(VIDEO) Zoning Changes Tabled for Further Evaluation in East Franklin Township

Supervisors in East Franklin Township listened to testimony during a special hearing on proposed changes to the amount of square footage a building can occupy in a village or commercial designated area.

According to Zoning Officer Greg McKelvey, several developers have indicated an interest in building retail facilities in village areas such as Cowansville or Adrian. However, the minimum requirement for those establishments would be over the 5,000 square-foot maximum allowed through the township’s zoning ordinance. The proposed ordinance change will increased the allowable size of a building to 10,000 square feet.

Attorney Adam Zinsser said changes to allow larger retail buildings would erode the “village” rural environment that residents now enjoy in Cowansville and other communities in East Franklin Township.

At the hearing last night, Adam Zinsser, an attorney with the law firm of Bresnahan, Nixon, & Finnegan in Monroeville, represented a Cowansville couple who feels the changes would substantially change the landscape of their rural community. Bill and Lucretia Pardini have been residents of Cowansville since 1982 and reside at Pence Road. Zinsser said their property dates back the Civil War.

“The intent is to sustain the (rural) vision for the township, maintain a village atmosphere, and not disrupt the character of existing neighborhoods,” Zinsser said. “These intentions are to be accomplished through an emphasis on infield development, traditional neighborhood-style housing, small-scale commercial development focusing on personal services, home-based businesses, public buildings, and neighborhood parks. And it is the Pardinis’ position that this proposed change to the village zoning district will not satisfy the intent of the district as stated in the ordinance.”

Zinsser said that according to Planning Commission minutes of meetings held over the past year, a Dollar General store is being considered on property across the street from the Pardini property.

“Minutes from the January 19 Planning Commission meeting, it was noted that companies, such as Dollar General, usually require 9,100 square-foot buildings. It was a general consensus of the Commission that the township would seek to accommodate the business development and may need to seek an amendment to the current zoning ordinance. On April 22, 2019, Chris Remaley, the chairman of the Planning Commission, stated that he was negotiating with Dollar General to buy his property at Pence Road and that a change in the local zoning ordinance would be required to accommodate that transaction. Similar statements are found in the May 28, 2019 meeting as well as the June 24, 2019 meeting. So, as I said before, the second position is that this zoning ordinance is being adopted solely to accommodate the installation of a Dollar General which would not be keeping with the intent of the village zoning district as written in the ordinance.”

A letter to supervisors from Bill Pardini that was made part of the hearing contained stronger language.

“(Chris Remaley) had inside knowledge of potential development because of his position as Chairman of the Planning Commission,” Pardini asserts. “Although he is a licensed Real Estate Agent and works in the area in that capacity and has access to other business properties listed for sale, he negotiated to sell his property to benefit himself by using that inside knowledge. Note that Chris Remaley never had his property listed for sale until this came to his attention and he only became aware of it because of his capacity as Chairman of the Planning Commission. (He) has approached the board to make a change to the zoning ordinance which is required to have his transaction consummated which will solely benefit himself at the detriment of the other residents within that residential district who rely on that zoning ordinance as written to protect their property. There is a question as to whether Remaley has violated his fiduciary role in this entire episode.”

Remaley was in the audience at the hearing but did not offer testimony.

Although approval of the zoning changes was on the agenda, supervisors decided to table the approval and take time to consider its ramifications.