AUBURN | The Case Mansion's immediate future has been decided.

The Auburn Zoning Board of Appeals voted to reject the proposed use variance of the property by Ministro Ministries.

The vote was 5-1, with Board Chair Edward Darrow in favor of the use. It came following a State Environmental Quality Review of the proposed use.

Board members commended Ministro Ministries' proposed mission, but various members were concerned that the variance would affect the property in the future, even after the organization has moved on.

"It already has changed the essential character of the neighborhood," said board member Scott Kilmer. "We have a chance to make it right."

The rejected variance proposed that the mansion would be used for three main uses: housing at-need individuals, preferably past military; educational and vocational classes and special events such as socials and dances.

As the mansion has danced in legal limbo, Ministro Ministries' proposed use was stayed by the law, according to counselor Andrew Fusco, as the organization went through the application for a use variance.

Fusco said the future of the residents currently living at the mansion will be decided with what Ministro Ministries decides to do within 30 days of when the board's decision was filed.

The organization's legal representative, Kevin Mendillo, said Ministro would be considering all options at this stage, including an appeal.

Michael Henty, director of Ministro Ministries, said several other local churches and organizations have done activities like those he proposed. He said there is a need for his proposed action in the community, especially for at-need housing.

"Most of (the concern) was exaggerated because the neighbors did not want to have it in their backyard," Henty said  "This is a very unique structure and people are drawn to it. We've created some very special memories for the community."

In hopes of a "compromise," Mendillo said Ministro withdrew large-scale outdoor special events and gatherings of 100 or more people, such as weddings, from their application in respect to the neighbors' concerns.

Over 20 individuals spoke at the meeting when the floor was open to the public. Those opposed were mostly neighbors, saying they were worried about what they believed to be proposed commercial activities in a residential district.

Attorney Wendy Marsh, who represented the neighbors in past legal proceedings, warned the ZBA of granting "random uses," saying these types of uses could possibly "destroy" a neighborhood.

"If this use variance is granted, there is nothing stopping them from demolishing the Case Mansion," Marsh said.

Others spoke either in support of Ministro's mission or to state they have not seen any concerns at the mansion as it's used now. This number included two current residents: a veteran and a recovering alcoholic.

In August, the city's Historic Resources Review Board unanimously decided to give a negative recommendation to the ZBA, saying the use did not adhere to the city's historic preservation guidelines.

The public hearing was conducted much like the Auburn City Council's public to be heard. Individuals were given three minutes to speak despite it technically being a public hearing.

Also, Fusco said counselors could not speak during the public session, but Marsh was allowed by Darrow to provide a statement during that period.

Staff writer Greg Mason can be reached at (315) 282-2239 or Follow him on Twitter @CitizenMason.

(2) comments


Some very stupid, ignorant, condescending, discriminatory comments made at the meeting by the South St. residents. Dr. Kilmer should have recused himself since he is a neighbor and is directly involved and affected. Instead he lead the charge against Mr. Henty's proposal. I'm sure they are all patting themselves on their self-righteous backs while relaxing in their million dollar homes. I beg to differ with those who state it isn't about the haves vs. the have nots. That's exactly what it turned out to be.


How very sad! Once again, the rich and well to do can sit in their mansions, safe and protected from any exposure to the disadvantaged. The veterans, the children, those who need a hand up - never mind them! As long as the stuffy snobs on South Avenue are safely tucked in their Historic District, the world is good again. Thank you Mike Henty for everything you have done for this community - for opening this beautiful and historic mansion to the community so that ALL can enjoy this treasure! But no more, for the rich mansion holders on South St. have proven that only those with wealth deserve to enjoy things that are beautiful and historic. Our wonderful and deserving veterans who have sacrificed so much for us are now kicked to the curb. The rich cannot be bothered with such people! Shame on this zoning board and shame on these residents! May your mansions in Hell be in your own little Historic District, while those who are less fortunate enjoy their heavenly reward!

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