ZBA tables proposed use variance on ice cream stand

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A request for a use variance to build a seasonal ice cream stand in an agricultural district on Rome-Taberg Road at the corner with Link Road, was tabled before the city Zoning Board of Appeals during its regular monthly meeting held in Common Council Chambers of City Hall Wednesday.

Several local residents attended the meeting to learn more about the proposed project and to voice concerns, such as potential water drainage issues, noise, traffic and proximity of the business to neighboring houses.

Brothers Dennis and Paul Evanciew, owners of 5477 Rome-Taberg Road, have proposed plans to develop a 1,656 square-foot building with an open porch, and a 1,008 square-foot open air pavilion intended to be operated as a seasonal ice cream stand that would serve ice cream, and some food items. The business would operate April though the end of October. Hours of operation would be approximately 11 a.m. to about 9 p.m.

A parking lot for approximately 45 vehicles, an enclosed dumpster and free-standing/building-mounted business signs are also proposed for the property, and are to be installed per Rome Zoning Code.

The Evanciews must request a use variance to build the ice cream stand at the corner of Link Road and Route 69 because it’s not permitted use in an Ag District according to city codes.

During their presentation to the board, Dennis Evanciew explained that he and his brother have owned the parcel about 18 years and for several years, loaned use of the land to a local farmer. Unfortunately, Evanciew said the farmer hasn’t had much success using the property to grow crops, including corn.

“We can’t make farming” the land “worth our while, and the farmer had no luck even growing corn, and it’s only eight acres,” Evanciew said.

The owner further stated that he and his brother planned on operating a family-friendly business, which would also be family run.

A few local residents spoke publicly on the proposed restaurant who were mostly concerned about possible noise and traffic in the area. One resident said she was also concerned about drainage, as the front of her property on Link Road already floods.

Evanciew said there are no intentions of doing anything with the state ditch along the length of Link Road, and that the brothers would actually request that the ditch be cleared of weeds and debris for better drainage.

“We want the ditch open for our sake and for everyone else in the neighborhood,” he said.

Evanciew further explained that the only access to the business would be off Link Road and that the brothers were willing to move the original proposed site of the ice cream stand more north, so that headlights from vehicles coming in and out of the parking lot would not shine into the windows of neighboring residences.

“We want the driveway about 200 feet from the corner of 69, but we can move it more north so headlights are not going to shine into anyone’s houses,” he said.

As for any other possible noise pollution, Evanciew said they were not planning to have a PA (Public Announcement) system to announce when orders were ready for pickup.

Other questions about drainage, traffic, noise, site plans, etc., Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman John Sorbello directed those in attendance that those types of questions would be better answered if and when the Evanciews went before the city Planning Board for their project. He advised the audience that the Zoning Board planned to table the request until possibly next month’s meeting, if not later, and that only if the board decided to grant the use variance would the Evanciews appear before the Planning Board.

Sorbello said, however, that for the time being, Zoning Board meetings would go back to being held virtually, and that residents would need to submit questions or comments 24 hours before the scheduled meeting via email. He did advise area residents that they would be notified by letter the next time the Evanciews would appear before the board.

“That is why we wanted to meet before the Zoning Board tonight, so the public would have the opportunity to hear about our project in-person, and we could see everyone face-to-face” before the meetings went back to being held virtually, Evanciew said.

The board then voted unanimously to table the proposed use variance.

In other business:

• Bonacio Construction, Inc. of Saratoga Springs/B240, LLC, owners of 129-143 Air City Blvd., requested a special use variance to construct two new four-story multi-family apartment buildings at Air City Lofts.

A multi-family dwelling is considered a special use in the GB-RL Zone District.

Business Development Manager Kate Lane Jarosh appeared before the Zoning Board to explain that the third phase of Air City Lofts started in 2019. Commercially, the development has had its first commercial tenant open, with a second opening soon, which was part of Phase I. Phase 2A and 2B would be another mixed-use apartment building which is scheduled to “come on line” in the first quarter of 2022, she said.

Jarosh then explained that the site plan for Phases 3 and 4 of the project had already been submitted and approved, “but we felt that commercial would not do well on the first floor of Phase 3…it didn’t seem like a right fit. There would be no change to the buildings approved originally other than switching out the first floor from commercial to residential.”

She said, “Traffic would even be reduced considering it will be only residential.” Jarosh further explained that commercial space would still be included in Phase 2A and 2B. All four phases of the project will be on three properties.

Zoning Board member Raymond Tucker commented that Bonacio should add landscaping to the phase that would not include commercial space, to make sure patio areas are well screened from any pedestrian traffic.

The board then voted unanimously to grant the special use variance.

• Gerald Jones, owner of 6639 Bartlett Road, was seeking an area variance to install an 8-foot high privacy fence between his residential property and adjacent commercial food stand. Jones would need an area variance because fences in all rear lots and interior side lots of the district have a maximum fence height of 72-inches.

Jones said when the neighboring business to his property went up, there was suppose to have been a privacy fence installed, but one was never built. He said when customers sit in the parking lot of Taylor’s Ice Cream, they tend to look onto his property and pool area.

Robert Taylor, owner of Taylor’s Ice Cream, stated he had no problem with the proposed 8-foot fence, however requested that the land be surveyed so Jones was not constructing the fence on his property. Jones assured Taylor the property lines were still marked and that his fence would be installed in the same location as his already-existing chain link fence.

The board then unanimously approved the area variance.

• A request for a special use variance by Chad Weyh, owner of Runnings at 5947 Rome-Taberg Road, to renovate a portion of the existing plaza for a small engine repair business, was unanimously tabled by the board. Chairman Sorbello said the board had not yet received necessary paperwork concerning the project from the county. A special use variance would be necessary for the project because a Vehicle Repair Minor is listed as a special use in a C2 District.

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