Princetown is trying to revoke what it says is an invalid building permit issued for a garage to support a long-delayed warehouse complex on the town’s border with Rotterdam.
Princetown code enforcer Dan Marciniak in early February issued a building permit for a truck maintenance facility that would be part of the facility and deposited the developer’s check into the town’s account.
Marciniak, a part-time worker who resigned days after issuing the permit, did not have authority to issue a building permit for what’s known as the McLane Food Service project because it falls under a commercial construction moratorium imposed by the town in December, town officials said.
Even absent the moratorium, the project slated for 27 acres near Thruway Exit 25A needed a special use permit to be in compliance with Princetown’s code, Town Supervisor Michael Joyce said.
“And [Marciniak] did this unbeknownst to anyone in town,” he said last month.
Princetown Town Attorney Michael Cuevas has filed a challenge to Marciniak’s approval with the Zoning Board of Appeals. He said the project shouldn’t have received any permits from the code enforcer, regardless of whether the structure intended for Princetown’s side of the project is considered an accessory.
“The appeal is based on the fact that [Marciniak] didn’t have the authority to issue the permit with a moratorium in place,” he said.
The actual warehouse would be in Rotterdam, under the original proposal; the garage is the only part of the complex that would be in Princetown.
Marciniak, who still works as a code enforcer in Rotterdam, did not mention the permit he issued before suddenly resigning his Princetown post Feb. 12, according to Joyce.
The approval might have continued to go unnoticed if Joyce hadn’t done some routine bookkeeping last month. The supervisor said he was auditing town accounts when he noticed the code enforcer deposited a large check from the developer.
“It’s just by pure accident we found it,” he said.
The issuance of the permit came as Rotterdam developers Robert Iovinella and Timothy Larned were in the process of seeking a renewal of their special use permit, which expired in August. On Feb. 8, Larned paid $3,500 for the permit, which allows him to build a 12,800-square-foot truck maintenance facility on the Princetown side of the property.
Iovinella and Larned did not respond to calls seeking comment for this story. Their attorney, Andy Brick, did not return numerous calls placed to his law firm over the course of two weeks. Marciniak was on vacation from his Rotterdam post until later this month and did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Joyce said he’s since come across Marciniak’s written correspondence with Brick in which the lawyer argued a special use permit shouldn’t be needed for the Princetown side of the development because the truck maintenance facility is considered an accessory. He said the letters were exchanged in December, around the same period when the Town Board ratified the comprehensive plan update and then imposed a commercial building moratorium until the town’s codes could be updated.
“The intent was that any new construction was on hold in the commercial districts,” he said.
The project to construct a 168,000-square-foot warehouse and truck maintenance facility was initially proposed nearly a decade ago to house the operations of a food distributor that supplies fast-food companies such as Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Long John Silver’s. Rotterdam officials supported the project, despite opposition from a number of residents living near the proposed site.
Opponents of the project shifted their focus to Princetown after Rotterdam approved it. Princetown took much longer to review the proposal and McLane eventually pulled out of the project.
Despite having no immediate tenant, the developers decided to push forward with the approval process in the hope of lining up a new company. Princetown planners first approved the special use permit in 2008, but included an expiration clause in case the warehouse project wasn’t built in five years.
Last summer, McLane expressed renewed interest in the site and the developers attempted to extend the special use permit. But the Princetown Planning Board decided that the area around the proposed warehouse had changed and that the developers would need to update many of the studies they conducted before the initial approval.
The development has all of its necessary approvals in Rotterdam, where the warehouse would be constructed. Vince Romano, the town’s public works coordinator, said he’s heard nothing from the developer about seeking a building permit.
“It’s been pretty quiet,” he said. “There’s nothing going on with it.”