Penn Yan Zoning Board of Appeals denies application for a variance that would allow business to keep tanks that were installed in April 2016
Keuka Taxi owners John and Teresa Vivier say they plan to appeal a recent decision by the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals about their place of business.
On Sept. 25, the ZBA denied the business’s application for a variance to permit two fuel tanks that have been at their business location — 246 East Elm St.— since the spring of 2016.
The two tanks contain gasoline and diesel fuel for the vehicles operated by the company which moved to East Elm Street after receiving a variance to operate the business in the residential district April 26, 2016.
Monday (Oct. 2), the Viviers received a letter from Penn Yan Village Code Enforcement Officer Bruce Lyon informing them that they must remove the tanks by Friday, Oct. 6 (seven days from the date of the letter — Sept. 29).
“It’s like they don’t want us here,” said Teresa Monday.
Penn Yan Village Code Enforcement officer Bruce Lyon says the location of those kinds of tanks does not fit any village or state codes. The village codes don’t permit fleet fueling operations in a residential district, and the state fire and building codes would require the tanks to be farther away from the property line than they are located now.
Moving the tanks to another location will increase their operating costs, as would purchasing fuel from a service station, say the Viviers.
The Viviers say they don’t know why village officials contacted them about the fuel tanks about two months ago after operating for over a year. They say the tanks are part of the business operations, and that the 2016 variance to operate their business covers their existence.
ZBA board members point to village codes that permit above ground tanks of 275 gallons or less for heating purposes only, and they say the tanks were not discussed at the 2016 meeting when the original variance was approved.
Lyon says the Viviers’ 2016 application did not include any information about the installation of tanks. “We rely on the applicant to give the information on the site,” he said.
John says the tanks meet New York State Department of Environmental Conservation requirements, and he’s confused by the statements in Lyons’ Sept. 27 letter.
“These tanks have been installed without the required permits and they do not meet NYS building and fire codes, they must be removed immediately,” Lyons wrote, later adding, “We’ve worked with you until this point awaiting for this decision and cannot allow these tanks to remain on your property any longer. Should you obtain the approval and proper permits in the future, then the tanks may be placed, as permitted by any future permits, on this property.”
The April 2016 variance was approved by four of the five ZBA members. Board member Barbara Stewart, who did not favor the original variance, said the variance permits operation of the dispatch office only.
After receiving the Sept. 27 letter informing them to remove the tanks, Teresa explained they don’t want to stay in the building, which they are outgrowing, but they have not found a village location that is right for their business.
John says they have been unsuccessful in locating a different location within a commercial district in the village, but they are still looking.
An apartment unit occupies the front of the building at 246 East Elm St., and the Viviers recently purchased the property next door. They say the neighbor on the other side has never expressed concerns about the business.
Noting a taxi business is considered essential to the village, ZBA Chairman Steve Owens pointed out, “This goes outside where the village has its codes.
“I’m just not comfortable with anything that isn’t in our code,” he later said.
Stewart explained the Viviers can ask the village to amend the section of the village code in respect to the tanks, but the ZBA can only act on issues within the zoning code.
Lyon says if the tanks are not removed by Friday, he will issue a ticket for Viviers to appear in Penn Yan Village Court, and they will be subject to a fine.
Before moving to East Elm Street, the business operated from Lake Street Plaza, where they were subject to rental fees.
Much of Keuka Taxi’s business is related to medical transports, but they operate the taxi service at a rate they say is affordable as a service to the community. The business also operates buses and limosines. If they are unsuccessful in their attempt to keep the tanks, they will likely change their business model, discontinuing the regular taxi service outside the hours of the medical transport segment of the business.
That, says Teresa, breaks her heart because there are several customers who rely on the taxi service as an affordable way to get around town. Keuka Taxi charges $4 per trip inside the village of Penn Yan while Uber costs either $7 or $10.50, depending on the vehicle type, she says.