The battle over a project that would convert the historic Trinity Episcopal Church into a hotel, events center and restaurant has been a costly one for the city.
Documents released by the city under the Freedom of Information Law, or FOIL, show the city has paid a Syracuse law firm nearly $34,000 since last October to provide additional legal counsel related to Trinity’s use variance application, which was ultimately granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals in May.
The application was the church’s second attempt to get the use variance, which was originally approved in May 2017. Opponents of the multi-million-dollar project then took legal action to kill the use variance needed for the project to go forward. The ZBA subsequently rescinded its approval of the variance, mostly because of technical issues related to the decision.
Trinity ultimately reapplied, but this time, the city contracted with the firm of Hancock and Estabrook of Syracuse to assist in the application. According to invoices, it appears the firm is paid $250 an hour for services.
“It was recommended that we seek outside counsel by our attorneys due to (the firm’s) expertise,” said City Comptroller Adam Blowers, who is serving as part of the three-person management team running the city while awaiting the arrival of a new city manager following Matt Horn’s January departure.