Work to halt on housing project

Homer officials issue stop-work order after justice says site review was faulty


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
A sign protests the continuation of construction, right, on the new senior apartment complex on Cortland Street in Homer. A state Supreme Court justice voided village approval of the project on June 30.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Construction of a 24-unit senior housing project on Cortland Street has been ordered to stop at 5 p.m. Friday
Bruce Weber, the Homer village building inspector and zoning officer, mailed the Homer Housing Co., a subsidiary of Syracuse-based Two Plus Four Construction, a stop-work order today after the mayor requested one Monday, he said.
Mayor Mike McDermott said Weber issued the order after village officials could not get in touch with the company’s lawyers.
“We tried to work it out with their lawyers and our lawyers,” McDermott said. “We couldn’t get a hold of them and they didn’t get back to us, so we decided we can’t let this happen or we’d be in contempt of court.”
McDermott said the company was given until Friday to stop construction to secure the building.
The construction company had continued working on the three-story building on a 2.5-acre lot at Cortland Street and Orson Drive, even though a state Supreme Court justice voided village approval of the project on June 30.
Justice Kevin Dowd ruled that the Homer Planning Board failed to follow the required state environmental review procedure. In January, the board did not comply with all provisions of the State Environment Quality Review requirements, according to the decision.
“The Planning Board did not commit some harmless error,” wrote Dowd in his decision. “Basic, lawful procedure was not followed and such action, even if accomplished inadvertently, cannot be the condoned.”
Mayor Mike McDermott said construction of the housing project did not stop after the decision because Dowd had not issued a stop order. But now the company must comply.
Alaine T. Espenscheid of Geneva, lawyer for Two Plus Four Construction, said this morning that the construction company will go back to Homer’s Planning Board to get the project back on track.
“We are hoping they will follow the proper procedures to get the site approved,” she said.
She said she had not yet read the stop-work order but that the company had no plans to sue.
Victor Siegle, one of the four plaintiffs in the court case, said this morning he was happy about the order.
“We’re obviously very pleased that the mayor and the village are complying with the judges,” he said.
He said he and the other plaintiffs would closely follow the Planning Board’s efforts to comply with the State Environment Quality Review requirements.
“We will attend all the meetings to make sure that it is all done carefully this time,” Siegle said.



Fresh Air Fund brings Bronx youth to Cincy


Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Haylei Upton, 13, and Jason Aiken, 8, of the Bronx, milk a goat in the Uptons’ barn in Cincinnatus.  

Staff Reporter

CINCINNATUS — Jason Aiken is a member of a select group of Bronx children who learned how to milk a goat during summer vacation.
Through a program administered by the Fresh Air Fund of New York City, the energetic 8-year-old has been able to leave behind the stifling summer heat of the concrete metropolis in favor of the (slightly) cooler pleasures of Central New York — and a few daily chores.
Jason has been staying with the Upton family of Taylor Valley Road in Cincinnatus since July 1, and by the time he leaves in mid-August, he will have become even more accustomed to life on a farm.
Danielle and Douglas Upton had hosted Jason and another boy when they lived on a smaller farm near Pittsburgh, Pa., last summer.
“Where we used to live, we didn’t have as much to do, and this year there’s a lot to do. It’s very overwhelming, but he’s adjusted very well,” Upton said Tuesday afternoon, as she supervised her children and Jason as they turned acrobatics on the trampoline in the front yard. “They do a lot of swimming; we’ve got a pool here. I asked permission from his mother if he could jump on the trampoline. He’s kind of a wild child, so keeping him busy is good.”
After deciding that he needed a haircut, Jason shaved a strip down the center of his head. Danielle said that after a quick call to his mother, the rest soon followed.