ZBA upholds order, faults note

The Granville Village Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to uphold a stop work order issued to the embattled East Potter Avenue subdivision of Hartford builder Ronald Combs Jan. 19.

The board, however, also agreed that additional language added to the stop work order could not stand and upheld the order minus that addition.

Board chair Stephen Lynch said though the stop work order as written was too restrictive and in effect could stop any home owner from making minor repairs or changes which do not require a permit.

“Why should it be any different for Mr. Combs when it would not affect neighbors bringing in fill to an empty parcel of land?” Lynch said.

At issue was a stop work order written by then code enforcement officer Ed Harrington from October of 2008. Washington County has since, as of Jan. 1, taken over code enforcement duties in Granville.

During testimony Harrington explained he saw Combs piling dirt at the site, a move he interpreted to be construction-related.

Harrington told the board he contacted the village attorney Michael Martin who advised him to issue the stop work order, with the addition.

The order said “No…excavation shall be made, or footing or foundation be constructed…until a Building Permit has been issued by the Code Enforcement Officer.”

Combs does not have building permits for the site.

Added at the bottom of the order was the phrase, “including the stockpiling of fill and/or earthen material.”

It was that additional language the board agreed was too much.

Combs had said he was moving material from the foundation hole made at the Haynes House of Hope site in South Granville to make way for impending construction there and hoping to make use of the dirt to smooth the ground at the East Potter Avenue site.

Martin argued before the zoning board the materials could be the start of construction without permit.

Combs had been issued a stop work order by Harrington October 10. The panel of Lynch, Ed Fish, George Macura and Harry Haldt agreed unanimously the stop work order initially issued against the project and currently under litigation would stand.

The zoning board’s fifth member, Ken Taylor, was not at the meeting.

Combs had proposed building a six unit subdivision off of East Potter Avenue, but had been declined building permits by Harrington over concerns that the plan did not comply with village and state laws, lacking approvals from the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The denial of building permits resulted in an Article 78 lawsuit against the village.

The suit is currently awaiting a decision from the Washington County Supreme Court.

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