Between fines and zoning, the Town Board has provoked a lot of lively conversation, online and elsewhere. It does seem to be that a vague notion of what is illegal should not be a basis for doubling fines to be imposed when some people are really pissed off. Perhaps we need a better sense of what is legal and what is not.
Say, for example, someone wants to open a dance school, in a CC2 commercial district in Lake Peekskill. The code says that, in that district, that use requires a special use permit. The Supervisor announces that he is going to change the code. Then, he acknowledges that he cannot, and there will still be a need for a special use permit. The Chair of the Planning Board says that it will take some time. The Code Enforcement Officer says it is a permitted use. Regardless of what any of us thinks of the use, regardless of what anyone wants personally. is there a reason to play by the rules? How can one say in one breath that the fines for breaking any rule among volumes of rules should be increased onerously, when they say in the very next breath that the rule should be broken because they want it to be.
Take for example Landscaping uses. The zoning code does not include Landscaping as a permitted use in CC2. When the Zoning Board of Appeals decided to allow Tompkins Landscaping, they decided to allow the use. Now, it is only the Town Board that can change the code. The Zoning Board of Appeals is not empowered to do that. Add to that, when the Planning Board approved Maple Leaf Landscaping, the Planning Board’s odd Negative Declaration of Significance, and Special Use Permit Approval stated, “Whereas, ‘landscape contracting’ is a specially-permitted use under the Zoning Board of Appeal’s Tompkins Landscaping Corp. (“Tompkins”) Decision and Order, dated December 12, 2005….”
The Planning Board approved a special use permit for a use that is not permitted in the code because the Zoning Board had already done that.
If the officials ignore the rules when they feel like it, wouldn’t the public also feel like they can ignore the rules when they feel like it? Consistently, these rules are enforced when we don’t like someone, or somebody doesn’t like someone.
Perhaps, clarifying and simplifying the rules, and enforcing them evenly would be a better start than angry insistence on higher fines within an terrible and ambiguous law.
Or maybe we should just dump the zoning and the fines, and let everyone do whatever they want, instead of just some people.