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Brian Stolar Quoted in North Word News, “Sea Cliff Village Board Says No to Shed for Offbeat Artifacts”

Media Source: North Word News

Brian_S_StolarAfter failing to secure Village approval to install a storage shed on the eastern edge of Village Hall property, it appears almost certain that the Friends of Sea Cliff Library will be pulling the plug on Offbeat Artifacts, the Saturday tag sales held on the Village Green that have raised more than $30,000 for the library.

At this past Monday’s Village Board Meeting, Village Attorney Brian Stolar stated that as a result of a covenant between the Village of Sea Cliff and New York State tied to a grant for the restoration of Village Hall, the village legally could not place a shed on Village Hall Property to store items for sale at the Off-Beat Artifacts fundraisers.  FSCL had first proposed donating the shed several months ago, making the case that it would help eliminate, or at least minimize, some of the logistical difficulties in setting up the sale.

At the Village Board Conference the previous week, the Board had granted approval to the Friends of the Library’s Facility Use Permit Application to hold the fundraising events four times a year, but postponed a decision on the shed.  At that Conference, Mr. Stolar stated, after it had been pointed out by the Village Grants and Contracts Coordinator who was sitting in on the meeting, that the $300,000 New York State grant the village received for restoration work to Village Hall contained a stipulation that prohibited any work from being done to the exterior of the property, without first acquiring approval from the state.  That requirement is in place for 20 years, he said.

In his “Trustee’s Report” at the June 8 meeting, Trustee McGilloway explained the new hurdle and stated that the Village was researching whether the Village could legally install a shed.  He also said that he had received a letter from the President of Friends of Sea Cliff Library indicating that the group would end the popular fundraiser if the shed were not approved.

Following Mr. McGilloway’s report, Mr. Stolar then addressed the issue saying that a representative of the New York State Parks Department that day had “confirmed  that the state would not permit that type of shed on Village property given the funding and the preservation covenant that we have in place.’

‘On this property or any village property?’ Mr. McGilloway asked.

Mr. Stolar replied that the covenant applied to the Village Hall property, but that on other Village properties New York State law prohibited Friends of the Library from having an exclusive right to use a shed – that it would also have to be available for use by other groups and individuals within the village.

During the Public Comment period, Sea Cliff resident Mike Lennon, who has organized the tag sales since they began more than three years ago, addressed the board. He described the complex logistics of organizing an Offbeat Artifacts sale in which 14 garages around Sea Cliff have been used over the past three years to store items that have been collected in advance.  Beginning Thursday evening prior to the sale, volunteers retrieve those items and collect them on a resident’s porch across Summit Avenue, where they are stored until early Saturday morning when volunteers once again retrieve them and set them out on the Village Green for sale.  The storage shed located behind the Village Museum on the eastern edge of the property, he said, would allow items to be stored in a central location during the month preceding each sale, and then simply be  brought out onto the Village Green on the morning of Offbeat Artifacts. “It’s gotten to the point where the sale is dead unless we can get a shed,” he said.

Mr. Lennon continued that he believed that Offbeat Artifacts was not only an effective fundraiser, but that it was good for the community and the business district bringing people to the village center on the Saturdays. However with the amount of labor and running around in advance of the sale, “unless we can get a shed somewhere near the Village Green, we can no longer sustain it,” he said.

Speaking to Mr. Stolar and the Board, he urged, “let’s look for some kind of a solution rather than for what’s going to prevent it. . . . The vibe I’m getting, is that we can’t do it because of this and we can’t do it because of that. .  . Why can’t we at least try to find some sort of loophole or something to help resuscitate this.”  The Friends of Sea Cliff Library, he said, and as had previously been proposed, would pay for the cost of the shed and its installation.

Prior to being told of the latest obstacle, he said he had been told that it would not be agreeable to the neighbors or to the Sea Cliff Beautification Committee.  “I’ve spoken to the neighbors,” he said.  “They said they are happy to have it there.  We will even put up a nicer fence.” The Beautification Committee, he said, was fine with it as long as it is screened from Centennial Garden which he said it would be.  “I don’t want to come across as accusatory,” he continued, “but I feel as if once we dot this ‘i’, you’re going to throw up another ‘i’ and ‘t’.”  He concluded saying that the event is worth saving, as it has become an integral part of the community.  “Please help us get over this hurdle.”

Carol Poll President of FSCL then rose to speak.  She said that not only has Offbeat Artifacts “brought people into the community to shop and an amazing revenue stream to the library. . . It’s brought a sense of whimsy and community to the village.” Appearing resigned to the tag sales ending, she concluded “we will miss Offbeat Artifacts.”  Ms. Poll suggested that Mr. Lennon receive a White Cap Award.  Ann DiPietro, president of the Civic Association, the group that bestows the honor, was sitting in the audience and said that he had already received one [in 2007].

Following Ms. Poll, resident Joe Krupinsky spoke. “Mr. Lennon and the Friends of the Sea Cliff Library are offering a great service to the village,” he said. “It’s an event that people go to. . . People are coming and interacting.”  He urged the Village to “to bend over backwards to help them out” in finding a place for the shed.

Catherine Pickering of the Friends of Sea Cliff Library spoke of the importance of Offbeat Artifacts with funds raised going towards a variety of library enhancements and towards the purchase of Museum Passes that are loaned out to residents which cost nearly $4000 a year.  “Without Mike’s sales, we’re not going to be able do this much.”

Resident Maria Stieglitz asked the board for clarification regarding the state regulations.

Mayor Kennedy explained that state had gotten $250,000 from the state over two years ago and an additional $350,000 recently for the restoration of Village Hall. ‘Part of the accepting of that money [from New York State] is an agreement with the state that we will do no modifications to this building or to the grounds in any way shape or form,” he said.   “A phone call was made to the state – ‘Can we put in a simple shed? If you want to accept the money, the answer is no. If you don’t want the money then do whatever you want.’” He continued, “we as a board can say we want a shed or we can have a half million dollar restoration.’  The Mayor said he supported the latter.

Trustee McGilloway said that the board had only learned of the grant’s stipulations regarding changes to the property at the previous week’s board conference, and that over the past week the board had “looked at every angle we can to see if this can work” and only that day had gotten word from the state it would not be allowed.

Ms. Stieglitz asked how the shed proposal was presented to the state.  “Were they told the style of the shed or that there would be landscaping?”

“It was presented that way – as a simple shed hidden in the back of the property,” the Mayor replied, “and they said ‘no – you can’t put any additional structure on the property.’”

‘It would not be in the best interests of the Village or the people to do so. . . . I recognize the value of the sale, but I just can’t grant permission for the shed.”   the Mayor said a few minutes later,  adding, “maybe the sale could be scaled down to a more manageable level so  they wouldn’t even need a shed.”

Mr. Krupinsky rose again.  He said that he would like to hear the opinion of the other trustees.

Trustee Villafane then spoke.  “We support the Friends of the Library, we support the sale, we would love to be able to put the shed there, but we can not forsake the grant money,” she said.  “This structure needs significant work from the roof down.”

“We need to find a way to do this,” Mr. Krupinsky insisted.  He requested that a public hearing be held.

Trustee McGilloway said he believed that there was strong support from the Board for the Friends of the Sea Cliff Library and the Offbeat Artifacts sale.  “We will work with the Friends of the Sea Cliff Library and the Sea Cliff Library itself to do the best things for the Village,’ he said.

Many who spoke to the board Monday evening did offer alternatives to placing the shed on the Village Hall property.

Ms. Stieglitz suggested using the Children’s library property, since the covenant with the state only applied to the Village Hall property

Resident Diane Bard suggested that perhaps a trailer or POD, which are not permanent structures, like the dumpster currently occupying the spot on the eastern edge of the property, could be placed there instead of a shed.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Lennon rose again and was the last to speak, this time offering his own alternative.  If the Village had a 16-foot truck that could be used, perhaps that would work, he said.  It could be filled over the course of the month and then driven to Village Green on the morning of the sales, where it would be unloaded by volunteers.   “Something to think about,” he concluded.