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Town to pay for garage repairs in budget, not bond

Town attorney: No subdivision referendum

August 13, 2009
By NATHAN BROWN, Enterprise Staff Writer

VERMONTVILLE - When the Franklin town board meeting at Kate Mountain Park started Wednesday evening, there were two possible referenda before the board.

It doesn't look like either will happen.

The town board voted 4-0 to rescind a resolution it passed in July authorizing borrowing up to $532,000 to repair the town highway garage, opting to finance some repairs through the normal budget process instead. This nullifies a petition to put the bond to a permissive referendum.

The board also shared an opinion from town Attorney James Maher that the town cannot legally hold a referendum on a proposed subdivision law. The town received a petition late last month with about 150 signatures requesting a referendum on the proposed law, which would establish regulation of and require approval of subdivisions of five lots or more.

There was a permissive referendum to borrow up to $800,000 to repair the garage in April, and the bond was rejected by a more than two-to-one margin.

"I don't think our community can afford another referendum battle," said town Councilman Cliff Smalley.

Town Concilman Walt Kretser said the board needs to repair the heating and insulation systems, and address other safety issues at the 20-year-old building, before the winter.

"We can't wait any longer," Kretser said.

Kretser said the town will have to make budget cuts elsewhere to finance the repairs, and he raised the possibility of cutting back on employees.

The town has a grant from the New York Power Authority to put a new furnace in the town garage, and Kretser said the town should spend the money soon to make sure it doesn't lose it.

The petitioners requesting a subdivision referendum cited Section 81 (1)(d) of state Town Law, which says a town can hold a referendum on "any general or special law."

Town Law authorizes referendums on a number of topics, such as bonds. However, Maher wrote, the law authorizes petitions on laws for which a referendum is authorized in state Municipal Home Rule Law, and zoning or subdivision regulations are not listed there as laws on which referenda can be held. Maher cited a 1991 opinion from the state Comptroller's office, which says Section 81 (1)(d) "only applies if submission of a proposition to the electorate is specifically authorized by some other law."

The town board will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 260 at the town hall in Vermontville to discuss public feedback on the subdivision law at the public hearing on July 27. A straw poll of members of the public at that hearing showed 19 opposed to the law, 15 in favor and five other answers.


Contact Nathan Brown at 891-2600 ext. 26 or



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