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Trinity Episcopal Church in Geneva picks up legal win

Trinity Episcopal Church and developer Mark McGroarty have cleared a legal hurdle that entwined two city agencies in their effort to redevelop the church into an inn, restaurant and events center.

With the decision, lawyers will now move onto the main legal issue: A request by South Main Street neighbors to nullify a city Zoning Board of Appeals decision granting Trinity a use variance that allows them to redevelop the historic South Main Street church.

Ontario County Court Judge Fred Reed ruled in February that the city Zoning Board of Appeals ZBA had jurisdiction to hear an appeal related to a Historic Districts and Structures Commission ruling rejecting the Trinity redevelopment project, and that the ZBA’s decision to overturn the HDSC “was made appropriately.”

In May, the commission ruled against the project by refusing to issue a certificate of appropriateness.

“Among our concerns are that the exterior appearance of the historic church and its 1810 rectory be preserved and that the project be compatible with the residential character of the surrounding area and the church property itself,” wrote S. Ford Weiskittel, chairman of the commission. “The proposed change would have a permanent significant effect on the character of the South Main Street Historic District.”

With that decision, Trinity’s only other option to move forward with the project was to appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which had approved a use variance for the project.

The ZBA, which is being represented by Wendy Marsh of Geneva, a partner in the Syracuse law firm Hancock Estabrook, did just that in September, overruling the commission’s decision.

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