Lost Boyz pulls city project

JOHNSTOWN – The owner of a Fonda-based auto sales business says he’s more-than frustrated with city bureaucracy, so he decided to pull his proposed expansion project out of Johnstown.

“Frustrated isn’t the word,” Lost Boyz owner Rob Rose III said Friday.

City officials, meanwhile, are crying foul, saying Rose gave a poor presentation of his project to the city and is only frustrated because he learned he wasn’t meeting certain City Code requirements.

“I guess he wanted the code not to apply to him,” city Planning Board Chairman Peter K. Smith said Friday.

Smith said the city planning board and city officials always try to be “user and business friendly” to applicants, as long as they comply with city and state codes.

Lost Boyz, whose central location for sales and service is 3555 Route 5 in Fonda, was in the midst of opening a new operation at the former Spray Nine property at 251 N. Comrie Ave. The operation had several cars on the lot and was using the Spray Nine property, which it leased for the past several weeks in anticipation of final approvals from the city.

The business had obtained a temporary, 90-day certificate of occupancy through the fire department pending final approval by the city Planning Board.

“We usually don’t do so,” city Fire Chief Bruce Heberer said Friday of issuing the temporary certificate.

But somewhere along the line, Rose said he became soured by city officials. He shut down the operation and pulled out before final possible approval could be granted by the planning board.

“I called them and told them we were staying in Fonda,” Rose said. “We’re not out of business. I have 160 cars on my [Fonda] lot.”

Lost Boyz had submitted an application to the city Planning Board for its new business at the Spray Nine site. A public hearing on the project, with subsequent potential approval, was slated for 4 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

But City Clerk Cathy VanAlstyne notified city officials and the media Wednesday that the board meeting was canceled.

“Lost Boyz has closed their operation on North Comrie Avenue,” the brief email noted

Heberer said of Rose’s action: “I bent over backwards for this guy. He probably would have gotten an OK.”

Lost Boyz’s original new business application for its expansion to Johnstown was submitted to VanAlstyne’s office. As part of its application, Lost Boyz indicated it was prepared to use the building’s existing sign, and the “revamping” of existing building lighting would be completed soon. A trash bin was due to be installed and “a new service department opened,” the documents said. The application added Lost Boyz will not provide “any interference to others” who use the building, and tractor-trailers will be able to deliver to the north end of the building.

But Rose said city officials were confused, implying his company planned to do both sales and service when in fact all he wanted in Johnstown was a site to sell vehicles.

“When we were first ready to move in, we went through DMV approval,” he said.

Rose said city officials told him his application had problems because the Spray Nine building was still zoned “as a factory.” He was leasing the building from the current owner, Caldar Industries, and brought along Spray Nine official Michael Pozefsky to speak before planners.

The Spray Nine building had been vacant for some time. ITW Permatex, a Hartford, Conn.-based chemical technology company, purchased Spray Nine in February 2008 and transferred the operation in 2010 to Solon, Ohio.

Rose said he met with the city officials, but was told the project had to go through Fulton County Planning Board approval, which frustrated him.

That requirement is part of state General Municipal Law.

Rose said he wanted a bigger sign than city officials appeared willing to allow on Route 30A. Rose said the city also limited him to selling only 85 vehicles at the lot, which he said is “easily” big enough for 120 vehicles.

Heberer said the vehicles rule relates to requirements of the temporary certificate of occupancy.

Smith said the planning board was also concerned about vehicles being parked on the right-of-way near Route 30A.

Rose said he was told by the fire department that the building is contaminated and Lost Boyz would not “be able to do what you want.”

Smith said Rose only presented poor plans for his project, never exactly spelling out what he wanted to do with the Spray Nine building. He said he also never came into City Hall to get an extension on his temporary certificate of occupancy.

“He said he wanted maybe a body shop, and repairs and service later, but it was never part of the application,” Smith said.

Smith said his board tried to tell Rose that body shops weren’t allowed in the arterial-commercial zone that the Spray Nine building was in.

Rose said he felt totally shunned by the city, so he decided to pull out of the project. Rose said city officials made him feel like he was from out of the area, when in fact he has run a successful business in Fonda and has been a local resident for many years.

The Spray Nine lot appeared to be empty this week.

“I’m actually not totally done,” Rose said Friday. “We’ll be cleaning out the place [today] and [then] we’re done.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.