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Howard B. Owens's blog

Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Taking the afternoon off

post by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian

Billie and I are celebrating our 21st anniversary today. We'll be away from computers and scanners for a few hours.

We're going to see Nik Wallenda at Darien Lake -- a show I highly recommend (pictures here). We're also going out to dinner.

I've asked a couple of people who would be in a position to know to text me if anything big comes up, but hopefully everything will be nice and quiet for the rest of the day.

Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Hearing on motions in Frost Ridge case will determine fate of lawsuits, and campground

post by Howard B. Owens in business, Frost Ridge, Le Roy

Two witnesses in a hearing related to the Frost Ridge lawsuits testified today that a key document was filed with the Town of Le Roy months before an April 8 statute of limitations date that is part of the dispute over live music at the campground.

It's all more complicated than even that convoluted sentence, however.

The hearing wasn't even completed today. Judge Robert C. Noonan was scheduled to hear a case in Rochester at 2 p.m. and with at least one more witness scheduled to be called, continued the hearing to 10:15 a.m., Tuesday.

Before adjourning, Noonan continued the stay of his temporary restraining order barring live music at Frost Ridge, which means that the Phil Vassar concert scheduled for Saturday will go on as planned.

The concert is a fundraiser for the Golisano Children's Hospital.

Vassar has said Frost Ridge is one of his favorite places to play and asked to be included in this season's line-up.

The hearing was limited to two motions under consideration by Noonan: 

  • Whether the statute of limitations for challenging a ZBA determination that nonconforming uses at Frost Ridge, contrary to current zoning law, were "grandfathered in," and,
  • Whether there is what is known as a "jurisdictional defect" in the ZBA's determination.

The key document relevant to the statute of limitations motions is the Zoning Board of Appeals minutes from its Sept. 25, 2013 meeting.

At dispute is whether the minutes were filed with the town before April 8. 

If the minutes were filed before April 8, that would mean one of both lawsuits were filed after the statutory period for challenging a zoning board's determinations.

But, did the ZBA under the circumstances of Sept. 25 have the authority to make that determination, which is something the attorney for the Cleere/Collins side of the suit is challenging.

Noonan's eventual ruling on these motions could either allow one or both lawsuits against Frost Ridge to go forward, and perhaps to trial, or determine whether one or both will be dismissed. 

Frost Ridge and the campground's owners Greg and David Luetticke-Archbell are being sued by the Town of Le Roy and Frost Ridge neighbors, the families of Cleere and Collins (who are related to the original Frost Ridge owners). Cleere/Collins is also suing the ZBA.

First to testify was Town Clerk Patricia Canfield.

There is much about when the minutes were first publicly available that Canfield can't remember.

She testified that as standard and permissible procedure, the ZBA minutes are kept in a file in the office of Jeff Steinbrenner, zoning and code enforcement officer for the Town of Le Roy.

She couldn't recall with certainty when she first had reason to retrieve the Sept. 25 minutes from the file, but said they were requested more than once through various Freedom of Information Requests, including requests by Marny Cleere.

Canfield said Cleere filed more than five FOIL requests, but not more than 10, and she couldn't remember if the one requesting ZBA minutes came in 2013 or 2014.

She couldn't remember if any of the other FOIL requests for the minutes came in 2013.

Under questioning from Noonan, Canfield said most FOIL requests are written, though she accepts verbal requests. Written requests are kept on file, she said, but there was no indication that any written FOIL requests were in court today.

As for the ZBA hearing itself, Canfield testified that if there was a public notice published of a meeting to discuss Frost Ridge's non-conforming use, she would have known about it, and she said she was unaware of any such publication.

David Roach, the Frost Ridge attorney, also called Steinbrenner as an "adverse witness."

Steinbrenner was also questioned by attorney Karl Essler, representing the ZBA.

Under questioning from Essler, Steinbrenner said that once the minutes from a meeting were approved at a subsequent meeting, he would place those minutes in his file.

He agreed that the Sept. 25 minutes were approved by the ZBA board at its Oct. 22 meeting and that he probably filed the minutes that night or the next morning.

As for the meaning of the minutes, Steinbrenner danced around the issue, often skirting direct questions.

He said he didn't recall live music being discussed as a prior nonconforming use at the Sept. 25 meeting.

Roach and Steinbrenner wrangled over the course of several questions whether an e-mail Steinbrenner sent to Frost Ridge in August 2013 was meant to put them on notice that a long list of alleged zoning violations included live music.

Mindy Zoghlin, attorney for Cleere Collins, when cross-examining Steinbrenner, read off a list of alleged zoning violations related to roadways and the placement and setbacks of campsites. 

While never explicitly stated, the clear implication of the line of questioning is an attempt by the plaintiff's side to establish that the ZBA ruling, if valid, was limited to land use issues and the ZBA didn't at all consider, nor was it asked to consider, whether live music is grandfathered in.

"When we first started with Frost Ridge about this, we saw two aspects to it," Steinbrenner said. "There was a need for special use permit for the campsites and one for concerts. At the time, we decided to go after the campground sites at Frost Ridge and the go after the concerts once they were up to compliance and in code."

Steinbrenner's August e-mail twice uses the word "etc." when referring to the alleged zoning violations.

When Roach would ask in various ways whether "etc." includes live music, Steinbrenner repeatedly deflected the question by staying he was merely forwarding what Town Supervisor Steve Barbeau had said was discussed at a prior town board meeting (which Steinbrenner didn't attend).

Under questioning from Roach, Steinbrenner admitted that he had verbally told David and Greg that live music shows were a possible zoning violation.

The third and final person to testify today was Debra Jackett, chairwoman of the ZBA.

Jackett testified that the board approved its minutes from the Sept. 25 meeting at its Oct. 22 meeting and that Steinbrenner received a copy of the minutes at that time, and she considered them filed with the town at that time.

Zoghlin asked several questions related to public notification of hearings and filing of notices and Jackett answered each time that it wasn't the board's job to deal with notices and outside communications.

"Our only job is to show up at meetings and make decisions," she said.

Over the repeated objections of Roach (each overruled by Noonan), Zoghlin kept asking about what happened at a ZBA meeting in 1998. 

Jackett was a member of the board in 1998, when the ZBA issued a determination that Frost Ridge was grandfathered in as a campground, even though it was an agriculture/residential area.

The meeting was 16 years ago, Jackett said, and she couldn't remember specifics about the meeting, but Zoghlin persisted.

"If you're going to ask me what I said 16 years ago, I'm going to tell you, I don't recall," Jackett said at one point.

Roach objected to the line of questioning because it's his contention that what happened at the meeting in 1998 isn't material to the plaintiff's motion that the ZBA decision of 2013 suffers from a "jurisdictional defect."

Another ZBA board member is expected to testify Tuesday. Noonan's ruling on the motions will come some time later.

Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 8:48 am

Law and Order: Woman accused of using another person's ID when arrested at Darien Lake

post by Howard B. Owens in byron, crime, Darien, Le Roy

Laura Anne Costa, 20, of Jewett Parkway, Buffalo, is charged with criminal impersonation, 2nd, and criminal possession of stolen property, 5th. Costa allegedly used another person's lost NYS driver's license as identification while being arrested on a trespass charged during a concert at Darien Lake on Aug. 16. The other person was subsequently identified in a news release as a person arrested at the concert, leading to the discovery of the alleged criminal impersonation.

Kodey R. Mills, 21, of Myrtle Street, Le Roy, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Mills was stopped by Le Roy PD on Monday and allegedly found in possession of marijuana.

Robert Holland Cokely, 26, of Merrill Road, Byron, is charged with DWI, refusal to take breath test, speeding, driving left of pavement markings and no/inadequate plate lamp. Cokely was stopped at 11:32 p.m. Wednesday on East Main Street, Byron, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Scott R. Booth Jr., 23, of Attica, is charged with petit larceny. Booth is accused of shoplifting from Walmart.

Andrea Baccas, 19, and Nellisia Pryce, 20, both of Jamaica, are charged with petit larceny. Baccas and Pryce are accused of shoplifting from Walmart. Both were jailed on $250 cash bail or $500 bond each.

Rebecca J. Cornell, 39, of Sand Hill Road, Caledonia, is charged with petit larceny. Cornell is accused of stealing clothing items from a store in the Village of Le Roy. Surveillance video was used to identify the suspect vehicle and the suspect and make an arrest.

Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 8:25 am

Three city streets closed tomorrow for resurfacing

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

The city has announced road closures tomorrow for roadway resurfacing. Residents are asked not to park on the street and to avoid the roads as a travel route. The streets will be closed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Closed are:

  • Bank Street from Douglas to the city line
  • Sumner Street
  • Denio Street
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Football Preview: Oatkan-Knights have a lot to play for in 2014

post by Howard B. Owens in football, high school sports, Le Roy, sports

There's a few story lines we could take with Le Roy football for the 2014 season.

The return of starters Mike McMullen at QB and Ryan McQuillen at receiver. A team coming off a 7-1 season but a need to avenge a disappointing OT loss in the Class C sectional final. The expectations on a team with a storied tradition that has a lot of tools, but will be relying on young offensive and defensive lines.

And then there is the final season of Head Coach Brian Moran, in search of his 200th victory, a possible 14th sectional title and -- dare we say it -- a second state title in 26 years at the helm.

The story line Moran has the least interest in, his final season.

"We don't really worry about the final year," Moran said. "We just come out and prepare these kids as best we can. Whether it's your first year or last year, we just want to focus and coach kids up best we can."

Starting with McMullen and McQuillen, the Oatkan-Knights do have some key starters returning, and all of them are guys that are in their third or fourth years on varsity, such as Jon Pierce, Jake Henry, Tom Kelso, Nick Egeling and Kody Lamkin.

That's a lot of talent on a team that we know will be well coached. Is it unfair to have high expectations?

Moran won't go there.

"Every year you come in, you expect to be successful," Moran said. "That's the first thing. Hopefully, we can get ourselves better and compete for a championship again. That will be interesting to see, but it will be up to how the kids perform and how they work together."

Much will depend on the big men up front.

"We're a little inexperienced up front and you're only as good as you play offensively and defensively on the line," Moran said. "Those kids are going to have to really focus and get themselves ready."

One thing's for sure, if history is any indication, Moran and his staff will do everything they can to prepare this team to compete at a high level. Coach's last year, or not.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Hawley applauds new law that assistance veterans

post by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia), a veteran of the National Guard and Army Reserves and ranking member of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, is applauding Gov. Cuomo for signing a military assistance bill into law that the assemblyman wholeheartedly supported in the Assembly.

“Our state and our country are forever indebted to those who have served us at home and abroad,” Hawley said. “This law tackles the red tape that hampers professional certification for family members of active duty officers who are moved from station to station. We have also expanded New York’s supplemental burial allowance to include those who were injured on the battlefield, but died here at home − an oversight that was far too tragic to continue.”

Hawley added, “Another great aspect of this newly signed law is how it assists children affected when their families move from station to station. Every state has its own difficult requirements for high school graduation, and that is often overlooked in legislation that attempts to honor our servicemen and women. Through this much-needed law, we have cut the red tape affecting children’s academic well-being and enrollment issues. This is one law we can all support, and I’m proud to have helped pass it.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Circus at the Genesee County Fairgrounds this evening

post by Howard B. Owens in circus, genesee county fairgrounds

This might be a surprise to you. Perhaps not. There's a circus in town. There's been some posters around town, apparently, but I didn't learn about it until I drove past the fairgounds today.

They performed last night and will perform again tonight.

Performances are at 5:30 and 7 p.m. Adult tickets are $15 each. Two children can get in for free with a paid adult.

The circus is produced by Walker International.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 7:28 am

Minor injuries reported in car and bike accident on West Main Street, Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident

A bicyclist has reportedly been hit by a car on West Main Street, just east of Oak Street, City of Batavia, but the rider reportedly suffered only minor injuries.

City fire and Mercy EMS responding.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Local chef plans special dinner at City Slickers of all locally grown food

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, agriculture, City Slickers, food

Farm-to-table is a growing movement nationally, but it's a term that hasn't popped up in Genesee County too often -- until now.

Brad Kujawaski, sous chef at City Slickers, is passionate about local food and he would like to see more people in Batavia realize how much great food is grown on our local farms.

"I think it's really important to give credit where credit is due and that starts with the farms," Kujawaski said.

He is preparing a five-course meal created entirely with local ingredients at City Slickers on Aug. 31.  

The produce will come from Porter Farms, a certified organic farm in Elba, and chicken will be from HLW Acres, Attica.

While Kujawaski expects to include a main course of roasted chicken and chicken soup, the rest of the menu will depend on what's farm fresh at Porter Farms that week.

"We're going to pick for him what's ready and he's going to cook it," said Peter Metzler, of Porter Farms. "To me that's about as fresh as it can get."

At least three courses will be paired with a beer from Rohrbach.

Kujawaski interned at Porter Farms during college and the fact that Brad is a good friend and a great cook is just part of the reason Porter decided to partner with him on this first-ever local farm-to-table meal, Metzler said.

It's also a chance to show off to more people in the community what Porter offers through its CSA.

"It's another way for us to get our food into the community," Metzler said. "We've never done anything like this before. It's pretty common elsewhere, so we wanted to try it out and see how it does."

The Aug. 31 meal is from 5 to 7 p.m. The cost is $60 per person or $100 per couple. Tickets can be purchased at City Slickers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Football Preview: Blue Devils hunting more Ws in 2014

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, football, high school sports, sports

Coming into his third year as Batavia's head football coach, Brennan Briggs said both he and his players approach the 2014 season with some optimism.

There are seven returning starters on both sides of the ball, QB comes into his junior season as a second-year starter and there should be some other weapons on offense to help put points on the board.

"Overall the kids' attitude is very good," Briggs said. "They're excited coming into this season. They know they can win some ball games."

Joining Mruczek in the backfield will be a "committee" of runners.

"We've got some thunder and we've got some lightning back there," Briggs said.

During the off season, Mruczek has put the time in to make himself better, according to Briggs. He's studied film and schemes and really picked his brain to understand what it takes to run the offense.

"He's really been doing a great job for us. Great attitude, great commitment."

The coach said returning players who also seem ready to step up their game include Devon Koepp, Gunner Rapone and James Cryer.

Several sophomores who were part of the varsity last year are ready to assume bigger roles in 2014.

The Blue Devils are coming off of two consecutive 3-5 seasons.

Overall, the Briggs era continues to move forward as he works to shape the program according to his vision. 

"One of biggest things, coming into a program and kind of making it your own is setting that bar, setting the expectations of where you want it to be, so the kids understand exactly what you want  from them," Briggs said. "I think we're getting to that point where the kids understand what's expected of them every single day. They understand what kind of effort I'm asking from them."

The first game is Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m., at Livonia. The first home game is Sept. 12, 7 p.m., against Wellsville.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Photo: Barn off Ellicott Street Road, Pavilion

post by Howard B. Owens in BARNS, Pavilion

A barn off Ellicott Street Road, Pavilion. Photo taken this morning.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 7:53 am

UPDATED: Tractor-trailer on its side on Route 63, Pavilion

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, Pavilion

A tractor-trailer has reportedly rolled onto its side on Route 63, near River Road, in Pavilion.

Pavilion fire is dispatched.

UPDATE 7:55 a.m.: A firefighter on location reports extrication will be needed.

UPDATE 8:08 a.m.: A diesel tank has ruptured. A large amount of fuel has spilled. Emergency Services requested to the scene. Pads and booms requested.

UPDATE 11:45 a.m.: One lane on northbound Route 63 remains closed. It's going to be awhile before it reopens. This morning, authorities were waiting for NYS DOT to come out and remove the guard rail on the east shoulder. The truck can't be pulled forward because of a large cement culvert outlet directly ahead of it. The DEC wanted the remaining diesel fuel from both tanks offloaded first, too. A good deal of fuel spilled down the drainage ditch that runs along the side of the road. Firefighters seem to have stopped the drainage about 100 yards south of the accident scene. The driver apparently fell asleep. He was transported by Mercy EMS to UMMC for treatment of minor injuries.

UPDATE 12:48 p.m.: Route 63 is closed in both directions pending removal of the disabled tractor-trailer.

UPDATE 4:01 p.m.: The tractor-trailer has been removed. The road should reopen shortly.

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Law and Order: Le Roy man accused of string of abuse against former live-in girlfriend

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Darien, Le Roy, pembroke, Stafford
Philip Adams

Philip L. Adams, 34, of 6580 Randall Road, Le Roy, is charged with stalking, 1st, criminal possession of a weapon, 3rd, assault, 2nd, aggravated family offense and assault, 3rd. Adams was arrested following an investigation into complaints by a former live-in girlfriend that between December 2013 and May 2014 that Adams abused her. Adams allegedly pushed her onto hard pavement causing an injury (bruising on her arm), struck her in the face with a detachable shower head causing injury (bruising around her eye), sprayed her with a flammable liquid and threatened to light her on fire, and threatened to stick a lit cigarette in her eye. Adams was jailed on $10,000 bail.

Jennifer A. Wilsey, 34, of Canastota, is charged with criminal impersonation, aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd, and uninspected motor vehicle. Wilsey is accused of providing troopers with a wrong name and date of birth during a traffic stop on Route 77, Pembroke. Wilsey reportedly believed there may have been a warrant for her arrest. She was jailed on $2,500 bail.

Daniel E. Gorrow, 19, of Gilbert Street, Le Roy, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Gorrow was charged following a traffic stop by Le Roy PD.

Taylor D. Saulsbury, 19, of Lake Street, Le Roy, and Henri E. Wilcox, 29, of North Main Street, Warsaw, are charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Saulsbury and Wilcox were charged following a traffic stop by Le Roy PD.

James Michael Gallo, 24, of Coshway Place, Tonawanda, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Gallo was arrested by Deputy Joseph Corona following an investigation into an altercation reported at 12:16 a.m. Sunday at 9993 Alleghany Road, Darien.

Steven Richard Lebo, 31, of Quincy Alley, Kearny, N.J., is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd, and moving from lane unsafely. Lebo was arrested by Deputy Joseph Corona following a report at 9:48 p.m. Saturday of a vehicle that left the roadway at 9993 Alleghany Road, Darien.

Nancy Alice Shruefer, 52, of Clover Place, Cheektowaga, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Shruefer was found in a disabled vehicle on Route 77 near Darien Lake at 1:10 a.m. Sunday by Deputy Andrew Hale.

Melissa Grace Betances, 33, of Clinton Street, Batavia, is charged with a violation of probation. Betances was jailed on $15,000 bail.

Caitlin A. Hanley, 25, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Hanley is accused of being involved in a domestic incident on Aug. 9.

Ronald Baltasar Gonzalez, 29, of Spencer Court, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a weapon, 4th. Following an investigation into firearms that were turned into Batavia PD, Gonzalez was charged with illegal possession of firearms.

Randy Gene Leach II, 28, of Torrey Road, Stafford, is charged with failure to pay fine. Leach was arrested on a warrant. He posted $250 bail and was released.

Laura C. Mazenga, 21, of Malling Drive, Rochester, is charged with trespass, petit larceny, resisting arrest and criminal possession of stolen property, 5th. Mazenga was allegedly seen rummaging through a vehicle on Woodrow Road at 2:26 a.m. Friday. When police approached, she allegedly fled and resisted arrest. She allegedly possessed property stolen from the vehicle.

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Photos: East Pembroke Mud Races 2014

post by Howard B. Owens in ATV, east pembroke, mud races, sports

Sunday, the East Pembroke Fire Department, hosted its annual mud races in the pit area behind the fire hall.

Don't think years from now, "oh, I wish I had a copy of that photo." To purchase prints, click here.

Sunday, August 17, 2014 at 11:14 pm

ATV accident reported in East Pembroke

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident, east pembroke

An ATV accident with multiple people injured is reported in the area of 2069 Main Road, East Pembroke.

East Pembroke fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

Three or four people are injured, with a possible serious injury.

Mercy Flight being put on standby.

UPDATE 11:21 p.m.: Town of Batavia fire requested to the scene to set up a landing zone for Mercy Flight at Pembroke Primary School.

UPDATE 12:45 a.m.: There are two confirmed injuries. A female passenger was transported to ECMC by Mercy Flight. A driver was taken to ECMC by Mercy EMS. Sgt. Eric Seppala said there may have been a second ATV involved in the accident. The second ATV left the scene prior to law enforcement arriving. It's unknown if anybody on that ATV was injured. It's unclear at this point what happened, though it appears the ATVs were on the roadway. The investigation is continuing. Anybody with information that may assist in the investigation are asked to call the Sheriff's Office at (585) 343-5000. 

UPDATE Monday morning: A press release from the Sheriff's Office states that two four-wheel ATVs collided. Both ATVs had a driver and passenger. The driver and passenger of the second ATV were taken by private vehicle to UMMC and later transfered to ECMC for treatment. No names were released. The investigation is ongoing and charges are pending.

Sunday, August 17, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Alleged drunken driver hits car on South Main, attempts to flee in damaged truck

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

A family enjoying a gathering on South Main Street, Batavia had their evening spoiled by an alleged drunken driver who rammed into one family member's car and, according to witnesses, came darn close to killing another family member.

The incident occurred around 6:40 p.m.

The alleged drunken driver was westbound on South Main when his truck veered to the opposite side of the road and struck a parked car, badly damaging it.

About 50 members of Mark Fanara's family were in a tent at the side of his father's house on South Main when they heard the boom, Fanara said. They all rushed to the street and Fanara said he saw a truck rolling away from the car that was hit.

Then the driver hit the gas, he said, even though a front tire was completely bent to the side.

Fanara's aunt's car was parked behind the car that was struck. She had just gone to her car to get some money out of her purse and was at the driver's side door, bent over, at the time of the accident.

"If that car wasn't there (the one that was hit) he very easily could have struck my aunt," Fanara said. "It had to be only feet from here."

Fanara's brother -- it was his wife's car that was hit -- jumped in his car and followed the suspect vehicle on Dewey, through Birchwood, over to the car wash on South Pearl, where the driver parked his truck and began ditching items in his car. He also tried removing the license plates from his truck. He put on a sweatshirt with a hoodie.

When police arrived, he tried to flee on foot, but didn't get far.

Taken into custody was Bradley Howard, 23, of Mayville. He was charged with DWI, aggravated unlicensed operation and unlawful possession of a hypodermic instrument, said Officer Chad Richards, along with 10 other charges.

A woman was in the truck at the time of the accident and she returned to the scene and gave officers a statement, Richards said.

Howard has a job locally, which is apparently why he was in Batavia, Richards said.

Among the items Howard allegedly discarded was a hypodermic needle, but no other contraband was recovered, Richards said.

"Several people were right there and called it right in," Richards said. "We had an overabundant number of witnesses, so it was easy to locate the subject."

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