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Developer blames stalled project on ‘communications’ breakdown

Renovations of a vacant Elma landmark remain delayed after several procedural questions were raised at Wednesday’s Town Board meeting.

Todd Huber, president of the Elma-based construction firm Business Solutions, plans to convert the former Springbrook Hotel, 6350 Seneca St., into a six-unit apartment building.

However, changes to town codes that took effect Jan. 1 have placed the project out of compliance.

Huber, who conveyed his plans to the town zoning board in February 2015, was told last month by the board that he needs an exemption from the codes, which restrict apartment buildings to four units.

The builders say they were given mixed messages from the building department, zoning board and even the Town Board on how to proceed with the century-old structure.

According to Huber, he received a letter from the town building department indicating that he simply had to appear before the board on March 23 to continue his work.

Instead, the board called for a public hearing to issue a preliminary use permit for the site. That hearing was held Wednesday.

“Had I known there was another step before this, I certainly would have done that,” Huber said. “There has been a considerable amount of disarray in reference to procedure.”

The board approved the permit and agreed to “grandfather” the project, but Huber was told his plan still requires approval from the planning board, which meets April 19.

Questions about if Building Solutions followed proper procedure – and if Huber was misdirected by town officials – remain unanswered.

“There are procedures to be followed, like any project in town,” said Supervisor Dennis Powers. “We are going to follow the parameters of the code that we chewed on and debated for 18 months.”

Councilman Michael Nolan protested, stating Huber already presented his project to the zoning board, but deputy town attorney Dean Puleo said the reason for that visit was to obtain approval for a front porch, portico and front stairs.

Nolan said the planning board referral amounted to “kicking the can down the road,” adding the project started before the multiple dwelling code was amended in January.

Puleo said Huber submitted a new site plan Wednesday morning, which shows an eight-bay garage for tenant parking when the original plan called for a five-bay garage.

“You never got site plan approval,” Puleo told Huber. “The Town Board does not have the authority to waive site plan approval. You have to follow procedure, which is to send it to the planning board and get site plan approval.

“It would have been nice if he was told that a month ago, because it could have gone to the planning board two weeks ago,” Nolan responded. “We could have communicated the process better.”

Nolan suggested the project should be approved in its entirety, adding that board members couldn’t reach consensus prior to Wednesday’s meeting.

“This whole process was screwed up from the start,” Nolan said. “Nobody can make decisions and move forward.”