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Town Board, Zoning Board
square off on auction site

Town of Wales Zoning Board members will soon be receiving a message from the Wales attorney: The town is not pleased that the board approved a special use permit for Auctions International.

The Town Board this week authorized Town Attorney Ronald Bennett to do whatever it takes – including filing suit – to get the Zoning Board of Appeals to reverse its decision letting Russ Scherrer expand a Route 20 auction site beyond the 50,000 square feet allowed by state and town code. Town Board Member Gerald Klink called the dispute unprecedented.

The Town Board hopes the Zoning Board will reconsider its decision because its vote was unknowingly based on misinformation from Scherrer, said Supervisor Rickey Venditti.

According to Venditti, Scherrer misrepresented the amount of acreage he has available that is zoned for business. He has only 17 such acres, not the 117 he claims, with the rest zoned for agriculture, he said.

Scherrer first came before the board in 2003 to start developing the old Foss Auction Barn site. Disputes with the board and the financial downturn delayed those plans until last July, when Scherrer again came before the board with new plans.

A new special use permit was issued for reconstruction work and expansion up to 50,000 square feet on the site to provide an indoor flea market with 45 stalls, an outdoor car auction site, restrooms, space for food operations, a used car sales business, and an administrative office complex. Scherrer said he'd like more stalls eventually.

But board members said Scherrer again tried to "get in the back door" by claiming he had no idea codes include overhangs, basements, porches and other such spaces in the square-footage limit and by blaming the building inspector for not telling him and thus forcing him to seek the special-use permit. He wants to build a two-story building with a basement and claims his plans showed this all along.

When the plans were approved by the building inspector, the approval was for a one-story facility. Scherrer said that mistake was not initially noticed.

Venditti, however, said he saw the plans and they were for a one-story building, not three stories.

"We have always tried to work with Russ Scherrer to get the business up and running, but after awhile he always seems to want to change things," Venditti said. "He told us he had the money, and we were holding him up, but when he got the permit, he wanted to change it."

Scherrer claims all 117 acres owned by Auctions International are zoned for business, but the board says that's not true.

Scherrer bought the site from the Foss family, who ran it as a small auction for equipment and farm animals. This is not Scherrer's vision, said Venditti, who claimed the businessman wants to run this project up and down Route 20 with hundreds of cars and pieces of industrial equipment waiting for auction.

Scherrer, who was not at the board meeting, later told The News, "I hope the ZBA stands fast and does not feel threatened by the Town Board. The ZBA made a thorough investigation of my needs and understood we need to add space to grow and employ people."

Asked if he would consider a lawsuit against the town, Scherrer responded, "I might see an attorney in the future."