ONEONTA — A Common Council member called for the resignation of ZBA Chairman Ed May on Monday night, saying May’s business interests conflicted with his role on a public panel.
May disagreed with statements made by Michael Lynch, council member for the Fourth Ward, and another commissioner said he was offended by Lynch’s remarks.
May’s position as a commissioner is “unfair and improper’’ because he can grant or deny applications that benefit his interests as a developer, Lynch said in a statement at the Zoning and Housing Board of Appeals meeting at City Hall on Monday night. May served on a task force that revised the city zoning code, Lynch said, and the result was ``a surgically drawn line around his Silver Creek property allowing for higher density development.’’
May clarified that he is among developers involved in the Silver Creek site and said, as a task force member, he abstained in votes pertaining to that area. The Silver Creek project is under purview of the Planning Commission, not the Zoning Board, he said.
“There are a lot of factual errors in this statement,’’ May said of Lynch’s remarks.
The Zoning Board is a panel of volunteers, Commissioner John Rafter said, and Lynch’s comments were inappropriate.
“I take a certain umbrage by this statement made by you, Mr. Lynch,’’ Rafter said.
Several Oneonta residents in the audience, including Frank O’Mara, said they agreed with Lynch. O’Mara said he didn’t understand why a builder would be on any board or commission that had to do with building.
Bob Brzozowski, Council member for the Seventh Ward and liaison to the ZBA, said city panels and commissions would have vacancies if members were excluded based on their areas of expertise. However, panelists must recuse themselves from votes on projects or topics if they have a conflict of interest, he said.
David Hutchison, who is chairman of the city’s Environmental Board, said people have questioned whether May’s roles on city panels and as a developer conflict.
“The perception is certainly is there,’’ Hutchison said. Earlier in the meeting, Hutchison said he was glad to see the ZBA has “exhibited a somewhat hard-nosed’’ approach to zoning enforcement.
May said Hutchison’s comment about the public’s perception flies in the face of his compliment.
In business during the meeting, the ZBA denied a use-variance request by Paul Schneeberg, who sought to convert his home at 40 Center St. from a one-family to a two-family dwelling. Schneeberg had started work without a permit.
Under zoning code, the conversion isn’t permitted in the residential district, which is in the Fourth Ward.
In addition to rejecting the application, commissioners stated that Schneeberg has to return his property to its former status, subject to review by the city Code Enforcement Office.