City To Not Challenge Overturned Use Variance

The city of Jamestown has decided not to challenge a ruling by the Appellate Division Fourth Judicial Department of the state Supreme Court regarding a use variance granted for the Sheldon House. P-J file photo by Dennis Phillips

In a Zoning Board meeting Monday, Jamestown mayor Sam Teresi said the city will not challenge a recent ruling by the Appellate Division Fourth Judicial Department of the state Supreme Court in Rochester that overturned a use variance granted by the city Zoning Board in May 2016 to Lynn Development and Jamestown Community College for the Sheldon House.

The mayor said he will not second guess the ruling from any board who has weighed in on the Sheldon House case, whether it is the city Zoning Board, state Supreme Court Judge Frank Sedita III, who upheld the city Zoning Board’s decision, or the state Appellate Division.

Teresi said he will be paying attention to what happens to the Sheldon House as the process continues to find a new owner.

“We have the utmost regard and concern for that property,” he said.

The Sheldon House court case started in May 2016 when the city Zoning Board approved a use variance to allow for business offices at 9 Falconer St., which is located in a single-family residential zone. The zoning variance was necessary to clear the way for Lynn Development to purchase the Sheldon House from Jamestown Community College.

In January 2016, the Jamestown Community College Board of Trustees approved a proposal from Lynn Development to purchase the Sheldon House. Before the $240,000 sale could be finalized, the city Zoning Board had to approve the use variance to allow Lynn Development to renovate the Sheldon House into office space.

Following the city Zoning Board’s decision in May 2016, three local residents, Paul Leone, Dr. Ann Servoss and Timothy Mills, opposed the use of the Sheldon House for business use. Leone, along with his wife, Servoss, who live on Lakeview Avenue, and Mills, who lives on Falconer Street, appealed the use variance to the state Supreme Court in Mayville. In August 2016, Judge Sedita dismissed the appeal, upholding the city Zoning Board’s use variance.

Following the dismissal by the state Supreme Court, the local residents appealed the decision to the state Appellate Division, who ruled earlier this month against the city Zoning Board’s use variance. According to the Appellate Division’s ruling, JCC and Lynn Development failed to present any evidence to the city Zoning Board that satisfies the first variance request requirement of unnecessary hardship. This meant JCC and Lynn Development did not prove they could not realize a reasonable return on the property by any conforming use.

Following the Appellate Division’s ruling, Jason Spain, Lynn Development president and chief executive officer, said in a news release sent to The Post-Journal that they will no longer try to acquire the Sheldon House to turn it into their corporate headquarters. Lynn Development is currently located at 301 E. Second St., Jamestown.

The Sheldon House was built as a residence in 1869 and was later rebuilt in 1925. In 1977, the Sheldon House was given to the college by Julia Sheldon Livengood and has since been used to host many guests of the college, events and programs of both the college and the community.

In other Zoning Board business, there are two new members on the city Zoning Board of Appeals. On Monday, Jamestown City Council approved adding Peter Larson and Todd Thomas to the Zoning Board, each for a three-year term. The two new members will be replacing David Daversa and Robert Karbacka.

Teresi said the reason city officials needed to approve two new members is because Daversa moved out of the city and Karbacka was no longer able to attend meetings regularly. Teresi said both new members are local attorneys and the Zoning Board will benefit from their knowledge of the law.