ZBA in Gaines makes it difficult for public to get answers

Posted 8 November 2018 at 4:54 pm


The Gaines Zoning Board Of Appeals (ZBA) is at it again. They object to the Cobblestone Historic District signs (“Save Cobblestone Historic District, No Dollar General”), because now only 40-day “temporary signs” are allowed without a permit; yet the codes officer says it’s permissible for my neighbor to display an outdoor Trump flag permanently. Amazing.

At the recent ZBA meeting the Board refused to answer why, all of a sudden, they object to recently placed signs now, when they were permissible in the past. They have been up less than 40 days, and ZBA Chairperson Mike Grabowski, who condemns the Cobblestone signs, directed the town attorney to look into it. Could it be the ZBA is trying to protect their pet project – the ramming of a Dollar General store down our throats in violation of the Historic District?

I was told I was being disruptive for asking the question and insisting on an answer. Board member David Thom said these meetings are “business meetings,” where public input and questions are not permitted. So answering citizens’ questions is not the business of our ZBA. I have been allowed to give input and ask for clarification at past ZBA meetings. So what gives?

Obviously, there is something different happening here with the Dollar General project. Well, the Gaines Town Planning Board was abolished years ago, and the ZBA Chairperson and the Gaines Town Supervisor have an adversarial relationship at best. I’m beginning to see why. Gaines doesn’t need a rogue, closed and secretive ZBA. By the time the ZBA gets around to scheduling a public hearing on a project, they’ve already made up their minds without public input, and the applicants have already spent resources. A done deal. Sounds like a lousy system to me.

When a Gaines resident asked Chairperson Mike Grabowski to speak up over the loud noise of the Albion High School cafeteria freezer compressor, he tersely told her “there are chairs up front.” He resumed speaking in low volume monotones, so only the 4-member board, and not the 20-some people in attendance, could hear him. It was obvious. Three months ago it was suggested the ZBA utilize a PA system. That never materialized.

After the meeting was adjourned, I learned that the next ZBA meeting won’t be held at the high school where it’s hard to hear and the rest rooms are locked. Mr. Grabowski failed to announce this.

Al Capurso