The Putnam Examiner

Nearly 100-Foot Crane Center of Zoning Debate in Southeast

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The Town of Southeast has faced some divisive and complex zoning issues the last few years. This time, the question is whether a nearly 100-foot crane is a permanent structure.

Currently, Morrow Equipment, which is looking to have a business in the Dykemans commercial district, is requesting the Zoning Board of Appeals determine if a 98-foot crane is a structure or not. Because only structures–and not pieces of equipment–have a height limit, if the zoning board rules in favor of Morrow, it’ll make it easier to get their site plan approved in front of the planning board.

If the zoning board denies Morrow Equipment’s request and upholds the town building inspector’s opinion that it is a permanent structure, then the company will need to seek a variance from either the planning board or town board, which would result in additional hurdles.

A public hearing about Morrow’s request was held last month with many residents in the area affected coming out. The next ZBA meeting is June 19 where a decision could be made.

Building inspector for the town, Michael Levine wrote to the planning board in March that the crane would require a variance because it “clearly meets the criteria and definition of a structure.”

Levine wrote the crane is an on-premise installation and would require a location on the ground.

According to the town zoning code, a structure is defined as a building or thing that is constructed that requires a location on the ground or attachment to something having a location on the ground that is taller than four feet, Levine wrote.

“While the crane is mobile, it is only mobile within the limits of the rail system that requires a location on the ground,” Levine wrote.

Resident Rick Feuerman, who is president of Concerned Residents of Southeast, said the crane would be bad for the town and a burden on the residents that live near the proposed location.

“This is an eyesore to everybody else,” he said, adding later. “It doesn’t benefit anybody else in the town.”

Feuerman said he believes “100 percent” the crane is a structure in Southeast town zoning code. If the crane is not ruled a permanent structure, the town will also get less taxes from it, Feuerman added.

But attorney for Morrow Equipment Richard O’Rourke argued that according to the code, the crane is “mobile equipment” that is located on wheels positioned on rail tracks which allows it to move horizontally. The crane will be used to load and unload trucks and stack crane inventory in the storage yard, he added.

“The electric mobile crane is not fixed or set in one single location on the site, it is mobile and located on wheels to move around the equipment yard safely and efficiently.” O’Rourke said. “This electric mobile yard crane moves; it is similar to a locomotive.”

O’Rourke said he believes Morrow’s position will prevail, but the company would consider options for appeal if the zoning board sticks with the building inspector’s opinion.

“When completed the project will be a significant improvement over existing conditions in the Dykemans commercial zoning district and set the standard for future beneficial, well designed, well landscaped commercial development,” O’Rourke added.

Resident near the proposal, Melinda Montanaro, said the crane would be erected 365 days a year and other neighboring towns would consider the crane a permanent structure.

“The main point is it is a permanent structure and we need to keep within our code because the code was written to keep the best interest of the town and the residents in mind,” Montanaro, who is running for town board, said.

Feuerman fears that if the crane is allowed in Southeast, it could lead to a rippling effect of other tall structures entering the town. There are four other areas designated Economic Development (ED) zoning close to residential areas, Feuerman said, which could lead to other tall pieces of equipment in town.

“Once you set a precedent that this is allowable in that area, it could be allowed in the other four different areas that’s zoned ED,” Feuerman argued.

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