MONROE — The Zoning Board of Appeals, meeting September 1, upheld the zoning enforcement officer’s cease and desist order on 64 Cambridge Dr./4 Independence Dr.

The board held two Public Hearings on Tuesday, September 1, and made decisions on both by the end of the long evening. The board quickly approved the first request for multiple variances to allow the construction of a second floor on an existing home at 51 Crescent Place, but spent far more time on the second, an appeal on the cease and desist order.

After the town presented its case that several zoning regulations had been violated and that work done on the property far exceeded any permits, the applicant argued that the work in question was done by a previous owner and that the current owner had been working with the town to peacefully resolve all issues. 

The new owner, Astro Landholdings LLC, currently has new applications, for the construction of an office building and for remediation of the site, pending at both Inland Wetlands and Planning and Zoning. 

Both commissions are in the stage of conducting Public Hearings.

An adjacent property owner, Peter Metropoulis, has been named an intervenor in both cases and was allowed to present his side through his attorney, Joel Green. Mr. Green said his client has significant concerns about the impact on water and air quality. His client has also seen a “considerable” amount of activity on the site since Astro Landholdings purchased it in May of 2019, despite their statements that they are not still operating the unauthorized “quarry.”

Kevin Solli, the engineer representing the applicant, explained his client has not been exporting material off the site and has been attempting to clean it up since purchase. That work included removing some materials that had been stockpiled and moving other materials around on the site.

Board Chairman James Wendt asked both sides if they were in agreement that excavation on the site had far exceeded what had been permitted, regardless of who had actually done the work. Both agreed, though Mr. Solli and Arnold Karp, who described himself as a managing partner of Astro Landholdings, stressed once again that the current ownership was not at fault.

Mr. Solli and Mr. Karp also pointed out that the owner had a valid permit to continue work on the site through March of 2020 and that one of the Governor’s Executive Orders extended such permits further during the pandemic.

Mr. Wendt countered that valid permits to conduct work on a site meant work within the scope of a permit could be continued, but that did not give permission for work to continue that was in violation of both the permit and zoning regulations.

The fact that both sides agreed that the disturbance on the property exceeded the scope of the permit was, in itself, enough to rule in favor of upholding the cease and desist order, Mr. Wendt said. He pointed out that if the applications to Inland Wetlands and Planning and Zoning are successful, the impact of upholding the cease and desist order would be short-lived.

In calling for the vote after the Public Hearing was closed, Mr. Wendt reminded members that they were not there to rule on the new applications pending before the other land use boards. They were there to decide if the zoning enforcement officer had acted properly in issuing a cease and desist order so that no additional work could take place on the property without new approvals from the town’s land use commissions.

The board voted 4 to 1 to uphold the cease and desist order, with seated alternate Domenic Smeraglino voting no. Mr. Smeraglino explained he felt the applicant had made a case that the issue was with a previous owner.

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