Merrill resigns from planning board seat
WATKINS GLEN--Following a contentious meeting Wednesday, Nov. 18, Watkins Glen planning board member Tom Merrill has resigned from his position. Merrill confirmed leaving the position, listing several reasons that helped lead to his departure, which included rental housing on Old Corning Road, the village's Dunkin' Donuts and the village's approach to the comprehensive plan. Merrill is a professional land surveyor in Watkins Glen.
The proposed plan for the rental units along Old Corning Road was the issue discussed by the board and developer Wednesday prior to Merrill's resignation. Despite the board granting preliminary site plan approval to the six unit, two building project, Merrill said he brought up concerns with both parking on the site as well as storm sewer runoff.
He said Code Enforcement Officer Greg Larnard told the board the village's zoning code requires two parking spaces per unit. However, the plan initially only listed seven parking spaces instead of the required 12. While the developers did agree to place 12 spaces at the site, Merrill added this still may not be enough parking due to the fact these will be short-term vacation rental units, which usually bring groups of three or more cars per unit.
Merrill said the village's zoning does not do much to include vacation rentals, which he noted are short-term rentals for a day or two, or a week at a time. He added these units often have groups of two to six persons for a three-bedroom unit who show up with anywhere from one to three or more cars and share the unit's rental costs. This could be 18 cars or more in the lot that was designed and approved to fit only 12.
"I see this happening nearly every weekend next door to my business, in which [a separate unrelated] vacation rental has four bedrooms and most of the time three to five cars in the driveway," Merrill said. "This is something that must be addressed in our zoning. To state that 'this site will have more parking than a typical bed and breakfast (B&B)' does not address the design considerations."
There was also debate over the storm sewer run-off at the location discussion with Merrill stating he believes it is the planning board's responsibility to protect the public as part of their review process. He said he wanted to make sure there are, or are not, engineered plans needed for run-off on a site like the rental unit project, which is on a hillside. Merrill said he was told by the code enforcement officer that sites under one acre in size did not have to go through the storm water management process.
"A code enforcement officer cannot just say that in his opinion storm sewers are not needed, that the huge ditch in the front and in the rear of the property will take care of it," Merrill said.
Another frustration Merrill brought up with the board was with the village's Dunkin' Donuts. He said there has been an ongoing issue with the developer and the planning board regarding the business' parking lot. While the parking lot is supposed to have a separate entrance and exit, per the approved plans by the planning board and by the state Department of Transportation (DOT), he said it has not yet been constructed in almost a year and a half's time.
Merrill said he also made a comment during the meeting about not having the support of the village board regarding a village comprehensive plan. He noted the plan was completed by the planning board and submitted for review and approval by the village board's previous administration. Merrill said he is still waiting for the current village board to take action on the plan over a year later.
Planning Board Chairman Chris Bond said Merrill's vacated seat will be filled through a mayoral appointment, adding the board will continue to address issues on a case by case basis. Bond is the director of structures for Hunt Engineers, Architects and Land Surveyors.
"I appreciate Tom's service over the years," Bond said. "I'm sorry it ended the way it did, but I do appreciate his service. We will have to soldier on, those of us who are still there."