DANBY, NY – Three members of Danby’s Board of Zoning Appeals submitted letters of resignation Wednesday in response to what’s been characterized as a “disrespectful” and “surprising” decision.

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On Monday, the Danby Town Board voted 3-2 to reappoint businessman David Hall to the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).

To explain why that seemingly innocuous decision would lead to three members of the BZA resigning, some background is necessary.

Earlier this week, The Voice ran a story about a development project of Hall’s that had been facing substantial opposition from some Danby residents. For over a year, Hall has been seeking to turn his property on Gunderman Rd., which used to be a textile factory, into a mixed-use business incubator.

Those opposed to the plan are concerned about impacts on local traffic on a quiet residential road and water usage, among other issues.

Hall has served on Danby’s Board of Zoning Appeals since late 2013. He replaced Alan Wagner, who was leaving to pursue his MBA.

Hall served out the remainder of Wagner’s term, which ended this week. Wagner had since returned to Danby and applied for appointment to his old position. Hall also applied to be reappointed, meaning the Town Board had to decide.

Standard practice in Danby has members of its smaller boards write a recommendation to the Town Board for such appointments. BZA members voted to recommend Wagner, saying they felt he brought more to the board and also noting that there had been a number of “personality conflicts” between Hall and other board members.

Some members also felt that it was a conflict of interest for Hall to serve on the board while he was still pursuing the legal agreement that would allow him to develop his property into the mixed-use commercial hub he envisioned.

Generally, the recommended candidates are appointed.

At Monday’s meeting, Town Board member Leslie Connors surprised some of her fellow board members and members of the public when she made a motion to appoint Hall.

The vote passed 3-2, with Town Supervisor Ric Dietrich and board member Rebecca Brenner voting against. Both Dietrich and Brenner expressed that they found the motion and the result of the vote “surprising” and “a shock.”

Later on in the meeting, Hall said that he would consider altering his plans for the Gunderman Road property, such that the issue would ultimately be resolved by the BZA, whereas up to now it had been under the purview of the Town Board.

On Wednesday, three members of the Danby BZA submitted letters of resignation: chairman Joe Schwartz, Al Becker and Sarah Elbert. This leaves only Hall and one other member, Gary Bortz, on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The BZA is set to meet next week, but it’s unclear if and how the board will proceed while it searches for new members.

This is a developing story. We will provide more details as they become available.


(Featured photo courtesy of the Town of Danby website)

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.