On Sept. 6, 2019, retiring Judge Dennis Cohen of the Livingston County Court made a decision that the Conesus Inn should be awarded their conditional use permit from 2014. The permit for a restaurant in a residential district was granted by the ZBA with restrictions on lighting and music after 6 p.m.
The original permit was approved in December 2014 by the Conesus Zoning Board of Appeals, allowing the restaurant to expand by 20 percent, and to continue business as a walk-in restaurant. The Inn had been a popular restaurant since the 1920’s, most recently owned by the Scardilla family, who lived onsite. It closed in 2012, was bought by Carl Myers Enterprises, and, in December of 2014, awarded a conditional use permit by the Conesus Zoning Board of Appeals. The old restaurant was torn down in Summer 2015, but when the new steel frame went up in June 2016, it was clear it was not the same building that the zoning board of appeals approved.
Neighbors to the restaurant, who had lived there for decades were “fine” with the improvements and drawings of the proposed building that were presented to the zoning board of appeals; however, when the building went up, it was much larger, with a changed roofline, and moved forward closer to the lake, blocking their view. It had grown from the original size of about 7800 sq. ft. to over 18,000 sq. ft. The builder and zoning officer had made changes to the building without going back for zoning board approval. As a result, neighbors got a “stop work” order from New York State Judge John Ark, until things could be sorted out. The steel frame of the building has towered over their homes ever since.
Judge Ark ruled that the zoning board of appeals had to reconsider the building as built, and vote again. However, by the time the zoning board of appeals was able to hold public hearings and vote as per the judge’s order, Carl Myers Enterprises submitted another application in August of 2017, which removed those restrictions on bands and lighting, noting the newly revamped building (because decks were enclosed, etc.) took care of those concerns, and the town board’s new Legacy Laws (since declared unconstitutional as spot zoning) took the restaurant’s expansion and height out of the zoning board’s purview at the second hearing. Still, the zoning board voted 3-2 against the restaurant building continuing as built, since it was noted its target audience was more weddings and conventions of 500-600, than a small family walk-in restaurant, and that the changes with accompanying traffic and commotion, was not a good fit in a residential district, with houses only 20 feet away. After two contentious hearings, and with the frame already up, the zoning board reversed its previous granting of a conditional use permit, with a vote of 3-2.
Lawyers for Carl Myers Enterprises argued that since this was a “rehearing” as ordered by the judge, the vote had to be unanimous to rescind the conditional use permit. Lawyers for the other side said since a new application had been made by Myers before the vote, and the board was voting on the second application, a majority vote would suffice. Cohen ruled that the vote had to be unanimous to rescind the original application of 2014, and, in his recent decision, wrote that the conditional use permit of 2014 “should stand.” The Cohen decision now goes back to New York State Supreme Court Judge John Ark for his determination on the other lawsuits brought by the neighbors over changes made since 2014 approval.
photo courtesy of Mr. E Photography