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Landlord irked as Batavia planning panel prohibits more rooming houses

BATAVIA – Longtime landlord and investor Terry L. Platt sat quietly Tuesday night as the five-member Batavia Planning & Development Committee unanimously approved City Manager Jason R. Molino’s request to prohibit the establishment of any more rooming houses on streets designated as R-2 residential areas.

But as he was leaving the City Centre, Platt criticized Batavia’s government officials for what he described as discriminating against the less fortunate.

“I just wish that the city would keep its biased opinion out of what type of housing is really needed,” said Platt, who owns four such dwellings in the city. “Not everyone can afford a house or to rent an apartment. It’s all about a standard of living.”

Platt said he took exception to a comment during the meeting from City Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian, who said that rooming houses and boarding houses “diminish property values” on the streets where they are located.

“I, too, believe that we need to keep certain things out of certain areas, but 90 percent of these people have no cars, yet they do work,” he said. “And we manage our places very tightly. We don’t allow alcohol and drugs, and if we find out that this is going on, we kick them out.”

Molino, expressing the wishes of the Council, said the request to amend the approved principal uses within Chapter 190 of the Batavia Municipal Code would stop future transitions of large homes into rooming houses, boardinghouses, tourist homes, tourist camps or cabins.

He said this is consistent with criteria set by the city’s comprehensive plan and capital improvement plan, adding that the recommended amendment would also prohibit rooming houses in other areas in the city with residential and commercial designations.

The Planning & Development Committee’s action sets the stage for a Council vote.

Currently, there are 10 rooming houses or boardinghouses with a total of 87 units in the city. Molino said all existing rooming houses will be allowed to continue but will be subject to an annual inspection and renewal process.

Platt and the city clashed in early 2014 when the Planning & Development Committee turned down his application to convert a dwelling into an 11-unit rooming house at 316 E. Main St. Platt took the city to court and won when a Buffalo judge ruled that Platt’s proposal did not violate the city’s master plan that allows mixed use on East Main.

“I paid $75,000 for that property and have put in another $225,000 to make it into a beautiful place with a nice standard of living for these people,” he said. “It’s all about creating affordable housing.”

On another matter, Planning & Development Committee Chairman Duane Preston reported that Batavia developer Ronald L. Viele withdrew his request to submit a site plan to construct an Arby’s restaurant at West Main Street and Vernon Avenue.

Viele’s plan had prompted vigorous protests from residents of Vernon at recent Council and Genesee County Planning Board meetings.