Town puts wrench in local small business improvement project, owners out thousands of dollars

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SOUTHPORT, N.Y. (WETM) – UPDATE: Kamala Keeley, the President & Chief Executive Officer of the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce spoke to 18 News Friday about the zoning issues Chamberlain Acres Garden Center and Florist are dealing with in the Town of Southport.

SOUTHPORT, N.Y. (WETM) — The owners of Chamberlain Acres Garden Center and Florist have canceled their plan to build an additional building on their property after Town of Southport officials allegedly put up multiple roadblocks.

It has been 15 years since Chamberlain Acres first opened its doors in Southport. The small business nestled on 3.5 acres of land right off of Broadway.

Back in Feb. 2020, owners Charlie Todd and Glenn Miller decided it was time to invest in their business and make some much need infrastructural improvements.

“We actually wanted to start a project, to add a 60/80 building to the back of the 100-foot-green-house,” said Todd. “The whole idea was to bring in a natural gas line, water lines, and sewer lines so we could have two bathrooms.”

The garden center hosts a year-round Farmer’s Market on Sunday afternoons. During the fall and winter months, the market moves inside the center’s only greenhouse.

Todd wanted to give the farmer’s market a dedicated space so he will have more room to grow plants for his business. So he went to the town.

“When I started the project I went to the town first,” said Todd. “I asked questions. I asked whether I could add a building onto my property which which I knew that I could. I was finding out the parameters of what I had to do. At the time that I spoke to the code officer in the town of Southport, he informed me that I was already approved for the farmer’s market and there really wasn’t any major set back or restrictions at that time.”

Todd proceeded to go to the bank and take out a mortgage on his property to finance the project. He went back to the town to fill out the paperwork, but things went astray.

“Suddenly everything changed,” said Todd. “Suddenly I was no longer zoned for the farmer’s market that I had been told I was approved to do four years ago. At the same time they also told me I now had to become an event center.”

Todd said over the years they have hosted some private events, like a wedding, but he is not an event center.

“I was told that I would never get a building permit, unless I became an event center,” said Todd. “So they forced me to become this event center which they didn’t have a code for. They proceeded to take eight months to write a code, specifically for this event center. During those eight months, I was losing 1000’s of dollars a month while they wrote this code.”

Todd said the town finally wrote the code, but was in shock after reading it.

“Suddenly I have all these restrictions, including my customers weren’t allowed to park on public parking,” said Todd. “There is just no way I could become this event center.”

This left Todd without a new building and $30,000 in the hole.

18 News reached out to town officials and the town supervisor had no comment.

We also stopped by a few of the town board members homes, but they were not there.

We are continuing to investigate this story and plan to follow up so stay with 18 News for the latest.

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