By Alice Gerard
A proposed bed and breakfast on Amberwood Drive that, for more than a year, had generated opposition among the neighbors of Cherrish and Matthew Beals, will be able to open to guests. The Grand Island Town Board granted the proposal a renewal of its special use permit with a list of conditions at its Dec. 5 meeting.
Conditions included the construction of a barrier between the Beals’ driveway and the driveway of their immediate neighbor, Wally and Monica Osetkowski. The Osetkowskis had constructed an orange snow fence because, according to Monica Osetkowski, who spoke at the meeting, people unknown to her were “Parking on our property, destroying our lawn.”
Town Board member Pete Marston, who presided over the meeting in his role of deputy town supervisor, said the Beals and their neighbor had various options on what the barrier between the driveways would look like.
“One of the complaints that we’ve heard from neighbors, and that is realistic, is that there’s been some cross traffic between driveways,” Marston said. “That is simply unacceptable. As part of the special use submission, I would ask them to put in some sort of barrier – a parking block, split rail fence, a planter box, separating the two driveways so there is no back and forth. I leave it up to you guys as to what fits the character of the neighborhood. I know that an orange snow fence does not. Let’s do better than that, and I expect it to be done very quickly.”
Another condition of the special use permit was the requirement that, when the bed and breakfast is in operation, no vehicles will be permitted to park in the street or on any front yard setback. In addition, the homeowners must be on premises, when guests are staying at the bed and breakfast.
The Amberwood Drive residents who spoke at the meeting said the business would change the character of their neighborhood.
According to Jarrod Randall, “Over a year, the residents of this neighborhood have been battling against this home.” He claimed the “elimination of privacy” by a home that “becomes a hotel when you wake up,” adding that the bed and breakfast was unsuitable in a “small double cul-de-sac with one entrance and one exit.”
John Kackman asked why there was a “push for bed and breakfasts on Grand Island. What is being done to listen to the people in the neighborhood?”
Randall asked the Town Board to reject the application for a renewal of the special use permit. “You have the authority to approve, deny or revoke. I am beseeching the Town Board to do just that: To deny or revoke. Our neighborhood is a home to all of us, and we all live here. It’s not a place to uproot families.
We’ve had multiple families move out.”
Town Board member Mike Madigan explained that opening a bed and breakfast in a private home “is a permitted use, and they (the Beals) have the right to do it. Just denying it isn’t always an option.”
Town Board member Tom Digati said, “The law permits it. I would operate on the fact that the applicant would rely on the law and would operate it in the way it was meant to be operated. I spent lots of time meeting with the people who spoke in opposition to this thing. I spent time talking to Cherrish. There are issues. I have my concerns. I can say, with certainty, be it this project or a solar project or any other special use permit, if an applicant comes to renewal and has demonstrated that they are not willing to comply with the conditions that we place on the special use permit or the law, I have no problem whatsoever in denying them.”
Tracey Schaeffer, who spoke at the meeting, mentioned a letter that appeared in her mailbox concerning the proposed bed and breakfast. “I got a letter in my mailbox today, which is calling this family out. I was appalled that there was a campaign against someone who was attempting to have a bed and breakfast. I don’t appreciate that type of negativity being spread in this neighborhood.
“I’ve been to many Airbnbs and beds and breakfasts in my life. I treat them with respect. The owner has oversight over property in their home. They can evict someone at will if they are not behaving in a way that is appropriate for the neighborhood. If my neighbor came to me and said this is what I want to do, I would support them in any way that I can. I would certainly ask them to be respectful of the neighborhood. I grew up here, and I love living here. My family is here. But I feel that Grand Island is becoming a place of ‘We don’t want people to come in and enjoy our place.’ This is a beautiful island, and we are surrounded by this amazing body of water. It should be shared with people and enjoyed.”
Cherrish Beals, who had explained that, because of family illness, the bed and breakfast was not yet open, said she is hoping to open for business soon. “It is a great spot for ecotourism, with two state parks.”
Beals acknowledged the objections of her neighbors to the bed and breakfast: “They were concerned with what it would do to the character of the neighborhood, and I respect that. I love my neighborhood, too.”
Beals said she did a neighborhood study to find out how a bed and breakfast would affect the character of its neighborhood. As part of the study, she visited other Island neighborhoods that hosted bed and breakfasts and found that neighbors had no issues with the businesses. Comments she heard included, “We love our B&B neighbors,” “Families playing games, enjoying each other and being safe,” “Great neighbors,” “Owner’s husband died, and it’s allowed her to stay at home. She takes good care of the property,” “no issues, no problems at all,” “we were unaware that one (bed and breakfast) was even operating.”
In other business, the Town Board:
√ Approved a site plan and a special permit for a solar energy farm at 2595 Whitehaven Road. Additionally, a negative declaration was issued, indicating the Town Board found no environmental issues that needed additional study.
√ Set a public hearing at 8 p.m. Dec. 19 for proposed local law 9, concerning the definition of “tourists or transients.”
√ Set a public hearing at 8 p.m. Dec. 19 for proposed local law 10, concerning dog impoundment fees.
√ Approved a tower permit renewal at 1639 West River Road for Upstate Cellular Network (Verizon).