July 14, 2009
Residents oppose proposed tree business
Business would be on 18-acre parcel between Sunnyfield Drive, Oakcrest Street
The city Zoning Board of Appeals voted to withhold approval of a use variance application for a local landscaping business seeking to move operations into a large parcel of land in a residential area near the city high school.
After lengthy discussion with the applicant and several residents of the nearby area, the board determined a more detailed environmental assessment form on the project needs to be submitted.
Louis Sachetti, owner of D&L Landscaping on Greenbush Street, said he wants to use the roughly 18-acre plot between Sunnyfield Drive and Oakcrest Street to expand, growing trees and shrubs he sells in his wholesale landscaping business.
The business would not be a retail operation, he said, and his plan is to build two small structures for equipment storage and an approximately 30-foot-wide gravel access road through the property.
Sachetti also plans to purchase the lot immediately to the east, which would make the total property close to 40 acres.
He applied for the use variance because the property is in a single-family residential zone, which prohibits businesses from operating any kind of production operations in the area.
Sachetti’s business would use 18 acres between Sunnyfield Drive and Oakcrest Street, he said. The rest would remain largely untouched, he said.
The land is currently part of the Robert Neville estate. His son, James Neville, is acting as the land’s administrator. He told the board that the land has been on the market for a year and a half, and prior to Sachetti, only one other potential buyer had approached him, with what he described as a low offer. Neville said that buyer had also wanted to break up the property into smaller parcels.
“We feel this is a much better use than to subdivide it and build 20 to 30 additional homes,” Mary Ellen Neville said.
The Cortland County Planning Board split its vote on the project during a July 8 review, with two members voting to recommend approval, three voting to recommend against approval, and one member abstaining. The board returned a letter of no action, essentially leaving the decision on approval in the hands of the city zoning board.
About 20 area residents filled the mayor’s conference room to express their concerns about a business moving into the undeveloped land in their neighborhood.
One, Robert Henry, brought a petition signed by all Oakcrest Street homeowners opposed to the project.
He explained that Oakcrest Street is a small road with no sidewalks and a 30 mph speed limit, and several families with small children live on the road. Many residents — including himself — are concerned a business on the property would obscure their scenic view over the valley.
Greg Kessler said he and his family moved to their home on Oakcrest about a year and a half ago, primarily due to its seclusion from high-traffic areas, so his new son will be able to play outside without being in danger.
“I want to be on a street where he can ride a bicycle,” Kessler said, adding that leaving “heavy equipment” out on the property could present a hazard to neighborhood children.
Sachetti, whose lawyer, Matthew Neuman, accompanied him to the board meeting, said his deliveries are usually limited to “one or two tractor-trailers per week,” and that he does most of his own moving with pickup trucks and vans.
The property is partially wooded, and has a large, untamed area of open grass. Sachetti said he plans to leave the existing trees on the property undisturbed. The plot slopes down from Oakcrest Street to Sunnyfield Drive, dropping about 100 feet in elevation over about 700 feet.
Sachetti said the business would be restricted to growing trees and shrubs, and would not be used as a “retail” space for customers to drive in and browse around at will — instead, customers might visit the property on an appointment-only basis. He said no pesticides would be used on his plants.
City Planning Commission member Jo Schaffer said Sachetti’s planned use would normally require an industrial zone, and that placing a business such as his between Oakcrest Street and Sunnyfield Drive would constitute placing industry right next to a low-density residential zone, with no buffer of any kind between them.
The Zoning Board found there were enough environmental concerns with the plan to warrant completion of an Environmental Assessment Form. By law, Sachetti has 60 days to complete the lengthy form, which covers everything from traffic patterns and water drainage to visual impact of the project. The form must be submitted to the ZBA for further consideration before the land use variance can be approved or denied.
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