An Orchard Park company tangled in a public battle over a buffer between its expanded production facilities and a nearby neighborhood could lose its temporary certificate of occupancy from the town unless it submits revised site and landscape plans.
Shocked by a threatening letter it received last week from the town building inspector, the company, Diversified Control, says it plans to file a modified landscape plan, although it views the situation as "ridiculous," its attorneys say.
Just last month, the debate between Diversified Control and the public seemed to be quieting after some residents, town officials and company representatives reached what was described as a gentleman's agreement calling for some additional buffering and trees between the facility at 3333 California Road and the yards of Summit Avenue neighbors.
At the time, there was talk of Norway spruce trees ranging in height from 8 to 12 feet, as well as a suggestion to install a fence along the north side of the company's property line and residents' back yards.
But the issue hasn't gone away. If anything, it's gaining renewed attention, especially after Town Building Inspector Joseph Campion's Sept. 10 letter outlining a threat to cancel the company's temporary certificate of occupancy reached the company's offices.
Campion imposed an Oct. 1 deadline for company officials to have a landscape architect submit plans to the town Conservation Board, as well as a revised site plan to the Planning Board.
"Otherwise, you give me no choice but to void the temporary certificate of occupancy and order the building emptied due to the lack of compliance with the certificate and letter of completion," Campion wrote in the letter to Garrick James, Diversified Control's president, and Brent James, one of the owners.
Campion's letter addressed a stipulation that the northern property line of the building be reviewed for gaps in screening once the structure is completed. He also said the company has not yet submitted a revised site plan indicating changes to the rear parking lot for Planning Board approval, which was expected. The company received its temporary occupancy certificate on March 14.
The letter raised the ire of some town councilmen, who argued about terms of the informal agreement with the company. Some councilmen noted how upset James was with the letter and the confusion it has sparked.
"This is really a harsh thing here," Councilman Stanley Jemiolo Jr. said during a work session.
Councilman John Mills called the letter "inflammatory" and chalked the issue up to a communication problem between the town and Diversified Control.
"(James) is confused about what he is supposed to do," he said.
The company and town have had a number of discussions about the site, and Diversified Control was waiting for the town to come back with a recommendation on tree plantings or other steps, said Michael Schiavone, the company's attorney.
"The letter caught us by surprise. We thought the (town) arborist would come up with a proposal."
Problems first escalated during summer 2000, when the company allegedly removed trees improperly by cutting down ones that served as a buffer between the plant and neighborhood.
Town officials then temporarily ordered construction stopped on the company's $9.7 million expansion.
Schiavone acknowledged that perhaps more trees were removed than probably should have been. Still, he downplayed the total impact.
"It's not like we have leveled the forest and we have to replant the forest," Schiavone said Friday. He added that sufficient vegetation buffering still exists in some areas.
"It's absolutely ridiculous that we're in this position," he said. "We've been waiting for a recommendation (from the town). . . . To pull the certificate of occupancy on this project is ludicrous, especially in lieu of the lack of communication from the town."
Supervisor Toni Cudney said she wants the company to report back to the Conservation Board with a landscape plan.
"Normally, a petitioner comes to the town with a plan. But the town can give him a plan if that's what you want," she told the board.