Recorder News Staff

Tom Hohenforst reached another hurdle in his endeavor to operate a leather brining business at his Forest Avenue property after Amsterdam Planning Commission members needed clarity on zoning regulations.

City Planning Commission members Thursday evening unanimously denied Hohenforst’s application to conduct the manufacturing activity of leather brining at Hohenforst Machinery Co., located at 298 Forest Ave. The commission within its denial referred the matter to the Amsterdam Zoning Board of Appeals to determine whether leather brining falls within the intended definition of light industrial usage.

Planning Commission Chairman Paul Gavry said the zoning board would determine whether leather brining was permitted, prohibited, or allowed through a special use permit within the light industrial zone.

“The issue gets to be, is the process that you’re proposing desirable, and that’s what zoning and use regulations, schedule of use comes down to,” Gavry said to Hohenforst. “The point is the current schedule of use is not specific with regard to specific uses.”

Hohenforst expressed frustration over requiring the zoning board to determine if leather brining is light industrial, along with his proposal being delayed.

“I respectfully think that there is no way in the world anybody can define this as anything outside of light industry,” Hohenforst said. “We didn’t think it could possibly be longer than this meeting tonight. I’m risking to lose several customers as a result of the delay in decision.”

Hohenforst said he drove seven hours to attend the Thursday meeting and the planning commission’s decision was unfair to him.

“Throwing salt on hides,” Hohenforst said, “is so simple that it’s unbelievable that we’re making it this complicated.”

Planning Commission member Frank Alibozek said he understood Hohenforst’s concerns, but he did not want “to be responsible” for allowing leather brining operations to commence and “it turns out bad.”

In February, the planning commission unanimously denied his application due to inadequate information being provided. City Engineer Richard Miller, who serves as a consultant for the planning commission, did not recommend approving the site plan at the February meeting due to “numerous violations” Hohenforst Machinery has received under its current operations.

In March, Hohenforst appeared again before the planning commission and provided additional information about his proposal. Planning Commission members, however, indefinitely tabled Hohenforst’s application until he provided adequate information about his leather brining proposal.

Hohenforst’s new application presented in March had added the acceptance of storage containers to be located at the front of the property in the parking lot. The containers would be parallel to Forest Avenue.

This addition came on the heels of a court order for Hohenforst to remove the containers from the property by Sept. 1 unless the planning board allowed them to remain on site.

Hohenforst had said he pleaded guilty to having the storage containers located on the property, which is not in compliance with original site plan approval. He also said he was required to pay a $850 fine.

Neighboring property owners had spoken out against the leather brining proposal at the February and March meetings. Planning Commission members did not allow further public comment at the Thursday meeting.