“They never got a permit to do the demolition,” said resident and former town council member Ann Graham.
She said that Utica Building Commissioner Larry Wallace gave Jacob’s Well permits for construction in February 2012, well after work had been undertaken at the site.
“They had already been working on it for more than 12 months,” she said.
Still, several Utica Town Board members maintain construction at the site is moving forward within the law.
“Our building commissioner approved the permits,” council President Hank Dorman said, adding that state approval for work at the site also was given.
But residents’ concerns caused the Utica Town Board on Jan. 8 to vote 3-2 — with Dorman and councilman Steve Long voting against — in favor of asking the town’s planning and zoning board to issue a stop-work order at the site. That request was the one eventually tabled by the board when it met Jan. 11.
Town Board Member Jimmy Carter — who voted in favor of asking the planning and zoning board to review and vote on whether to issue the stop-work order — agreed that he thinks permitting for renovations at the site was secured and said he was unsure about what grounds the town would be able to issue a stop-work order if that’s the route it decided to take.
David Lewis, the attorney for Jacob’s Well, agreed that the town doesn’t have grounds to issue such an order on the project.
“I cant imagine, once they get a look at the law, they’ll continue with the stop-work order,” he said, adding that he would challenge such an order in court if necessary.
“They don’t have grounds unless we are in violation of the code,” he said.
According to Utica’s 2005-09 building ordinance, the only person that can issue a stop-work order is the town’s building commissioner and an order should only be issued if construction is proceeding in an unsafe manner, construction is occurring in violation of the building ordinance or state law or if construction for which a building permit is required is proceeding without a building permit being in force.