Both Sides Of The Fence: Bemus Point Board Hears From Condo VP

BEMUS POINT-Activities and events at Bemus Point are bringing scores of people looking to enjoy their time at the lake.

Some of those people, however, are not respecting private property belonging to Bemus Point Condominiums. Greg Jones, vice president of the Bemus Bay Condominium Association, was joined by residents of the condos at the Bemus Point Village Hall for a public hearing on a request for an area and special use variance. Gifford Lawrence, co-chair of the zoning board, and zoning board members listened to those in support of a fence and those who objected to it.

The Bemus Bay Condominiums brought the request to the zoning board last February, but it was tabled since the specifics behind the construction of the fence were in question. According to Lawrence, the application did not indicate specifically where the fence would be located. This year’s application, according to Lawrence, was comprehensive based on where the fence will be put and why it’s needed.

“There’s a fair amount of language in the zoning regulations on fences in the village of Bemus Point,” Lawrence said. “There’s a section just about fences.”

According to zoning regulations, any fence in the village cannot exceed a height of 4 feet. It can, however, be lower. The fence needs to be placed off the neighbors’ property line, but if there’s a mutual agreement among both parties, it can be placed closer. The “good side” of the fence has to be facing the neighbors’ side and must be maintained. There are two other sections in the regulations that go beyond that for special situations, including when a fence is placed on lakefront property.

If the location neighbors the lake, a special use permit is needed to place a fence anywhere within 50 feet of the high water line. Also, if the building neighbors the road it must be 10 feet from the pavement line, for maintenance and snow plowing and is subject to an area variance.

Jones spoke to those in attendance about the fence and their intentions to keep people coming down to Bemus Point from trespassing and littering the area. The association’s attorney, Kimberly Thrun of Goodell & Rankin, told the board that the association does not need an area variance. The association is only willing to seek a special use permit for the portion of the fence they’re looking to construct, which will be alongside the Lakeside Drive property that will be less than 50 feet from Chautauqua Lake.

“I believe under the current law, the proposal is consistent with ordinances and zoning plans,” Thrun said. “We’ve spoken with most of the neighboring property owners and they expressed nothing but approval for the proposal. Based on those facts, including the relatively small incursion into the 50-foot lakefront zone, it’s not going to impact any other properties, discourage development or impair value.”

A grey area presented by Lawrence with regard to the area variance was relativity to the road. Based on his understanding, the fence cannot be located within 10 feet of the road. The definition of the roadway and where it begins remained to be unclear. Lawrence said that more clarification would be needed.

“We’re going to respect that 10 foot distance throughout,” Jones said. “If you look where the new walkway that Sharpen the Point put in, that would not be considered the roadway anymore. The intention of Sharpen the Point is to continue that kind of motif further up.”

According to surveys that Thrun and the association conducted, the fence would be 46 1/2 feet from the lake.

Throughout the duration of the hearing, several residents voiced their opinions on both sides of the argument surrounding a potential fence. Jones noted that trespassing signs and ropes were installed to keep trespassers out, but it didn’t work. Being that he exercised other options, he believes a fence is necessary for residents to enjoy the property without any issue or disturbance. Residents on the other side of the argument thought a fence would hinder the public appearance it has. Other people believed a compromise between both sides should be an explorable option.

Lawrence ended the hearing by explaining that a variance can be granted if nothing else works to satisfy all sides. The board has 62 days to make a decision, but Lawrence hopes the decision comes before that. The board will meet during the third week in September.