VALATIE – The village Planning Board has approved the request by Heim Fuel Services to move into the building on Route 203 previously occupied by Hein’s Equipment Company.
Residents on that part of Route 203 had expressed concerns about having a fuel oil company near their homes at a public hearing in front of the planning board in early October. But in the end, after going over a state environmental review form with special counsel Robert Fitzsimmons at the November 3 meeting, the four members of the five-member board present approved the company’s move into the space by three votes, with one member abstaining.
Planning Board member Keith Lynch, who abstained, asked the owner of Heim Fuel, Mike Heim, about late night activity at the building.
“I deliver to farms and residential, I don’t go out on calls,” Mr. Heim told the board, though he did say in emergencies he would deliver.
The site was a tractor and farm equipment retailer until recently. Mr. Heim submitted his application to the Planning Board to use the space, which is a mostly residential area, last July. Though neighbors say the zoning law clearly states that once the equipment company sold the store the property would revert to residential use, Mr. Fitzsimmons mentioned several times at the meeting that the Mr. Heim was not making any changes to the building other than adding tanks and a fence. In the final resolution there is no mention of the zoning law about residential use and there are many references to changes made in the application due to feedback from the Planning Board.
“The whole Heim Fuel debacle has been very unfortunate for the people of Valatie,” Matthew Carter, a neighbor of the property, said in an email to the Columbia Paper. He and other residents signed a petition and planned to file a lawsuit to stop Heim from moving its business to the property.
A home daycare provider near the site said she worried about the tanks and trucks coming into and out of the property.
Mr. Carter’s concern, besides having the fuel business next door to him, was what he saw as the Village Board ignoring zoning laws and not making records from meetings about sale of the property available.
Mr. Fitzsimmons stressed at the meeting last week that there had been several meetings about the property and a public hearing.
“Unfortunately, there is no legal avenue in local law, either in the Village of Valatie or the Town of Kinderhook, to fight the decisions made by our local government,” Mr. Carter said of the lawsuit. Residents who opposed the opening of Hiem Fuel were waiting to hear from the village code enforcement officer about his ruling on whether or not the property is purely residential. Mr. Carter wrote in his email that the code enforcement officer’s ruling would mean “that the Planning Board is not legally allowed to give out exemptions to local ordinances.”
Though the Zoning Board of Appeals has given its approval for Heim to use the property for its business, Mr. Carter says opponents are waiting to hear from the village’s code enforcement officer, Walter Simonsmeier, about his ruling on whether or not the property is purely residential.