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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 24, 2008
By Saranac Hale Spencer
GUILDERLAND Mark Grimm, a Republican councilman, never applied for a special-use permit to run his media consulting business from his Remmington Road home, a move that Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion says will land him in front of the state attorney general’s office.
Because Grimm sits on the town board, which sets the salaries of town employees, and “because of his vindictive nature,” Runion said, he will likely refer the matter to the attorney general’s office rather than handling it internally.
“Considering the fact that Mr. Grimm is a member of the Guilderland Town Board please advise what our next course of action should be,” concluded a July 22 memo sent to Runion from the town’s zoning enforcement officer, Rodger Stone.
On July 11, Stone got an anonymous message on his voice mail, alerting him to Grimm’s home business, the memo says. “Most of our investigations are complaint driven,” Stone said yesterday, adding of the volume of phone calls, “ I get them every week.”
When he receives a complaint, Stone drives by the address to look for evidence of a business, looks in the phone book for listings, and checks the newspapers, he said. In this case, Stone saw no evidence of a business when he went to Grimm’s home on July 21, but found several references to the business, Mark Grimm Communications, including the business’s website, which listed the “world headquarters” at 7 Remmington Rd.
“He advertises it as a world headquarters… and a world headquarters would not be allowed” in a residential area, said Runion, who is a lawyer. It would have to go in an industrial zone because it is a more intense use than a customary home occupation, which is what most special-use permits are for in residential areas. Guilderland’s zoning code states, “Regional or district offices of various types of companies, such as insurance companies” may apply for a special-use permit to be established in a Light Industrial Zone, and, by proxy, in an Industrial Zone.
“I think Mr. Runion needs to get a sense of humor,” said Republican Councilman Warren Redlich. “It’s really the galactic headquarters, let’s be clear,” he said. Redlich, also a lawyer, said that the type of work Grimm does from home doesn’t require a special-use permit for customary home occupation, let alone industrial zoning.
“Is there any possible question that I’m an industrial enterprise?” Grimm asked in response through The Enterprise. He has no other offices, he said of the world headquarters title, “I just think big.” The website has had “international hits,” Grimm said, though none of his customers are international. The recent work that he has been doing to publicize the controversy regarding the forced transfer of two teachers at the Guilderland High School has been “pro bono,” Grimm said.
“Most people don’t know that a special-use permit is needed,” Stone said of the requirement for having a customary home occupation, which is allowed in residential districts. Redlich, though, says that Grimm doesn’t need one because part of the criteria for the business is that it “is carried on wholly within the enclosed walls of the dwelling unit exclusive of accessory structures and does not use more than 25 percent of the floor area.” Most of Grimm’s work takes place outside of the house, since he travels to consult with clients or deliver speeches, Redlich said, and he rarely has customers to the house. The office, he added, is no more than five percent of the house.
“This sounds like an underhanded attempt to hurt my business.” said Grimm, who has no employees and generates very little traffic, he said. “All they care about is attacking people that disagree with them,” he said of the Runion administration.
“It is something that has to be outsourced,” Runion said of why he might approach the attorney general’s office. “It can’t be handled internally because of potential conflicts.”