New owner of Davis Motel denied use variance, motel will not re-open
UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Davis Motel in Utica will remain closed after the owner is denied a use variance. The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied the new owner of the Davis Motel a use variance which would have allowed the company to run the property on Herkimer Road as both 6 motel rooms and 16 efficiency apartments. The ZBA ended in a split decision, voting 2-2 on the matter. A tie means the request for the use variance was denied. The decision came after a very vocal public comment period earlier Tuesday evening. "Emotions will get out of control when you've got a hot button issue like this, when you have sex offenders, especially when there's murder," said North Utica Resident Howard Bushinger. Bushinger is referring to the brutal death of the former owner of the Davis Motel. She was killed there by convicted rapist Robert Blainey last year. For the past couple of months people living in the area have been concerned the new owners of the property, Oneida Housing Inc., may accept vouchers from Oneida County in exchange for temporarily housing homeless sex offenders there. Because it is only temporary housing, the sex offenders would not need to register their address and people living in the area would not know who was staying nearby. The owner has since released a statement saying he would not accept those vouchers from the county. Some members of Utica's Common Council put together a resolution that they wanted the ZBA to add as a stipulation to the use variance before they approved it. The resolution included in writing that the new owner would not accept vouchers for housing homeless sex offenders at that property. The legal council of the ZBA advised the board not to add the resolution to the use variance, saying it was outside the board's authority. Councilman Zecca disagrees though, he said he remembers instances in the past where such stipulations have been made. "Everybody was in agreement," said Utica Common Councilor James Zecca. "The only group that was not in agreement of it was the legal council for the ZBA. The owner agreed to it, the residents were happy with it. It's unfortunate that now his application is completely denied because of this." One at a time, many North Utica residents spoke before the ZBA inside Utica's City Hall, each given two minutes to speak their mind. Herkimer Road resident Raymond Hunt explained to the board members that his daughter was not comfortable with her children being at his home because of the situation with the Davis Motel property. Howard Bushinger, of Cosby Manor Road, read from a statement he prepared for the board. Bushinger says this area is supposed to be the "Gateway to the Adirondacks" and allowing the motels in North Utica to house sex offenders is a bad choice. He was pleased with how the meeting ended. "We in North Utica are against having sex offenders being in the motels and there has been a lot of talk about it for months and I think we're moving in the right direction," said Bushinger. "There will be more on this I'm sure by Oneida Housing but at this point the residents of North Utica should be happy with the resolution, what was resolved tonight." The owner of the property, Dominick Crocilla, did not attend the meeting. Councilman Zecca was encouraged by the large public turnout at the meeting and hope more people get involved on a regular basis. "I think they showed tonight that the folks from North Utica feel strongly about their neighborhood and that's a good thing. And i want to see that in all of the City of Utica."