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Tempers flare at Porter Town Board meeting

Sat, May 14th 2016 07:00 am

Planning Board to discuss recommendation

By Allison Deutschman

Town of Porter residents continued to voice their opinions over perceived town enforcement issues concerning a Lake Road property, at Monday night's Town Board meeting.

It marked yet another chapter in the now months-long contention between Lake Road residents and the town over the lawn/gardening equipment sales and service activities of Lake Road resident Mike McCabe, a former town councilman. Neighbors, led by Lake Road residents William and Fredericka Dean, argued McCabe has and continues to operate what they view as a commercial maintenance operation servicing heavy-duty vehicles on the property, located in a rural agricultural district, and in violation of town laws.

The complaints saga has grown into a lawsuit filed by the Deans against the Town of Porter, claiming the town has condoned the activities and allowed them to continue.

The matter grew ugly Monday with a host of residents venting their frustrations at Supervisor Mert Wiepert and the Town Board.

But due to the absence of legal council Kyle Andrews, who is currently representing the town in the lawsuit with McCabe, the board could not further address many of the residents' concerns.

 "It seems like we are getting nothing resolved here; it's a little merry-go-round," said Irene Meyers, a member of the town's Zoning Board of Appeals.

Many attendees shared her sentiment on the apparent lack of progress by the town.

Councilman Joe Fleckenstein said he agreed any attorney representing the town, Andrews or otherwise, needed to be present as long as these issues remained a topic at the meetings.

Town of Porter attorney Mike Dowd recused himself from representing the town in the McCabe case, but continues to attend many Planning, Zoning and Town Board meetings, including the Monday session.

"We don't have an attorney present for comment on this and this is definitely a legal issue that needs to be commented on," Fleckenstein said, "We've got to resolve this."

Due to scheduling conflicts, other obligations and lack of notice, Andrews was not in attendance at the Monday meeting and at other meetings. According to Dowd, Andrews suggested on earlier occasions that the town should hold a special meeting specific to McCabe's Zoning Board application, outside of a Zoning, Planning or Town Board meeting. Councilman Tom Baia supported the idea.

During the public participation segment of the meeting, Town of Porter resident William Suitor directly accused all board members of supporting McCabe, rather than combating his alleged illegal actions on Lake Road.

"You are protecting your friend and that is what it has come down to. It is just a disgrace," Suitor said.

Another resident who lives less than 10 houses down from McCabe, Sheila Mooney, supported Suitor's accusations, directing her own comments more specifically at Code Enforcement Officer Roy Rogers.

"You know that he (McCabe) has broken the law. I've come to you, Bill (William Dean) has come to you years ago, and nothing was done. You are aiding and abetting this man." Mooney said.

She pointed to photographic evidence supplied by William Dean and a supposed online advertisement of McCabe's sandblasting business.

 "For you people who think we are trying to run this through for Mike McCabe, if that was the case, we would have done this a long time ago. We would have just did it," Councilman Jeff Baker said, defending the board.

Fleckenstein said the sandblasting of commercial vehicles has not been a problem at the residence in at least six months. However, Dean claimed an excavator was on the property as recently as mid-March.

"I know Kyle Andrews has had meetings with a lot of you; with Roy; with McCabe and McCabe's attorney; but they're never at these public meetings," said Fredericka Dean, William's wife. "Does that sound like transparency to you?"

On a related matter, it was announced this week the Town of Porter Planning Board would hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, May 16, at Town Hall. Among the items for discussion will be a Planning Board recommendation for the Town Board regarding the sales and service of farm/garden equipment in a rural agricultural district.

Also, the Planning Board will review and discuss a site plan application for the Judith Fleckenstein Trust - a 22-acre aquaculture and aquaponics facility at 1953 Balmer Road, Ransomville.

The meeting is open to the public, but it is not a public hearing. The next regular Planning Board meeting will be 7 p.m. Thursday, June 2.

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