HORICON -- The town’s longtime zoning officer was sacked last week following accusations he altered a Town Board-approved zoning plan before submitting it to the Adirondack Park Agency.
The firing came after Town Board members learned that proposed changes to Horicon’s APA-approved zoning ordinance were altered, allegedly by Gary McMeekin, before being submitted for APA review, officials said.
“When the zoning administrator was confronted he said that the Park Agency suggested the additions,” said Town Board member Bob Olson.
But APA officials denied any involvement, officials said.
“It became apparent that they (APA) would not or did not make the changes,” Olson said.
Other local officials said the issue is simply a difference of opinion about a zoning administrator’s authority.
“I think it’s more of a misunderstanding than anything,” said Supervisor Ralph Bentley.
Olson challenged Bentley for the supervisor’s seat in 2011.
The Town Board had approved a package of zoning revisions that included allowing the construction of small lakeside “inns” around Brant Lake. But the proposal submitted to the agency essentially banned the inns, Olson said.
The Town Board wasn’t aware of the changes until after they had been made, Olson said.
The board voted unanimously to dismiss McMeekin, officials said.
The inn proposal was made in response to calls from residents for the creation of more business opportunities in the small Warren County community.
APA spokesman Keith McKeever labeled the situation a “local issue” and declined further comment.
McMeekin declined comment on Thursday.
Bentley, who is a close political ally of McMeekin’s, didn’t blame him. Bentley said Town Board members were upset with McMeekin’s sometimes close relationship with the APA.
“They didn’t think the APA should be getting everything,” Bentley said.
The board temporarily appointed McMeekin’s deputy, Jim Steen, to the vacant post. Steen is expected to be given the full-time job in the near future, officials said.
Political tensions in Horicon have been rising over the last month, and were boosted when Bentley called the police on Highway Superintendent Paul Smith.
Bentley and Smith have been at political odds for years.
Bentley said Smith had used town resources to build a private road without justification.
Those accusations were rejected by Warren County Sheriff’s investigators, who found Smith had only built culverts to control flooding, an appropriate use of town resources, according to Investigator Steve Stockdale.