Cobtree Blog

Discrimination against foreign investors by William N McAdoo CEO for the Town of Geneva, NY 14456

One rule for local Americans with minimal investment, paying minimal taxes and with  no employees. Another rule for Foreign investors that have invested over $3,000,000 in the local economy with 6 employees and paying extensive taxes!

First letter of complaint :

Dear Bill,

The Lacey Magruder winery (Farm winery) was granted use of the premises as a farm winery for the sale of wine and other related farm produce per agricultural and markets regulations and town code. Minutes of said planning board meeting clearly defined what the property could be used for and what restrictions were placed on such use of the premises at such time.  As far as I am aware, no subsequent applications have been made to the planning board for a site plan review or variances sought from the ZBA or any special use permit sought for any other use than what was deemed as a glorified road stand!

The owners are now advertising live music on Saturday 4th May at 8pm and is charging $15 per ticket. This information can be located on their web site at

We object that we too could be subjected to loud and amplified music much the same as the owners have complained that any weddings held at Cobtree would be.  These owners cannot have it both ways. If they wish to hold such an event, they must also be subjected to the same rules and regulations that Cobtree is being put through right now!

This public mass gathering is in clear contravention and breach of their planning consents and I wish to make an official complaint requiring you to issue said owners of the winery a cease and desist notice to prevent them holding any such events unless they too first apply for and be granted a special use permit to hold such events at a farm winery (as opposed to a commercial winery)  They are not a commercial winery and do not have any permits or consents to hold such functions.

On the subject of permits. Please can you advise to me in writing by which consent or authority do the said winery owners have to erect an A frame trestle sign in the garden on the junction of West Lake road and Armstrong Road.  The town code gives no such authority for them to do so and we require that you require that they too remove this sign which is an illegal sign until such time as they have applied for and been granted a variance by the ZBA

Many thanks indeed.

Robert Lawty

A copy of this email will be sent by registered mail.



                                  OFFICE OF CODE ENFORCEMENT

                                            3750 County Road 6

                                        GENEVA, NEW YORK 14456

May 2, 2013

Robert Lawty

446 Armstrong Road

Geneva, New York 14456

Re:  Official Complaint: C013-28

Re: May 4th Event at Lacey Magruder


Dear Mr. Lawty:

I have received your complaint and followed up with a site visit to Lacey Magruder Winery on Monday, April 29th. I also reviewed the proposed indoor live guitar performance with Smith Opera House personal that is sponsoring the performer.

Since the event will be conducted indoors, an operating permit is not necessary. You statement that “ this public mass gathering is in clear contravention and breach of their planning consents” is incorrect. The occupancy cannot exceed the posted load and is an accessory use under Town Code.

I have further reviewed with the owners of Lacey Magruder and Kelly Bradley, Director of the Smith Opera House Town codes that must be complied with.

Regarding the A frame trestle sign on the intersection of Armstrong Road and St Rt 14, NYS Dept of Transportation is handling this matter.

If you have any questions, I can be reached at Town Hall or by phone at 789-3922.

William N. McAdoo

Code Enforcement Officer

Town of Geneva

On May 3, 2013, at 3:24 PM, “Bill McAdoo” <> wrote:

> Mr. Lawty

> I have referred this matter to our attorney James Wolford.

> Bill McAdoo

My Response:

Way to go Bill. More tax payers money spent on town legal fees for your incompetence!

Like I told you the other day when you were here. Just do the job you are paid to do and nothing else. Stop getting involved in politics and neighborly disputes and just adhere to the letter of the town code.

You cannot go wrong if you follow these two basic principles alone


My latest email to the following town board members and town supervisor:

Melissa Nault (Chair planning board) Jim Smith  (Chair Zoning Board of appeals)  Mary Luckern Town supervisor

The town planning board has made it quite crystal clear what the Lacey Magruder winery can be used for and this type of use was explicitly denied by the board per the minutes of said meeting. Bill McAdoo has no authority to overrule the town planning board, override their processes or determinations. Only the ZBA has that authority.

Moreover, this winery owner complained and bitched about guests of Cobtree holding their own tented weddings at Cobtree even though such use was considered by Bill McAdoo for 6 years to be an ancillary use under the town code. This did not stop him issuing a cease and desist order against us after Pat Riley made allegations at the town board meeting in December 2012.

Never the less, we complied with this order even though we disagreed with such determination. We did not go through with the appeal because we thought that it would be a waste of time believing that what Bill McAdoo says or wants, he will get none the less!

Now this winery owner wants to hold functions and Bill McAdoo allows him to do so without any oversight by the planning board? Here we have a determination by an out of control code enforcement officer who is making up the rules as he goes along, tells you one thing whilst doing another, and applying one rule for one resident and another rule for others. We have been forced to apply for an operations permit for the three weddings that are being held at Cobtree in a tent. Here McAdoo is saying that the very same operations permit is not applicable for a building.  Absolute hog wash. The operations permit is specifically for a building and does not in fact apply to a tent at all!

This situation has to stop. Bill McAdoo needs to be removed from his position and the town needs to find somebody who is professional, honest and has integrity.  McAdoo cannot be trusted and is wholly disrespected by the residents of this town. Ourselves included and, we have a $3,000, 000 investment in this town which quite frankly, we are now considering to withdraw.

What has been going on has already become very ugly and expensive for all concerned. Something has to be done to get the train back on its tracks before somebody gets hurt. I do not mean hurt in a physical sense, I mean hurt commercially, economically and politically by what is happening right now with what is clearly a dysfunctional town hall and planning boards.

Enough is enough

I appeal to your sense of civic duty, your oath of office  and your respective duties and responsibilities to all the residents, businesses and tax payers of the town of Geneva. To do the right thing and do something to stop this abuse of power and moral destruction of the town in which we also love and work in.

Robert Lawty

email to Planning board chair and Zoning board of appeals chair with copy to town supervisor Mary Luckern and Jim Huntertmark on Mon 4/29/2013 8:11 PM

Dear Melissa and Jim,

I am in receipt of a copy of the Lacy Magruder Business plan today and am quite frankly appalled that the planning board and ZBA would entertain such proposals given the objections from this winery owner to our own planned development and tourism development proposals here at Cobtree which,  have been so far muted by your respective boards and the subject of much anti Cobtree rhetoric by the owners of the Lacy Magruder winery who have their own personal axe to grind with Jane and I.

Here is some background information that may assist you.

In 2006 having contacted Bill McAdoo about the possibility of turning the old barns and workshop that we owned at 462 Armstrong Road, into a winery. Bill informed me that unless the then overlay district was extended and any part of our property was within 1000 ft. from the center of west lake road, then it would not be possible because it would be considered a commercial use of the property in an agricultural district. He went on to inform us that the ZBA would not likely grant to us a variance. Not knowing then what to do with a 200 year old barn, almost falling down, and other than to have it burned down, we decided to sub divide our property creating a five acre plot to sell.

When the Hundertmarks later purchased the property from Cobtree, Ruth and Jim Hundertmark told us that it was being purchased for their own retirement residence and that the property was going to be used just for themselves as a place to retire to.  Two years later we were amazed that they made an application to the town planning board to be able to use the property as a farm winery. However, at that point in time we were still very friendly with the Hundertmarks and good neighbors. We supported their application even going so far as to advise them on some planning issues having decided to research the matter more carefully for them. Remember this too though. Had we NOT sub divided our property or had we been given the correct advice from Bill McAdoo and went on to establish a winery ourselves, the Hundertmarks would never have become owners of the property either!

At the town planning meeting in question, Jim Hundertmark was carefully grilled by the board as to his intentions regarding the use of this “farm winery” and it was made abundantly clear by the board members that whilst he did not require the boards consent to establish a farm winery in itself, being akin to a glorified road stand, he could not engage in any other kind of commercial use of the property or the barn and was prohibited from holding functions, live music, sale of none agricultural products etc.

In fact, from the very day that the winery was opened, the winery has sold a wide array of none agricultural or wine related products in full breach of what the planning board set out to be allowed as a farm winery. It must be clearly noted that a farm winery is not a commercial winery like those established along the lake road and a farm winery is subject to very strict conditions of use.

At the same planning board meeting (which I believe you may have access to audio tapes of said meeting) Hundertmark made it understood that he was looking to sell his wines to a select group of potential customers, those who wanted quality wine and not just an excuse to get drunk. He said that he would be only accepting small groups of 6-8 people, no limos or buses. Fast forward, he has allowed limos and buses at his winery.

What is making Jane and I so very angry is that the owner of this owner of the Lacey Magruder winery has recently and so aggressively and vociferously made such a song and dance about Cobtree holding the few outdoor weddings we used to do here each year because of perceived increased traffic, parking, noise and so on,   here we have him arranging “Musical Events” at his winery in much the same vein and with the exact same problems that will inevitably occur.

Moreover, as far as we are aware, the town code does not allow him to hold such functions, serve food, have parties and so on without first obtaining site plan review, variances or special use permit from the Zoning board of appeal. At the very least he would be required to have issued  an operating permit in the same way that Cobtree is being made to do so. And what about a so called OPERATING PERMIT. Does he also not require one for such events or gatherings if we here at Cobtree are being subjected to applying for the same?

Heck, there are serious fire and safety consideration for holding an event in a 200 year old wooden barn, to say the least. The septic system that was installed for the two small rest rooms was not and is not designed for anything other than light use. Moreover, their well water only supplies 5 gallons per minute and they do not have any water tanks either! At the very least a qualified engineer or the MRB group would have to certify to the town that the system installed is capable of being used for an increased number of people and that their well water is tested to be potable. Also, if the use of this building is being used for such use with alcohol involved, the property may be subjected to NY State health department oversight or other agencies as well.

Rest assured once both beer and wine is able to be sold this establishment will not just be a quiet, peaceful winery but become much, much more.

Whether or not Jim Hundertmark is just going ahead without such permissions or consents for this weekends advertised event, or whether or not the code enforcement officer Bill McAdoo has arbitrarily given them such permission, is not known to me however, how can Bill McAdoo apply one set of rules and conditions to Cobtree and allow the Lacey Magruder winery to exceed the planning restrictions imposed against them at the town planning board 3-4 years ago (and Jane and I were at that meeting and know exactly what was said and granted to them) Does he have authority over your board or be able to modify the decisions that your boards have made? Is Bill McAdoo perhaps the de facto MAYOR of Geneva and we are not aware of this official capacity?

The last paragraph of this so called business plan makes claim that events would NOT take place after 5pm when the property would revert to the owners private residence. This is absolute hog wash. On the Lacey Magruder winery web site they are already selling tickets at $15 per person for a function this coming Saturday May 4th starting at 8pm You can be quite certain that the Hundertmarks will be holding events late into the evening if their plans are supported and unlike our plans that called for a maximum of 20 functions a year (Proffered only as a negotiating point, as we expected only to be granted maybe half of this amount) The Hundertmarks would be arranging functions and events every weekend from spring to late fall if left unchecked!

The above is a screen shot of  the advertisement they are displaying on their web site today and they do not YET have the requisite permissions from either the planning board and or ZBA to hold such an event, now or in the future! Are they thumbing their noses up at your boards already?  Clearly what they tell the board and what they plan on doing are two separate things and they cannot be trusted to keep to the consents granted.

We consider rightly or wrongly that what Cobtree has been put through has been an absolute nightmare and yet here we have the very complainant about our weddings and functions at Cobtree either just going ahead without permissions to do what they want to do or otherwise, they have obtained permissions from McAdoo and if so, completely arbitrary and capricious based on the what the town code allows and moreover, complete double standards being applied to what is now happening with the Lacey Magruder winery!

We just do not get it.  What is needed here is an investigation and these issues squarely before the general public.  Jim Hundertmark claims that he gets on with his neighbors.  We are his neighbors on three sides of his property together with and owned by our son Kenneth along Armstrong Road. This is wholly untrue. He is a very unfriendly, unkind and abusive neighbor. He set out to erect a 12 foot high fence on top of the hill without taking the courtesy to tell us about his intentions.  He also bitterly complained about Cobtree expanding its development even though we have only ever complied with the planning consents we ourselves were granted by the planning board and ZBA back in 2003/2004

Moreover, we have always kept the Hundertmarks informed of all aspects of our own business and development plans both existing and future

Hundertmark last weekend erected a large sign in his front garden accusing Cobtree of planting trees to obscure their view of the lake. Once again, this was wholly untrue.

Kenneth (the owner of the land in front of their in front of the Hundertmarks farmhouse arranged to plant the trees because he was so outraged by what the Hundertmarks had done to Jane and I and Cobtree)

He had the right do so and has planted over 400 seedlings and trees as the start of a small nursery. Yes, in doing so these trees will grow and block out the lake view from their house and the winery which serves as poetic justice for what they have done to us!  However, this was his decision and Jane and I could not persuade him otherwise. He had the absolute right do so under the town code rules as also confirmed by Bill McAdoo. Hundertmark can bitch as much as he likes about this but the town code is quite clear about this.


Anyone has the right to do what they wish to do as long as they follow the rules and regulations which MUST be seen to apply and MUST apply to every resident and property owner in the town of Geneva.

What is very important that each and every resident and applicant must be treated in the exact same way to avoid preferential treatment or discrimination whether or not they are American citizens or not.

Thank you

Robert Lawty

Cobtree Corporation

446 Armstrong Road


New York 14456

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