CAPE VINCENT – One fire was put out during the Town Council’s reorganizational meeting on Monday morning, but another one was ignited.
Republican Supervisor Debra J. Suller ended controversy over whether Clerk to the Supervisor Tina M. Maloney would be replaced by appointing her to a one-year term, instead of the three-month probationary period that was expected. But the board unexpectedly voted 3-2 against reappointing Zoning Board of Appeals member David H. Docteur to a five-year term, even though he was the only candidate who applied on time for the opening.
The move to oust Mr. Docteur made by the three Democratic councilmen – Paul F. Aubertine, Marty T. Mason and newcomer Daniel A. Wiley – appears to have been done with an endgame in sight. The only other person interested in the ZBA opening – who applied late for the position by missing the deadline – was Lyle J. Wood, a dairyman who is a co-owner with Scott F. Bourcy of Wood Farms in the town.
The board has yet to decide on the process for filling the ZBA vacancy.
Some town officials say it appears the board will likely appoint Mr. Wood to the position, despite his controversial history as an applicant with the ZBA. In early 2015, Mr. Wood built a so-called “tiki bar” near the St. Lawrence River that the ZBA found to be in violation of the town’s zoning law. The structure, located on Eden Avenue off Route 12E, was constructed by Mr. Wood near his residence without a building permit and is in violation of setback requirements.
Mr. Wood has said alcohol is not sold at the building, which does not have a state liquor license. He said it is a spot for friends to gather during the summer.
Mr. Wood applied twice last year for a variance that would enable him to keep the bar there, but both requests were rejected by the ZBA. The most recent request was denied in a 3-2 vote during a July 6 public hearing. Voting against the variance were Chairman Dennis R. Dennis Faulknham, Hester M. Chase and Mr. Docteur; supporters were Joseph Martin and Edward A. Hludzenski.
A neighboring property owner, Margaret Kuppel-Germain, argued during the July meeting that the bar should be relocated because it’s too close to her seasonal cottage, according to minutes of the meeting. She objected to loud noise and inappropriate behavior witnessed at the bar, contending it’s not a suitable environment for children. Mr. Mason – who attended the meeting to support Mr. Wood – argued that the neighbor’s concerns were not credible. “I’ve been going down there all my life and have never seen that lady,” he said. A video of the meeting is available on Gnuvisons.com at http://wdt.me/tiki-bar.
Cape Vincent Town Justice Colleen M. Knuth said Tuesday that she decided in December that Mr. Wood will have until the end of April to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of the ZBA.
Ms. Chase said she was disturbed by the council’s move to oust Mr. Docteur from the ZBA. At the council’s December meeting, Mr. Mason and Mr. Aubertine had urged other board members to postpone Mr. Docteur’s reappointment until January as a gesture of respect to the new supervisor.
Though the pair of councilmen paid lip service to reappointing Mr. Docteur, “they flip-flopped and didn’t tell the truth,” Ms. Chase said. “I think they wanted Dave Docteur off the ZBA because he’s not in their political group, and here’s an opportunity to get someone who is.”
Mr. Aubertine was previously an employee at Wood Farms.
With Mr. Docteur out of the way, Mr. Wood said he now plans to apply for the ZBA opening again. Noting that his farm owns a lot of property in town, he said he wants “to get more involved in the community” as a ZBA member.
Mr. Wood said a charge against him for building without a permit has been dropped as part of his agreement to move his “tiki bar,” which he admitted was built too close to the neighboring property line. He plans to relocate the small structure, which has open walls, “as soon as the weather is nice again.”
He said he would bring a common-sense approach to the ZBA board that he believes some current members lack. “Dennis Faulknham is very cruel and thinks he’s judge and jury all at once,” Mr. Wood said. “But if you’re a friend of him, it’s all good and fine. And Hester Chase is making comments on where you can keep stuff, but she can’t even clean up her own property.”
Mr. Docteur said he believes he was ousted by councilmen because he was an opponent of the industrial wind farm project that was planned by BP Wind Energy for about a decade before the effort was abandoned in 2014.
Mr. Faulknham said councilmen didn’t provide any reasons on Monday for refusing to reappoint Mr. Docteur, who served nine years as a ZBA member. He declined to say whether he believes Mr. Wood would be qualified for the post.
“We have two alternates who can fill in, and those individuals have served for quite a length of time and have more experience and training than your average person,” he said.
Mrs. Suller, who defeated Democrat Alan N. Wood in November’s supervisor race, had previously said she wanted Mrs. Maloney to serve a probationary term to ensure they got along well together. Sources have said Mrs. Maloney – who has served as clerk to the supervisor since 2010 – supported Mr. Wood’s campaign for supervisor.
In other business on Monday, Mrs. Suller reappointed John L. Byrne III to a two-month term as deputy supervisor. The former councilman did not seek re-election as an incumbent. The board also reappointed Richard H. MacSherry to serve a five-year term on the Planning Board.