November 29, 2021

Jenkins challenges Leach plan again

Cortland County Seal

Pamela Jenkins challenged the building of a commercial garage by Gregory Leach at Tuesday’s Cortlandville Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, at least the third time since 2016 the Cortlandville woman has challenged the trash hauler’s plans.

Jenkins, who is also running for the Cortland County Legislature, challenging incumbent Chris Newell, said Leach’s business, Leach’s Custom Trash Service, needed a use variance to build the garage, which it did not get. She also said that the garage did not meet the definition of commercial garage, which she said needs to provide “services and goods to the public.”

Leach applied Sept. 12 for a permit for a commercial garage. Jenkins said the Zoning Board of Appeals failed to require Leach to apply for a use variance and the garage was an expansion of his business.

The Zoning Board was not following current laws, Jenkins said, and that a use variance from 2003 to start Leach’s business allowed Leach unlimited expansion.

She quoted a letter from her attorney, Douglas Zamelis, of Cooperstown: “Any argument that the 2003 use variance granted to Leach is now an unlimited license to expand his solid waste transfer station is unsupported and strained,” she read.

Zoning Board Officer Bruce Weber said in a Sept. 30 letter that Leach did not need a use variance for the building of the garage, following previous rulings he made on Leach’s property before, in regards to allowing a storage facility for vehicles.

Due to the legal complexities of the meeting, Town Attorney John DelVecchio recommended to postpone a decision on the appeal, which it was. Tom Fucillo, an attorney from Barclay Damon LLP in Syracuse, represented Leach, who was not present. He said the appeal should be thrown out.

“This is a garage related to the business that got a use variance, so that is a permitted use on that property and every time he does something to slightly modify or change that use, he doesn’t need a use variance,” Fucillo said.

Jenkins claimed that Leach has a history of applying for use variances for prohibited projects:

  • In 2003, Leach received a use variance to build his trash transfer station on 3.1 acres at 1834 Route 13, a prohibited use in a B-2 zoning district, in Area 1 of the Aquifer Protection District.
  • In 2008, Leach received another use variance to increase tonnage at his transfer station to 7,499 tons from 5,000, also a prohibited use at that site.
  • In 2015, Leach applied for and received another use variance for a fueling facility and 2,000-gallon fuel storage tank, a prohibited use at the site. Jenkins won two Article 78 lawsuits against Cortlandville in 2016 and 2017 in regard to Leach.

In May 2016, state Supreme Court Justice Donald Cerio ruled in favor of Jenkins’ appeal after Leach applied for expansion and additional access of his business.

In June 2017, an appeals court ruled in favor of Jenkins after her Article 78 proceeding argued the Zoning Board of Appeals did not follow the town’s zoning laws and the environmental review process before granting Leach permits to expand his business.

“Leach has left unchallenged multiple independent grounds for granting the petition, including Supreme Court’s determination that the ZBA (zoning board of appeals) failed to satisfy requirements of the Town of Cortlandville Zoning Law,” the judges stated in the 2017 ruling.