December 17, 2019 Regular Meeting Minutes


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Village Board met Tuesday, December 17, 2019 at 6:30 PM at the Village offices.


Present:            John Spaeth, Mayor

Steve Collins, Trustee

Sue Eckert, Trustee

John Markiewicz, Trustee

Sue Sedon, Trustee




Wendy Reu, Village Clerk

Nathanial Matthews, Treasurer


Mayor Spaeth called the meeting to order at 6:30. p.m. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited.


Motion to approve the minutes of the November 19, 2019 Regular Meeting was made by Trustee Markiewicz, seconded by Trustee Collins, and passed by voice vote as follows:

Aye:                 Trustee Collins, Trustee Eckert, Trustee Markiewicz, Trustee Sedon

Nay:                  0

Abstain:           0


PUBLIC HEARING:   Local Law #3 of 2019 – The Village of Northville Zoning and Subdivision Law

Public Present: Harold Cheney, Bob Ellsworth, Sam Ellsworth, Melissa Ellsworth, Brad Johnson, Dan Mead

            At 6:32 p.m. John Spaeth opened the Public Hearing for Local Law #3 of 2019, a Local Law entitled “The Village of Northville Zoning and Subdivision Law”. He stated the proposed local law is intended to repeal and completely replace the present zoning law contained in Chapter 170 of the Village Code and the present Zoning Map. Mayor Spaeth gave a brief description of the process involved to develop the document before the Board tonight, highlighting the public meetings and informational sessions that were conducted prior to this point. He opened the floor to the public present and asked them to address the Board one at a time and state their name for the record.

Bob Ellsworth stated that the Committee has worked hard on this document and he does agree that there have been a lot of changes made to it that were driven from public input. He stated that despite the changes he can’t believe that we went from the current zoning to this. He states he hopes the Board runs it through the shredder. He stated he knows that some of the Board members hate it. He stated that that he was on the Town Board and voted no on zoning when it came to him. He stated there is too much in the Town zoning.


Sam Ellsworth stated that the new zoning document states in the beginning that the intent is to encourage a future that maintains the community’s quaint and historic character and walkable scale. He stated he doesn’t feel this is what the community wants, Northville is not the place for this.


Harold Cheney stated he had people come to talk to him with their concerns, specifically from the artist in the community. He stated there are many artists in the community and if they want an artist gallery or art studio, under the new zoning they are not permitted in certain residential areas. He stated that was a concern and that he did not feel it was well thought out. He stated under the new zoning, artists’ lofts and live/work space are permitted on upper levels only. He stated he does not know why the document has to be ran though with all of these things being questioned.


Brad Johnson stated that at the meetings he has attended there were things brought up that were in the document that the Board didn’t know what was in there. He stated it should be scrapped. He stated it doesn’t fit the Village. He stated that over the years, he has been subject to what he believes to be harassment over zoning issues and interpretation of the code. He feels that the code has and can be weaponized against anyone at any time. He stated the “guy” down the road has all these cars parked out in front of his business and the Board is after him over that. He stated that the Board should fix what needs to be fixed.


Dan Mead stated that he moved to the Village five years ago. He stated that when he moved here, he came to the clerk and asked about having chickens. He stated that Wendy told him he could have chickens. He also stated that he asked about a rooster and Wendy told him they were chickens so he could have them too. He stated that he has a coop for them, and they are contained on his property. He stated that he feels the number of chickens identified in the new code, 12, needs to be a more fluid number. He stated that he raises them from pullets and every few years he has to replace them due to age or death. He stated he would like to see the number increased and he would like to see roosters allowed. He stated that he knows of some people in the Village that have chickens that are out in the elements and running loose in the streets. He stated he felt that how the animals are kept needs to be addressed. He stated there needs to be things that protect the livestock in the code.


Harold Cheney stated they are outlawing roosters.


Sam Ellsworth stated that roosters get a raw deal. He stated no one has complained.


Melissa Ellsworth stated she agrees with what everyone has already said. She stated she would hate to see anyone taking advantage of the code to use it as a weapon to come after anyone which could happen if you are not real careful. She stated that something can be missed in a document that is as large as this document. She stated the Board should tweak the old zoning to fit our needs. She felt that with some updating, the old zoning could be satisfactory.


Bob Ellsworth stated that when he first moved here, he had a permit for a kennel. He stated he heard from someone that they were going to outlaw kennels. He stated he came to a meeting and was told to not worry about it, that it did not apply to personal kennels. He stated then the Hammons had dogs that were bothering neighbors and the Board took action. He stated that no tickets were ever issued, and the family got the dogs debarked. He stated he worries that intentions may be good but when the they dig through the fine print, less is better as opposed to overbearing. He stated you have to be careful. He stated someone will use it to screw someone over. He stated that is not a misinterpretation. He stated he was involved on the ZBA and it says it in black and white. He stated it is not what was intended when it was passed. He stated he knows there are issues with set backs, addressing solar installations, etc., but you should just address those things. He stated the document doesn’t need to be that specific. He stated he has talked to no one that thinks it is a great idea.


Brad Johnson stated he doesn’t think anyone up there has bad intentions. He stated he lost peppers to frost before and then he put more peppers in that they did great. He stated this zoning can be redone and be a great harvest.


Harold Cheney stated that is exactly how he feels. He is worried about who the code enforcement officer at the time. He stated is can be okay one day and the next it is not. He stated it is their interpretation.


At 7:03 p.m. the Public Hearing on Local Law # 3 of 2019 was closed on a motion made by Trustee Eckert, seconded by Trustee Sedon, and carried by voice vote as follows:

Aye:                 Trustee Collins, Trustee Eckert, Trustee Markiewicz, Trustee Sedon

Nay:                 0

Abstain:           0


Mayor Spaeth stated there was only one new thing that he had heard during this Public Hearing. He stated the concern about the artist studio was brought to his attention prior to the meeting and he has taken part in discussions of what was being interpreted with the new code. He wanted to state to the Board and the public present that the recent Facebook posts that state “the village is not in favor of arts” and the connotation that the Village is discouraging arts, he takes very personally. He stated two current members of SVAN helped put this document together. He stated that he was responsible for the original SVAN Arts center being formed. He stated that taking that into account, the discussions being held on Facebook bothered him. He stated the discussion stemmed from Schedule A. He stated in Schedule A, artist studios and art galleries are only permitted in Mixed Use and Commercial. He stated if they did their homework, the people concerned would have noted the heading is commercial and other non-residential, meaning not in someone’s residence. He stated that dealt with a stand alone gallery, with an artist not in residence at his place.


Trustee Sedon stated that is the current interpretation of that, what if someone has a different interpretation. Mayor Spaeth stated that many of these kinds of items in this document have been taken to court. He stated there are case laws that have addressed all professionally done zoning laws. He stated that these headings and classifications have been tested through case law. He stated it is beyond our interpretation, these are NYS zoning codes that have been developed and researched. Trustee Sedon asked hypothetically, what if “Joe” lives in his house and has his studio in his house. Mayor Spaeth stated again that the items in question are stand alone studies, residential studios are home based businesses.


Harold Cheney asked if a studio loft above a garage is residential.


Mayor Spaeth stated a studio above a garage is considered a residence and would therefore be a home based business. Mayor Spaeth stated that with home based businesses, it specifically gets into what is a minor and major business. He stated that taken from the new zoning, a minor business would be an artist, sculptor, composer, crafter, woodworker, etc. that is not selling their artist work on premise. He stated the are prohibited for retail sale with the exception of incidential sales. He stated they are allowed to have a studio for creation but can’t run it as a retail business. He stated as a business owner, you advertise. He stated a gallery is a place to sell a product, whereas the primary purpose of a studio is to create. With a minor home based business, you can’t advertise sale hours. Trustee Sedon asked if you could have a private showing. Mayor Spaeth stated that an artist with a home based minor business can have an event, and he gave an example of Art Trails, where people came to their studio to see their works. He stated they just can’t have it as standard running business where they advertise and have hours of operation.


Brad Johnson what is says can be interpreted and used against them.


Trustee Sedon asked if someone could be sent to a studio by word of mouth. Mayor Spaeth stated the primary purpose of a studio is space to create. He stated retail sales can’t be the primary purpose for the studio under a home based minor designation. Mayor Spaeth gave an example of the definition of bar in our current zoning. He stated you can’t just have a bar, it has to be part of a restaurant. He continued by stating that if 51% of sales comes from sale of alcohol, you are operating a bar. He stated that the primary reason for creating art is for sales. He stated if someone comes to your studio and buys a piece, and then five more people show up and purchase, at what point does it become illegal. Mayor Spaeth stated there is a difference between a gallery and a studio. He said that a gallery is for displays and sales and as such, it is a business and not allowed in a residential district. He stated that is part of the reason they developed a mixed use are in the village where this type of business could occur. Mayor Spaeth stated that the intent is to keep our residential areas residential and to not have businesses in the residential district. Trustee Collins stated that if an artist gets that popular, he wants to get his product in a more commercial area. He stated that we currently have two galleries in the Village. Trustee Sedon stated that there is one artist that creates in his house but shows at both the SVAN gallery and Coffey’s gallery. Mayor Spaeth stated interpretation comes into play and that is what we are trying to avoid. Trustee Markiewicz stated we allow residential professional offices in residential district. He also stated that Forsey started out his business in a one car garage prior to zoning being created. Mayor Spaeth stated there is limited stock in the commercial district and that is why the mixed use areas were developed. He stated mixed use areas create more space for commercial businesses. Mayor Spaeth did state that he suggested a minor suggested word change under the section dealing with “Home Bases Business – Minor” to include the following – Artist, sculpters with only incidental sales of product on premises.


Melissa Ellsworth this brings up concerns, you have identified items you didn’t know were in there, what about the stuff you are not finding.


Mayor Spaeth stated that personally he doesn’t believe there is a discrepancy in it, merely changing the verbiage to match the other in the same category. He stated the Board has heard multiple times from the public and have read the document thoroughly. He continued by stating there has been two years work on the document and he feels comfortable with what is in there. Mayor Spaeth stated that we spend a lot of time, money, and effort getting our Code Enforcement officer trained and it is important to have a zoning document that takes out interpretation. He stated there have been complaints about this document being too large but it is because we are trying to be more clear and less vague.


Sam Ellsworth first of all, the training and money is not wasted. Secondly, I have been to every meeting and you are elected to represent the public. We don’t want this new zoning.


Mayor Spaeth stated that zoning is not subject to Public Referendum. He stated that when zoning was originally proposed for the Village, the residents were adamant they did not want zoning. He stated that the when current business which is now the Timeless Tavern was bought in the mid 90’s and the new owner wanted to operate it as a bar, there was a large outcry for the Village to enforce the zoning and not allow them to have a bar. He stated that the residents were glad that zoning was in place and was part of the process.


Melissa Ellsworth correct, have not heard one person say they don’t want zoning. They don’t want overbearing zoning.


Trustee Sedon stated that in the case of Mr. Mead, his chickens would be grandfathered in and he could replace his rooster. Trustee Collins agreed and stated that the law was very vague before.


Harold Cheney I see that the way it is going is that you may or may not vote tonight. Prefers postponing the vote until you have more answers from people.


Trustee Eckert asked if the Appeal process would still be in place and Mayor Spaeth stated it would. He stated that there are two types of variances that can be granted, Use Variances and Area Variances. He stated they would have to show hardship and have to demonstrate that it won’t change the character of the neighborhood.


Trustee Eckert stated the original zoning did not contain a lot of items and there was not a lot of verbiage to accompany what was there. Mayor Spaeth agreed and stated that what was happening at the Code Enforcement and ZBA level was dealing with interpretation. He stated you shouldn’t have to be interpreting all the time. He stated that since he has been Mayor, there have been five different code enforcement officers and each one interpreted the code differently.


Melissa Ellsworth if the question is the ZBA dealing with the old zoning, take out the parts that conflict, revise them and fix the conflict. We do understand that some of the stuff is not in there. Revise what was originally there.


Mayor Spaeth stated the consultant, Monica Ryan, could give a much clearer answer as to how the decision was reached to go new over revising the old. He stated it was one of the first things that the committee discussed. He stated that most of the items that were in the original document are in the new document. He stated there were also new state regulations that had to be added and the zoning had to enforce the new comprehensive plan. Based on all that information, Mayor Spaeth stated the committee made the decision to go with a new document as opposed to trying to rework the existing zoning.


At 8:07 p.m., Trustee Eckert asked if we should delay a vote and have Monica Ryan come to a meeting to help explain any questions that we have. Mayor Spaeth stated that Monica was unable to be present at the meeting tonight. He stated there was a recommendation that came in that we may not want to vote the same night that we have the public hearing. He stated that it gives the Board time to digest the information they heard. He asked what the Board’s pleasure was. Trustee Sedon stated she doesn’t know if Monica could clarify the questions that were presented. She stated she felt that all those concerns were addressed in the past and we have moved beyond Monica. Trustee Sedon stated this has been turned over to the Board now.

Mayor Spaeth explained what a no vote on zoning means. He stated that if we vote no, financially we would not be fully reimbursed for the work that was done as it was part of a grant. He stated that a no vote would mean that the current zoning is in effect, which is more restrictive. He stated we have to decide to the course of action, which included postponing the vote, making a vote, or adhere to the current zoning.


Mayor Spaeth asked the Board to consider the minor modifications previously discussed. He asked for a vote on changing the verbiage in #27 B (1) and (2) to state the following: with only incidental sales of product being made. Trustee Sedon made a motion to approve changing the verbiage in #27 B (1) and (2) to state the following: with only incidental sales of product being made. The motion was seconded by Trustee Eckert and carried by voice vote as follows:

Aye:                 Mayor Spaeth, Trustee Collins, Trustee Eckert, Trustee Sedon

Nay:                  0

Abstain:           Trustee Markiewicz


Mayor Spaeth asked the Board to consider the minor modification of increasing the number of chickens allowed from 12 to 18. Trustee Sedon made a motion to increase the number of chickens allowed from 12 to 18. The motion was seconded by Trustee Eckert and carried by voice vote as follows:

Aye:                 Mayor Spaeth, Trustee Collins, Trustee Eckert, Trustee Sedon

Nay:                  0

Abstain:           Trustee Markiewicz


Mayor Spaeth stated for clarification that the changes made were not considered major changes and the Board could still act on zoning adoption if desired.


After discussion, Trustee Sedon made a motion to adopt Local Law #3 of 2019 “The Village of Northville Zoning and Subdivision Law” as amended. The motion was seconded by Trustee Eckert. The motion was defeated by voice vote as follows:

Aye:                 Mayor Spaeth

Nay:                  Trustee Collins, Trustee Eckert, Trustee Markiewicz, Trustee Sedon



PUBLIC COMMENTS – Bob Ellsworth thanked the Board for having the archway fixed. Mayor Spaeth stated that is now on an annual schedule for maintenance.



Police – No report. Trustee Collins reported that Officer VanValkenburg was recently promoted at the County level and has taken on additional duties. Trustee Collins stated he would try to develop a plan for the Chief to get time sheets and reports in more timely.


Streets Highway Superintendent Dan Reidell’s monthly report was read. It was reported that the new packer is working well and they are averaging around 7 tons a week.



Water – It was reported that usage decreased from 3,279,000 gallons in November 2018 to 1,921,000 this year. Water testing and operations were normal.


Fire – Fire Department Report for November 2019

Village of Northville             (3) Alarm Activations             3


Town of Northampton           (5) Chimney Fire                     1

MVA/Pedestrian                 1

MVA PI                            1

Hazardous Condition         2

Town of Edinburg                 (3) Structure Fire                      1

MVA PI                               2

Town of Hope                       (3) Rescue                                 2

Structure Fire                     1

Town of Benson                     (0)
Mutual Aid Given                 (7)

Mutual Aid Received             (3)

Total Man-hours reported were – 7.5 hours


Code Enforcement – No Report


Dog Control – No Report


Joint Youth – No Report


Marketing Mayor Spaeth reported that he and Trustee Markiewicz would be setting up a meeting with CRG soon.


Park Use Requests – None


Tree Commission- No Report


LWRP Committee- Mayor Spaeth reported the Committee met in late November. He stated they are continuing to prioritize projects. Mayor Spaeth reported that they anticipated having a public open session in late January or early February.



Bills to be paid from the General Fund in the amount of $ 38,580.77, from the Water Fund in the amount of $ 4,167.43, and from the Joint Youth Fund in the amount of $ 518.75 were presented for payment. Motion to approve payment was made by Trustee Markiewicz, seconded by Trustee Collins, and carried by voice vote as follows:

Aye:                 Trustee Collins, Trustee Eckert, Trustee Markiewicz, Trustee Sedon

Nay:                  0

Abstain:           0




            Mayor Spaeth reported that the Village Board was part of a three board joint meeting, comprised of Town of Northampton, Town of Benson, and Village of Northville, to discuss formation of a fire district. He reported that the lawyer for the Fireman’s Association was present at the meeting. Mayor Spaeth stated that all three boards agreed to explore moving forward with creation of a district. Mayor Spaeth stated there will be a public hearing held on January 7, 2020 at 7 p.m. in the NCS auditorium regarding the formation of a fire district.


Mayor Spaeth stated that Highway Superintendent Reidell has been exploring options for a village skating rink. Highway Superintendent Reidell reported that it was best to have a liner inside the rink and he indicated that the liners are not reusable.   Highway Superintendent Reidell stated the cost of the liner is between $ 500.00 to $ 700.00. Highway Superintendent Reidell stated his research also indicated that a kit which contains 40 x 40 ready made sides and liner costs $ 2,500.00. Treasurer Matthews stated he had been in contact with the insurance carrier and it would cost $ 275.00 to insure the rink for the season. He did state that the insurance company recommends resurfacing the rink every two to three days to keep a smooth surface. Trustee Markiewicz stated it sounded like a lot of work. Highway Superintendent Reidell stated that with this late date and the mild winter we are having so far, it was his recommendation to push off installing a rink until next winter. Mayor Spaeth stated that the ground would also need to be leveled and he agreed with not trying to rush a rink this season. After discussion, the Board agreed to revisit it the future.




Mayor Spaeth reported that we have been approached about a cell tower buyout option. Mayor Spaeth stated that we receive income from cell tower rent and the company has offered a buyout. The current buyout offer is $ 605,000.00. Treasurer Matthews stated over the years, the company has offered a buyout but the amount has never been substantial. He stated that at the end of the current contract, which is negotiated through 2036, we would receive $ 250,000.00 more through rent that we would with a buy out. He stated that looking forward toward the LWRP, where the municipality has designated one project at over $1 million dollars, having a substantial cash revenue on hand as opposed to having to bond and pay interest, might be beneficial to the Village.   Treasurer Matthews stated that we currently receive monthly installments of $ 38,000.00 per year. Mayor Spaeth stated he and Treasurer Matthews have been working together to determine how we can have it not negatively affect the budget if we did decide to proceed with the buyout. Treasurer Matthews discussed various options and the Board asked him to work the numbers further and report back at the next meeting.




There being no further business before the Board, motion was made to adjourn by Trustee Markiewicz, seconded by Trustee Collins and passed by voice vote with no one dissenting. The meeting was adjourned at 9:11 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,


Wendy L. Reu, Clerk