This digital sign at the entrance to A.W. Becker Elementary School is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit between the Town of Bethlehem and the Ravena-Coyemans-Selkirk Central School District. Kaitlin Lembo/Spotlight News
By KAITLIN LEMBO
SELKIRK — More than two years after its installation, the sign that was donated for the front of A.W. Becker Elementary School remains dark.
Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District Board of Education members are still waiting on word from the Appellate Division, Third Department about whether they can finally turn on the sign.
According to RCS Superintendent Brian Bailey, the school district had a date for an oral appeal in front of the court on Thursday, Oct. 12. A written decision is expected in December.
“The decision from this case will be a precedent-setting case for all schools in [New York State],” Bailey said in an email. “A decision against the district would open the door to other municipalities throughout [the state] to attempt to apply local ordinance over districts within their domain.”
The appeal to the court comes after almost two years of litigation in Albany County.
According to Bethlehem Zoning Board of Appeals Attorney Michael Moore, Bethlehem rejected the district’s request for a variance in December 2015. The district then filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court, Albany County for the right to turn the sign on.
In May 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the town’s decision, stating that because the sign is actually on state property and not RCS property, the district must adhere to town zoning codes.
The sign, which was installed during a district-wide makeover in May 2015, was turned off just weeks after its initial debut after the zoning board claimed it violated town ordinances.
According to Bethlehem zoning laws, internally lit signs are against zoning code if they show anything other than date, time or temperature. The sign is also allegedly in a state right of way.
The New York State Department of Transportation was not immediately available for comment.
According to a release from the school district, school officials were told by representatives from the State Offices of Facilities Planning that the school district was not subject to zoning requirements in regards to the signage. The Bethlehem Zoning Board denies this, stating that the district was told that the sign would violate zoning codes before it was put up. The town maintains the district ignored their warnings and put it up anyway.
Section 1201.2 (e) of Title 19 in New York State Law states, “The State Education Department shall be accountable for administration and enforcement of the Uniform Code with respect to buildings, premises and equipment in the custody of, or activities related thereto undertaken by school districts and boards of cooperative educational services.”
Moore said the district is allowed to keep the sign erect, but turned off, until litigation is complete due to a law that grants them a “statutory stay.”
This message is only visible to site admins
Problem displaying Facebook posts. Backup cache in use.