Neighbor's protest forces another delay in Campana apartment vote
A vote on the Campana apartment proposal in Batavia has been postponed again -- this time because of a protest filed by the owner of neighboring properties.
Rob Byrnes, who owns properties to the north and west of the Campana building, submitted a protest to the city Friday afternoon, saying he objected to changes proposed in the city's land-zoning map that would allow for the apartments to be built in the former factory at Batavia Avenue and Fabyan Parkway.
Under city law, if a valid protest "against any proposed amendment of the regulations or districts," is filed, a supermajority vote is required to pass the proposal. Since Batavia has 14 aldermen, that means 10 would have to vote in favor.
The council agreed with the developer's request to table the matter. David Block, director of development for the Evergreen Real Estate Group, said his firm wants time to have lawyers review the protest to see if it is valid.
Aldermen gave preliminary approval at an Oct. 10 committee meeting, voting 9-5 to build 80 apartments.
"We do know how to count," Block said. "So given that mathematical reality, we would like to request be tabled for two weeks to allow us to evaluate the validity of the protest."
The decision to table the vote was criticized by opponents, including Tom Simonian from Geneva, who questioned why the council heeded the developer's request and said he doubted a similar request from opponents would have been honored.
Alderman Marty Callahan said the city council and staff members should have been prepared for a protest, given that the procedure for it is in the city code and state law. He and three other aldermen voted against delaying the vote.
But City Administrator Laura Newman said that, while staff members can anticipate a protest on a zoning matter, it still has to determine if it is valid. The provision comes into play if owners of at least 20 percent of neighboring land that has "frontage" with the subject property protest. Newman said the definition of "frontage" needs to be determined; Callahan said that should have been determined ahead of time. The matter will be on the council's Nov. 20 agenda.
Byrnes Monday said his objection is the same as it was six months ago, when the proposal was unveiled: traffic safety.
"It doesn't matter what goes in there -- it's getting in and out of there safely that is the problem," Byrnes said.
Block also said that if Evergreen's lawyers deem the protest valid, the firm may seek another delay to make changes in the proposal in an effort to garner more support from aldermen. He declined to specify what those changes would be.
"It's interesting they can all of a sudden pull out of the air a whole new proposal," critic Bob McQuillan of Batavia said.