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Planners grapple with junkyard issue

The Cattaraugus County Planning Board wants a Franklinville auto mechanic to remove more than 100 unregistered autos and meet other conditions before he will get a special-use permit for vehicle inspections, repair and sales at his business.

Franklinville Code Enforcement Officer Russell Hatch, Town Supervisor David Dickinson and Town Councilman William W. Dallas attended the meeting to provide the applicant's history of zoning violations, and to ask the Planning Board to deny the application of Mark Jern of 6402 Route 16 South in Franklinville.

They said the town's comprehensive plan steers commercial businesses to the village's downtown business district.

Hatch said Jern has been issued 50 appearance tickets in about 15 years of operation and has been found guilty and fined in court several times for his collection of unregistered vehicles in the agricultural-residential zone.

He said Jern considers this a cost of doing business, adding that Jern's state junkyard permit was revoked because he incorrectly stated on his application that the town had approved it.

Hatch said the town does not allow junkyards, but Jern has erected a sign similar to an official green state inspection sign on which he has painted a number and the words "junk and salvage."

The state Department of Motor Vehicles told Hatch that the agency has no police powers to force Jern to remove the sign.

Hatch told Planning Board members the project will next go to the Zoning Board of Appeals for the special-use permit, where the town's local law can be "short-circuited."

"The Zoning Board of Appeals seems predisposed to grant him a special-use permit to make the problem go away," Hatch said, noting the Zoning Board chairman has stated that board will not require the project to meet several conditions in the zoning law.

"The ZBA needs to look at 15 criteria for a special-use permit. If they make a decision and don't deny it then it is grounds for a legal challenge [by the town]," said County Planner James Isaacson, pointing to the town's zoning law.

Isaacson said he would recommend granting the permit if Jern removes all but 10 unregistered vehicles kept in storage for repair and five used cars for sale. "He wants this permit and you want the junkyard removed. It's a possible solution for the town. If he doesn't do that the town has another legal option to pursue him," Isaacson said.

The board voted 6-4 in favor of the recommendations.

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