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April 26, 2012

Our Opinion: Town board made right decision

— Last week, the Otsego town board voted to grant the village’s Gateway Project “limited zoning immunity.” The decision nullified a stop work order issued to the project earlier by Otsego Town Code Enforcement Officer Hank Schecher.

The stop work order was the result of a dispute between the town’s planning board and the village.

Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh, who told the village to ignore the order and keep working, said he believed the planning board wanted the village to re-apply for its permit and start the review process over. Representatives of the village went before the planning board at least 18 times in the effort get a special permit for the project. All other agencies with oversight roles in the project had approved it. “We believe we were approved,” Tillapaugh said. “The town believes there needs to be a reapplication.”

Tillapaugh said that from what he gleaned from the order, it seems the town of Otsego Planning Board believes the final plans differ from those that were approved.

He said he believed the main contention is around how the stormwater will be handled. The village’s plans were reviewed and approved by three different engineers and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

By granting the project immunity from zoning, the town  board removed the town planning board’s ability to overseethe project. The town board also said it would “not commit taxpayer monies to initiate a lawsuit against a sister municipality.”  Town board member Lang Keith, a retired Virginian judge,said the project which expands parking areas and is intended to improve traffic and pedestrian safety has been thoroughly vetted.

“This definitely passes the red face test as far as I’m concerned,” Keith said.

We would agree with Keith. The project received a thorough review by the town’s planning board during a process that took years. We are also happy the matter could be resolved without both the town and village having to waste taxpayer money on legal expenses for a court battle.