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Sylvester Manor charged with code violation: Says not guilty, and has applied for permit

Sylvester Manor has received a Notice of Violation from the Building Department based on operating as an educational institution in an AA residential zone without a special permit.

A letter from Sylvester Manor’s Board of Trustee to Code Enforcement Officer Michael Chih on May 15 informed him the parcel in question is a vacant 80,250 square-foot area fronting on Manhanset Road that is woodland and grass pasture subject to routine mowing. Since its creation in 2012 it has never been used for educational purposes and is excluded from the adjacent preserved farmland parcel.

“We are unable to undertake the Corrective Action stated in the Notice” since “no educational operations, as referenced in the Notice of Violation takes place,” according to the letter from the Board of Trustees of Sylvester Manor.

However, the organization filed an application April 4 with the Zoning Board of Appeals for a special permit for the educational institution to operate in that part of the land in connection with its rehabilitation of the historic Manor House as required by the Building Department.

The issue came to the attention of Town officials when resident Mike Gaynor spoke at several recent Town Board meetings, demanding the Town Board take action, charging Sylvester Manor has been operating as an educational institution without the required special permit since 2015.

Town Attorney Stephen Kiely said he investigated the situation and confirmed the charge was accurate and informed the Building Department to issue the Notice of Violation on April 22.

“We look forward to working with the Town to continue carrying out our mission to preserve, cultivate and share historic Sylvester Manor, a nonprofit organization which has been in operation since 2009,” Director of Operations Tracy McCarthy said.

In the interim, the Town Board turned down an application from Sylvester Manor to waive its noise ordinance for Sylvester Manor’s planned Farm to Table benefit slated for Saturday, June 29 at 6 p.m.

The reason given at the Town Board work session on May 14 was the pending violation.

Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams noted the request for the noise exemption is separate from the application for an outdoor assembly permit Sylvester Manor traditionally files for that event and other programs.

Mr. Gaynor has contributed $35,000 to Sylvester Manor in the past; since bringing his charges to the Town Board he has sent several requests to the Manor Board of Trustees to return those contributions.

Asked about the status of the contributions, Ms. McCarthy said Sylvester Manor officials “don’t discuss or disclose the status of private donations.”

Mr. Gaynor on Thursday filed a complaint with the Charities Bureau in the state attorney general’s office to try to recover his contributions.