HOUNSFIELD — The city has ordered a local landlord to stop using his Highway 3 building as a sports venue until he receives proper site plan approval.
In December 2019, owner Ricky Martin obtained site plan approval to use the building at 17612 Route 3 to store equipment and materials for his construction company.
But a few months later, he sold the company and then undertook the renovation of the building.
Two weeks ago, Mr Martin told the Watertown Daily Times he was using the building for a youth wrestling club, Grain House Grapplers, which he coaches.
Earlier this week Hounsfield Town Planning Council Chair Yvonne M. Podvin issued a cease and desist order ordering him to stop using the building until he receives further site plan approval.
Mr Martin stormed out of Tuesday night’s planning board meeting after being told he could not use the building until new site plans were approved.
He insisted he is using the building for the same purpose granted in 2019.
“I don’t know how he could say it’s the same use,” Ms Podvin said.
The original plans for the site did not include approval for public use, just for storage.
The city has been grappling with the situation since it came to light on a Saturday afternoon in early January when dozens of vehicles were parked on both sides of Route 3.
City officials later learned that a wrestling tournament was held that day.
“It was just out of control,” Planning Board member Les Brooks said, adding that he feared a serious accident could happen and the city could be sued. “I don’t want the city to be responsible there.”
Ms Podvin said she did not go inside to see how the building was being used.
Mr Martin admitted the building was full of children wrestling that day and has been used for training ever since.
The wrestling club is a good activity for children, he said, noting that his six children were involved.
He completed all of the building’s renovations himself, and the improvements put the property back on the tax rolls.
He tried to buy property on both sides of the land he owns, but the owners were not interested in selling, Mr Martin said.
He said he thought the problem with the city could be solved.
On Wednesday, Mr Martin did not return phone calls asking for more information about the club and what happened at Tuesday night’s planning board meeting.
The building’s 4,700-square-foot size sits on a 1.8-acre site, leaving room for a small gravel parking lot on one side of the building, Ms. Podvin said.
The property is zoned agricultural-residential, but determining its use has also been an issue. Planners aren’t sure if a sports venue can be used on the property and aren’t sure what other description would fit.
It’s also along the arterial corridor and a scenic highway, so zoning rules are stricter, Ms. Podvin said.
She hopes something can be resolved.
“We don’t want to turn down a business,” she said.
She asked the Planning Council to conduct research and meet in a few weeks to discuss the matter further.
For years the building sat empty before Mr. Martin bought it. Before that, it housed Akins Archery and then an armory.