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August 10, 2010

 

City ZBA denies taxi service, conversion

Neighbors oppose business run out of home as board rejects changing single-family home

By HOLDEN B. SLATTERY
Staff Reporter
hslattery@cortlandstandard.net

The Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday denied two variances that would have allowed a taxi service to operate from the owner’s home and the conversion of a single-family home to a two-unit rental property.
Jason Crapo, owner of Jay’s Taxi, needed a use variance to continue to operate a taxi business from his home on Pine Street. He said he started the business a little over two years ago.
City Planning Commission member Bob Spitzer has said the business is in an R-1 district, which allows single-family homes. Parking lots, places of worship, home businesses and public service utilities are allowed in the district through a special use permit.
Crapo said he rents a property at 28 Pine St. and uses the lot at 30 Pine St. as a parking lot for his taxi cars.
The Planning Commission voted 6-0 to recommend that the ZBA deny the variance July 26 after members said the business did not comply with zoning requirements in the neighborhood.
Several neighbors attended the meeting and spoke out to oppose the location of the taxi business during a public hearing. They said the taxi business creates too much traffic and that the drivers go too fast and take up parking spaces.
“We’re residential, not commercial,” said Pine Street resident Amanda Funk. “We have kids on bikes, people walking their dogs.”
ZBA member Mary Kay Hickey said the business affects traffic, noise and the character of the neighborhood, as the ZBA discussed the environmental impacts of his request.
Hickey said she went to the property that day and saw about six cars parked and people sitting on Crapo’s porch.
“It’s not consistent with what you see in that neighborhood,” Hickey said.
The ZBA then voted 4-0 to deny the variance.
Six of Crapo’s employees attended the meeting. A few said afterward that they have their own children and do not speed down the street, endangering children, as the neighbors claimed.
Crapo said the city Code Office was aware of his business two years ago and told him that he could run the business, but could not fix cars on the property.
Fire Chief Chuck Glover, who was director of code enforcement when Crapo started his business, denied that this morning. He said Crapo gave him a business address in Homer or Preble and said he was not running the business from his home.
Crapo’s wife, Mary Jo Crapo, said people sit on her porch because she does not let her friends smoke inside of her house.
“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” she said.
Crapo said he employs 15 people. He said he plans to speak to a real estate lawyer about the situation.
The ZBA voted 3-1 to deny landlord Richard Doerler’s request to convert a house at 53 Lincoln Ave. from a single-family home to a two-family home.
Doerler, a landlord who lives on Long Island and leases the home to students, told the ZBA that he would not increase the number of tenants after converting it, because he would convert one of the bedrooms to a kitchen.
ZBA member Tom Haskell said there is a glut of student housing on Lincoln Avenue and that the city’s long-range plan says no more single-family homes should be converted to two-family homes.
Hickey said she has consistently heard that density is an issue in the neighborhood.
“An increase in density is not consistent with the master plan,” she added.
ZBA member Dana Decker voted against denying the variance and made a motion to grant the variance that failed.
Decker said he did not see how the conversion would create a problem and said denying the variance could result in Doerler doing less work on the property.
“He might just leave the property there, and it could become an eyesore,” Decker said.

 

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