Zoning dispute becomes heated in Lee

Published Aug 16, 2018 at 4:00pm

TOWN OF LEE — A zoning regulations dispute at the Town Board meeting escalated into a heated exchange between Lee Supervisor John Urtz and a property owner, including accusations of lying, threats to call police to the meeting, and profane language.

Mark Petroski, who operates a property management business in the town, told Urtz at the end of their verbal sparring during the meeting Tuesday night that “you have not seen the end of it, my man.”

Among their back-and-forth comments preceding that, Petroski at one point referred to “lying politicians” after he made a phone call during the meeting to a person who said he did not say something that Urtz had attributed to him.

Urtz then said to Petroski that he could “not come in here and call me a liar,” and told Petroski to “get out, or I’ll call the police and have you thrown out.” But the argument continued for a few more minutes.

Urtz several times during the overall exchange urged Petroski to observe town zoning ordinance requirements and follow through on getting a site-plan review by the town Planning Board for a Turin Road property that was at the heart of the dispute. But near the end of their back-and-forth remarks, when Petroski asked Urtz why he would not “stop being a politician and do what you’re supposed to do,” Urtz told Petroski to “clean up your s---hole” referring to the Turin Road property.

Petroski vehemently disagreed with that description, and began asking people in the audience for their opinion of his property’s condition.

The sparring concluded shortly after that, with Petroski going to the back of the meeting room where he stayed until the meeting ended.

The issue involved property owned by Petroski on the west side of Turin Road, just north of the town park, and which includes a small shed recently placed there. Petroski said it was for storage of tools relating to his business.

The discussion began with Petroski telling the board that town Zoning Codes Enforcement Officer Ivan Pritchard “abuses his power.” He said Pritchard had served him with a violation notice involving the shed not being the required minimum distance from the road, plus not having a permit.

Petroski also said Pritchard told him to get a site-plan review of the property, but Petroski commented that a Planning Board representative told him it was not needed.

However, Urtz and town attorney David Rapke emphasized that under the town zoning ordinance, such commercial zones do require a site-plan review before being able to get a building permit.

As for the shed’s distance from the road, Rapke said the town Zoning Board of Appeals might be able to “grant relief.”

Urtz at that point mentioned that Sam Caporilli, the owner of a mobile home park next
to Petroski’s property, had
complained about a buildup of materials and runoff from that property into the mobile home park.

Petroski disagreed, and shortly afterward asked about various other town properties that Petroski claimed were not observing town zoning requirements and that he said were being allowed to do so. He said Pritchard was mad at him over some prior matters and was “picking on me.”

A zoning enforcement officer is “not a popular” person, said Urtz, who later observed that Pritchard’s actions are in accordance with “what the ordinance tells him.”

Rapke said Petroski should pursue the matter “if you think violations” at other properties are “not being take care of.” Urtz told Petroski “if you have a list of violations” elsewhere, then “bring them to us.”

Petroski presented several photos of other town properties. After he continued the debate by referring to some specific properties as being messy, Urtz mentioned that Petroski previously had “brought in tree and debris and buried it without a permit” for the Turin Road site.

The comments became more heated after Urtz sought to end the discussion and said “let’s move on” to see if any other speakers from the public wanted to address the board.

Petroski briefly left the meeting room, but returned and said he had made a phone call to Caporilli and that Caporilli was still on the line. Petroski turned up the phone’s speaker and asked Caporilli if he had complained to Urtz about runoff from Petroski’s property, and Caporilli replied that he did not.

Petroski then made his comment about “lying politicians,” triggering the remarks about calling police that were soon followed by the profane language.

Urtz said after the meeting that he did not talk to Caporilli directly, but had been told of complaints about runoff from Petroski’s property.

Pritchard, when asked Wednesday about Petroski’s remarks, said “I just enforce the zoning ordinance. I did not write it.”

He said he would not comment further because of the pending case in Town Court involving Petroski’s Turin Road site.