Opposition, support, concerns in Torrey

Loujane Johns

Over 35 E-mails were received by the Town of Torrey from residents wishing to express opinions recently. The list of names was printed on the back of the February Town Board meeting agenda. According to the addresses of the residents, almost all live on or near Seneca Lake.

The letters dealt with four topics:

• Opposition to the Zoning Board’s suggestions to Maxim Development, which has proposed a major development near Long Point;

• Support of the completion of the town’s comprehensive plan and a moratorium on large developments/PUDs (planned unit development);

• A request for the Town Board to represent the people of Torrey, and

• Concern over Zoning Chairman Steve Eskildsen’s potential conflict of interest, since his family owns the property where the Maxim Development is proposed.

About 25 residents braved a stong winter storm on Feb. 12 to attend the board meeting. 

Few spoke. Most just sat and listened at the 45 minute meeting. During the open discussion, Sam Selwood said people were upset that the zoning board told Maxim Developers what would be acceptable for their project before the comprehensive plan was completed. 

Earlier this month, the zoning board directed its attorney to inform the developers the board would like to see the proposed development reduced to no more than 200 units that are no taller than two stories.

He added he didn’t think Eskildsen, should be chairman of the zoning board. He wanted to know what the town was going to do about it.

Eskildsen replied that he has been on the ZBA since 1979. “I haven’t done anything that Bailey (Town Attorney) hasn’t said I can do. I have been here since it started. I have been through it all.”

ZBA member James Cougevan cited laws from New York State on the duties of zoning boards. He said there is a comprehensive plan in effect currently - the old one.  A committee is working on a new one which is almost complete. 

“The decision-making responsibility remains with the board alone, not with neighbors or audience members. The board has a right to set conditions,” Cougevan said. He added that the ZBA had received advice from the attorneys hired by the town to represent them on Maxim matters.

Cougevan also told the audience that Eskildsen Farms is going to sell to someone and it doesn’t matter who. He reminded people that the Salvation Army has a hotel and three condominiums already on land adjacent to the proposed Maxim site.

Other business coming before the board:

• PUBLIC HEARING: The board proposed an amendment to wording on appointment to the zoning board of appeals. The town code stated that one member of the ZBA shall be a member of the planning board. Supervisor Pat Flynn explained, “It was hard enough to get a person to serve on one board, let alone two.” The board all voted in favor of the deletion.

• MORATORIUM: A public hearing will be held at the March 11 meeting to consider a three month moratorium on PUDs(Planned Unit Developments). Also a public hearing will be held on a local law for procedures involving PUDs in the town.

• COMPREHENSIVE PLAN: Councilman John Martini reported the comprehensive plan committee had met the night before. They have gone through the preliminary draft and taken into account recommendations of the various committees.

He said it should be finished by the March meeting. The next step, he said, would be review by the planning board, followed by a public informational meeting and a public hearing. When the final document is passed by the town board, work can be done on new zoning laws.

• APPLICATIONS: Three applications have been received for a position on the planning board.

• WATER PROJECT: Resident Dave Granson asked what the status of the proposed water project is. Flynn said the board will probably wait until early summer to take a survey.

 By that time, he said, most of the seasonal residents will return and the board can determine if they are interested in having water service.   Granson asked if grants had been applied for. Flynn said they couldn’t apply until they have a project.

• COMPENSATION PLAN: Members voted in favor of a NYS Deferred Compensation Plan for town employees. The employees will put the money in the plan at no charge to the town.

• NYSEG: Members approved a yearly permit to NYSEG to allow for excavations.