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Perlman campus use change delayed: ZBA wants more time to study

It was a remarkably short Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting last week — just slightly more than four minutes, as members unanimously agreed they want more time to study the Perlman Music Center application for a change of use.

Chairman Phil DiOrio told members the application was very involved and it would be fair to them and to the Perlman representatives to take another month before discussing the information they received at the March 27 work session.

Following that session, it was expected the ZBA would discuss the application at its April 17 work session and possibly run it through a test necessary to determine if a use variance could be approved.

The test requires:

• An applicant be able to demonstrate that if the variance isn’t granted, it would cause an unnecessary hardship. That can include an inability to realize a reasonable return on the property supported by financial evidence.

• The hardship being claimed is unique to the property.

• Granting of a use variance would not adversely affect the character of the neighborhood, including factors such as noise, parking, lighting or traffic flow.

• Whether the request for a use variance was self-created considering issues of permitted uses at the time the property was acquired; money spent on remodeling for a use not permitted by zoning and whether the property was acquired by inheritance, court order or divorce.

The current use is that of a camp since the site was a girls camp years ago. But the operation at Perlman is and always has been an educational facility that would not be considered a non-conforming use for the site. But with its current use, it is non-conforming and change to the campus would generally only be considered if it lessened the non-conformity.

In this case, the work Perlman officials have described would not expand the footprint of buildings on the site, since any increase in the new buildings would essentially replace aged structures on the property, except some would have basement space not currently part of the existing structures.

Plans call for replacement of a number of older buildings — some existing for 100 years — that are in poor condition, The plans call for maintaining open space on the campus, offering more onsite parking and use of green options such as solar power where possible.

ZBA members have now scheduled the discussion of the application for its work session on May 15.

Rejection of appeal

The ZBA rejected to hear an appeal filed by Ram Island resident Pam Demarest pertaining to the existence of two docks — one serving the Ram’s Head Inn and the other that was supposed to be taken down so it couldn’t be used as a second dock for the Inn.

There has been no indication that both docks are in use by the operators of the Ram’s Head Inn, but the agreement at the time the new dock was approved was that the existing dock that had been used would be removed.

Mr. DiOrio said people are “confused about the role of the ZBA” in which it can hear an appeal based on decisions it makes. But the ZBA has no involvement with enforcement or any decision relating to docks or wetlands.

“We have no authority to get involved with them,” Mr. DiOrio said. “There’s no way to hear this appeal.”

Ms. Demarest cited four arguments she raised with the ZBA she said are related to zoning:

• The building inspector erred by maintaining a building permit wasn’t required.

• The building inspector failed to consider or recognize the applicant’s boardwalk proposals violate Town Code setback requirements.

• The building inspector failed to consider or recognize the applicant’s boardwalk proposals violated the Common Law and statutory prohibition of expansion of non-conforming structures and non-conforming uses.

• The legal doctrines of “res judicata” and “collateral estoppel” precluded the building inspector from approving the Big Ram LLC’s “angled walkway” that was proposed and denied by the Waterways Management Advisory Council and Town Board.

Res judicata prohibits a second action on previously litigated matter and collateral estoppel prevents additional litigation of issues within previously decided cases.