum floor space is 175,000 square feet.
Currently, the town code calls for a maximum of 15,000 square feet of floor space unless a special permit is granted. Town Supervisor Dick Tupper said after the hearing that Town Board members had decided to increase the maximum allowable floor space in the B3 district because they had been originally working with information that gave the maximum floor space as 100,000 square feet without any provisions for special permitting, and that the board didn’t wish to restrict any potential developers.
There is no time limit for the board to act on the proposed revisions, and Tupper said the town will likely have a work session and discuss possible changes to proposed revisions, including the lot coverage and B3 floor space requirements.



Virgil approves new zoning ordinance

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — After 12 years of preparation, the town adopted a new zoning ordinance Thursday.
The Town Board passed the new zoning law by a 3-2 vote, with Supervisor Jim Murphy and board member Dave Denniston voting against the document.
The new law, which replaces the town’s 1979 zoning law, addresses regulations for such areas as landscaping, screening and storage of recreational vehicles.
It also changes minimum lot sizes in neighborhood residential districts without access to public water and agricultural residential conservation districts from 1 acre to 3 acres — one of the most controversial changes in residents’ eyes.
Dan Dineen, director of the county Planning Department, said on Tuesday at the Homer Village Board meeting that one reason Virgil’s rezoning process took so long is because the town had so many committees working on its comprehensive plan, which served as a basis for the zoning ordinance. The comprehensive plan took the town about seven years to complete, Dineen said.
Before Thursday’s vote, Murphy recommended the board reduce minimum lot sizes for the above-mentioned districts from 3 acres to 2 acres. Smaller lot sizes would better promote the town’s growth, he has argued in the past.
Town Attorney Victoria Monty told Murphy the proposed law could not be changed unless the change was referred to the county Planning Board for review and then discussed at a public hearing.
Board member Dale Taylor said that meant the board would have to follow the same procedure in order to add a clause banning the parking of recreational vehicles in front yards in residential neighborhoods.
Virgil resident John Carroll had made that recommendation at the board’s second and last public hearing on the proposed new law.
Taylor asked if the board could later discuss adding that change as a zoning amendment so it could go head and finally approve the ordinance.
Once Monty said that would be possible, Denniston said he had a problem with the board talking about amendments to the revised zoning law before it was even adopted. He said it was as if they were trying to “cram” the proposed new zoning law into acceptance.
“I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with that,” he said.
Earlier in the meeting, board members had spoken about adding an amendment after the document is approved allowing for flag lots — or squarish parcels of land that are accessible only by a very long strip leading from a main road.
Mary Beth Wright, a board member, disagreed with Denniston.
“I don’t think you can call it ‘crammed through’ when we’ve been talking about it for six months,” she said.
She said the public has had ample time to speak about proposed revisions, including the first public hearing, which led to changes in the proposal.
“We should address it right now,” she said about the proposed zoning revisions. “If we do pass it, it’ll correct a lot of flaws in our zoning.”
Lumsden and Taylor agreed, showing their support by voting for the zoning revisions.
The law must be filed with the secretary of the state and will likely take effect sometime in the next few months.