ROCHESTER – A state appellate court has overturned a 2016 zoning variance granted by the Jamestown Zoning Board of Appeals involving the Sheldon House.
On Friday, ,June 16 the New York 4th Appellate Division, based in Rochester, released its ruling on Sheldon House variance appeal, which was filed by a group of Lakeview Ave. area residents after an initial New York Supreme Court ruling in 2016 supported the city zoning board’s action.
Lakeview Ave. resident Paul Leone was one of the three in the affected neighborhood who filed for the appeal.
“It goes without saying we’re very pleased,” Leone told WRFA. “I feel this decision sets a precedent beneficial to the integrity of the neighborhood.”
Meanwhile, Jamestown Community College president Cory Duckworth voiced disappointment with the decision.
“Needless to say, JCC is disappointed in the outcome of the case,” Duckworth said in a statement to WRFA. “We had felt that we had identified a buyer for the property that would be in a position to make the necessary investments to preserve this revered structure. The Lynn Corporation had plans to continue making the facility available for public use in addition to housing their corporate office.”
The Sheldon House sits in an area of the city that is zoned for residential use only. It is owned by Jamestown Community College, which announced it was selling the property in early 2016, with Lynn Development Group eventually announcing it would buy the home for $240,000, contingent to it receiving a zoning variance so it can be used as the main offices for the company.
In May 2016 the city’s zoning board granted the variance, but that was challenged by a residents in the neighborhood, who didn’t feel there was the necessary hardship requirements needed in order for a variance to go through.
In the summer of 2016, the State Supreme Court in Mayville upheld the variance decision, and that ruling was appealed to the state circuit court.
According to Friday’s ruling by the appellate court, JCC and Lynn Development failed to present proper evidence to the city Zoning Board that satisfies the requirement of unnecessary hardship, which is legally required in order for a variance to be granted. In other words, despite the initial ruling by the city zoning board, it’s been determined that JCC failed to provide proper evidence that it could not realize a reasonable return on the property by selling it to a buyer who would only use it for residential use only.
During the hearing that took place prior to the city zoning board’s decision, several spoke out against the proposed variance, saying that another offer had come forward to purchase the property from JCC. However, JCC claimed the offer wasn’t acceptable and instead went with the larger offer made by the Lynn Group.
It’s not yet know if JCC or the Lynn Group plan to challenge the decision from the appellate court. If so, the matter would then be taken up by the New York State Court of Appeals, which is the state’s highest court.
“Any decisions related to the case or the future disposition of the Sheldon House will need to be considered by the JCC Board of Trustees. No decisions have been made at present,” Duckworth said.
The Lynn Group has told WRFA a media release responding to the decision is forthcoming.