John Purcell/Recorder staff
From left, Amsterdam Planning Commission Chairman Paul Gavry and city Building Inspector Jeff Senecal listen to discussions Thursday about a site plan to allow leather brining at a Forest Avenue property.

Recorder News Staff

Neighboring property owners voiced their opposition Thursday to a plan establishing a leather brining business at a Forest Avenue property, which Amsterdam Planning Commission members denied due to inadequate information being provided.

Planning Commission members unanimously denied the application to conduct manufacturing activity of leather brining and rebuilding machinery at Hohenforst Machinery Co., located at 298 Forest Ave.

Planning Commission Chairman Paul Gavry said the site plan was lacking significant information about the proposed operations.

“You need a document that describes to the board what specific processes you are going to perform in the building,” Gavry said.

Tom Hohenforst, owner of Hohenforst Machinery Co., said he wanted to diversify operations at the facility, because there are issues finding skilled laborers in the Amsterdam area.

“To keep that property active, I have a lot of opportunity to purchase hides throughout the United States,” Hohenforst said. “The effort here could be extremely optimistic for the city of Amsterdam by employing 10, 15, 25 people potentially.”

John Purcell/Recorder
Amsterdam residents Raymond Pabis and Julius Biasini talk to city Planning Commission member Frank Alibozek after the board’s meeting Thursday. Pabis and Biasini had expressed opposition to a site plan for leather brining operations at a Forest Avenue property.

City Engineer Richard Miller, who serves as a consultant for the planning commission, said the Engineering Department did not recommend approving the site plan due to “numerous violations” Hohenforst Machinery has received under its current operations.

“Leather brining will require additional permits for discharge of any waste to the sewer system,” Miller said in his letter to the planning commission.

Miller said until the Engineering Department reviews the proposed operation and an Industrial Waste Discharge permit was obtained the site plan should not be approved. Hohenforst contended nothing liquid would enter the city’s municipal wastewater system.

Planning Commission member Peter Califano recommended Hohenforst get in touch with Miller to address any issues before filing a new application for the site.

“There are other hurdles that need to be cleared by the professional departments of the city before I think the board can even consider this application,” Califano said.

Owners of residential property nearby the facility did not recommend approving leather brining operations.

Vinnie Arbige, whose family owns 308-310 Forest Ave., claimed Hohenforst has not been in compliance for several years with the original site plan for the facility and the city is pursuing legal action against him.

“I don’t understand how we can even consider another site plan when with the original plan he’s not in compliance yet,” Arbige said. “Let’s get him in compliance with the original plan first then consider how you would go ahead with another plan.”

Hohenforst did confirm he was scheduled to appear in court at a later date for prior code violations.

Raymond Pabis, of 269 Forest Ave., reiterated Arbige comments and he presented planning commission members with a “scrapbook” of information about the ongoing problems surrounding the existing facility. Pabis also claimed there would be an intense odor involved when animal skins are brined.

“This is really not appropriate for surrounding residential neighborhoods,” Pabis said. “I understand his dilemma in wanting to make multi-use of his facility, but I can’t with a clear conscience agree with this being the best for the city.”

Larry Bull, of 259 Forest Ave., said city officials have not taken action to address issues surrounding Hohenforst’s property.

“The yard is full of junk and it borders the city right-of-way out through back,” Bull said. “It’s just atrocious to live on that street with tractor trailers parked there day and night, never get load, and when they do get loaded they have to block the whole road.”

Hohenforst agreed to clean up the property if the site plan was approved, but Bull did not believe anything would change about it.

“I appreciate everyone’s concerns about the potential hazardous of any particular operation being carried out here in Amsterdam,” Hohenforst said.

Gavry said Hohenforst’s presentation to the board implied if the site plan was approved the previous code violations would be addressed. “I don’t know what the deal is there,” Gavry said.