Multiple Manorhaven residents said they were concerned about the continued construction of a property at 59 Orchard Beach Blvd. during the village’s Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday night, asking the village to explain why the stop work order was lifted and the legality of the ongoing construction.
The owners of 59 Orchard Beach Blvd. requested three variances: to build on 45.02% of the property when a maximum of 35% is permitted, to have the eaves extend 42 inches into the side yards when only 24 inches is permitted, and to instate an open side entry stair leading to the second floor on both the left and right side of the building while the code does not allow side entries to the second floor.
The applicant amended its proposal on Jan. 30, 2022, no longer requesting the variances for the eaves and the side entries. They also adjusted the building area variance, requesting a diminished area of 43.4% of the property to build on.
The variance was denied by the Board of Zoning Appeals in April 2022 as it was determined to be substantial and have a detrimental impact on other properties.
Barbara Thermos, a resident of Manorhaven, said the applicant had 30 days to contest the decision made by the Board of Zoning Appeals. The board had 61 days to prepare a written decision if needed.
She said the applicant did not file a lawsuit and the board prepared the written decision. The then incoming administration told the deputy clerk not to file the written decision, according to Thermos.
Seven months later, Thermos said the former village attorney signed an agreement and stipulation with the property owners on Nov. 28, 2022. She said the owners should have been fined for ”its many violations of building and flood toll regulations.”
Thermos asked why the agreement and stipulation were necessary if there was no lawsuit contesting the Board of Zoning Appeal’s decision.
Ken Kraft, a former Manorhaven trustee, said that while he is not against the building being established in the village, the concern is with the confusion of the stop work order and the continuation of the construction in recent months.
Kraft said that the property has been an ongoing issue for years as the original site plans did not seem to match up with the final plans.
Ed Mayourian, one of the owners of 59 Orchard Beach Blvd., asserted that permits were issued for the property’s construction and nothing was changed when the building was built. He said the building is finished and it meets the village’s code.
“Everything we did was legal,” Mayourian said.
The village attorney Kenneth Gray said that a stipulation and settlement executed by the former village attorney and the owners off the LLC of the property that lifted the stop work order and allowed construction to proceed based on the interpretation of the code was in effect when they filed their building permits.
Since he was appointed village attorney at that same meeting, he said he was not able to research the stipulation nor the code and its changes in relation to the stipulation. He was unable to respond to many comments made by members of the public as he was still familiarizing himself with the case.
He said he did not see the mayor’s or board members’ signatures on the documents lifting the stop work order.
The Board of Trustees voted to accept an Aug. 17 proposal from Cameron Engineering to assist the Building Department in the construction observation and permit review of 59 Orchard Beach Blvd.
“Whatever happened before this administration has nothing to do with now, with what is happening now,” Trustee Khristine Shahipour said.
Mayor John Popeleski said the reason for this is to have Cameron Engineering review everything to ensure the construction is aligned with the prior agreement. He said this will “stop all the nonsense of the back and forth” in ensuring that the site plan is within the agreement.
“This has been going on too long,” Popeleski said. “I’d like to see that property finished and it will look nice in the village.”
Trustee Jeffrey Stone said that he agrees the project needs to move forward, calling the site an “Area 59.” He said he is pleased with Cameron Engineering reviewing the site to ensure it is within the code and satisfies FEMA and DEC requirements.
“It needs to be put to rest, but it needs to be put to rest correctly,” Stone said.
At the meeting Wednesday night, Popeleski also declared an emergency in the village to address the deterioration of a retaining wall at the end of Kirkwood Road in the village.
The mayor said the retaining wall was buckling at the base due to rot, which he said posed a “serious hazard.”
The mayor declared two executive orders for the issue: one identifying the emergency and another to fix the deteriorating retaining wall.
The mayor executed an agreement with Maura Services, LLC to repair the retaining wall, which cost $24,000. Popeleski said the new retaining wall has already been established.
“The contractor did a really, really nice job,” Popeleski said. “I’m really pleased with it.”
The Board of Trustees voted on a motion Wednesday night that authorized the proposal to fix the retaining wall.
The executive order declaring the emergency was declared on Aug. 16 and the executive order to repair the wall was signed the same day.
The board also unanimously voted to establish the law firm of Bee Ready Fishbein Hatter & Donovan, LLP as the general village attorney.
The appointment of the law firm comes after the Board of Trustees disputed the prior appointment of Harris Beach PLLC that was made by the mayor, which led to three trustees walking out in the middle of the meeting. After the meeting, Harris Beach rescinded its contract with the village, which the mayor attributed to the dispute among board members.
The Manorhaven Board of Trustees will convene again for a work session at 6 p.m. on Sept. 6.