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RV Park Developer Gets Official Run-Around

August 10, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

A Sylvan Beach, N.Y., business owner is taking the village’s planning board to court over the denial of plans for an RV park, the Oneida Daily Dispatch reported.

A decision rendered by the planning board May 24 rejected plans by Dave Keshler, owner of DJTB Properties, to construct an RV park on Main Street, behind Blue Lagoon Mini Golf. Keshler filed an Article 78 petition against the village, challenging the legitimacy of the board’s decision.

Article 78 proceedings, under civil law, serve as a method of challenging decisions made by municipal bodies in order to prohibit them from overstepping their jurisdiction.

Keshler’s plans called for 60 RV sites to be installed with water, sewer, electric and Internet access on the 5 1/2-acre lot. Site size would vary from 1,500 square feet to more than 2,000. Open from the beginning of May to Columbus Day, 16 sites would be seasonal, while the rest would be reserved on a day-to-day basis.

According to the minutes from the planning board’s meeting, Keshler’s application was found to be “ineligible” for a special use permit. “Upon exhaustive research,” the minutes said, the board found that, according to a local law adopted in Feb. 2009, campgrounds are only permitted in the B-3 Business District.

“The Zoning Ordinance Schedule 1 does not allow for mobile homes, RV parks or campgrounds in any zoning district under the special use permit provisions,” the board’s written decision says.

According to the village’s zoning codes found online and the version on file with the village clerk, the local law adopted in 2009 indicates that campgrounds are permissible in the residential and village center zones with the issuance of a special use permit. The proposed project site is located within the village center zone.

Special use permits are required for certain projects because of their characteristics and location, in consideration to their effect on the surrounding area and character of the community.

“The primary purpose of special use permit review is to ensure compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood and to ensure the long-term benefit of the use to the village,” the zoning code says.

“The planning board’s denial of the special use permit was based on a critical error of law that the zoning ordinance did not permit a campground in the zoning district in which the premise is located,” Keshler’s Article 78 petition says.

The planning board also rejected the project by saying it “does not fit in the comprehensive plan. Several areas throughout the comprehensive plan confirm the direction and intended uses for specific areas and neighborhoods of the village of Sylvan Beach. An RV/campground park is incompatible with these uses and in these neighborhoods,” the board said in its decision.

By filing an Article 78 petition against the planning board, Keshler will seek the ruling of the Oneida County Court. The court has the option to uphold the board’s decision or annul it, which would require the board to reconsider the project.

Sylvan Beach Mayor Rick Stewart declined to comment on the issue.

Earl Redding, a lawyer out of Albany, is representing the village in the case. He declined to indicate how the village will respond to the petition. The municipality is not required to report how it will proceed in the case until Aug.19, he said.

Keshler expressed his frustration with the board’s decision, questioning the validity of its decision and the conduct of its members.

“It’s just been kind of a mess from day one,” Keshler said. “We’re just trying to get some answers.”

According to Keshler, the site is zoned appropriately for the proposed project. The required acreage and lot size have been planned out, he said.

“We’ve done our homework,” he said. “We’ve done everything we’ve been requested to do.”

Keshler also questioned the conduct of the planning board. A special meeting was planned for July 17 at Eastshore Apartments and according to Keshler, notice of the meeting was given less than 24 hours in advance. Notice of the meeting was posted in the post office and a public access TV channel was notified. Keshler went to the meeting to find that it had been relocated to a private residence where he was told he could not enter because the board was in executive session, he said.

“It’s just frustrating,” he said. “They’re basically doing whatever they want and getting away with it.”

While Keshler’s frustration grows, village residents found some relief in the planning board’s decision. Resident Don Burns, organizer of a concerned citizen group against the project, said “for the most part, 95% of the residents are strongly opposed to it.”

“It’s become very controversial,” he said, adding that the citizen group of about 30 was formed to “keep the process honest. There are a lot of things that are unclear here. We’re trying to protect the best interests of the residents.”

Despite what the village’s codes dictate, Burns said it “does not make sense to plop an RV park in the middle of the village.”

Keshler’s attorney Rich Cohen did not return calls for comment.

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