The Forsyth-Warren Tavern stands at the northeast corner of the Town of Cambria and is owned by Tyler Booth. It's much more than an old building.
It was the place that the first wave of European-American settlers in Western New York gathered and planned for better tomorrows, said Booth. It was the Niagara frontier in the year 1805 and it ushered in the land as its known today.
Booth bought the property at 5182 Ridge Road to save it. The structure had become an eyesore in recent years, and rather than see it crumble and be forgotten, Booth bought it as a residential property, taking out loans to purchase and renovate – paying to the tune of half a million dollars – what was once the center of the community in the hopes of turning it into a living museum, complete with authentic food and drink and historical experts explaining the significance of the building.
However, at a recent Cambria town board meeting, Booth’s request to rezone the property from agriculture/residential to business was denied.
It was not the first opposition to this action.
In November, the Cambria Planning Board voted not to recommend the rezoning to the town board. The reasons given, according to unapproved minutes, were concerns on the ownership of the property.
Planning Board Chair Bill Amacher advised Booth to speak to his attorney after stating the ownership should be turned over to the corporation Booth had created before attempting to rezone. Booth said that if he did that, there was no sure way to know if the corporation will be able to obtain the permits, which he said were very hard to get.
Booth said that the only reason the Planning Board decided to not support his application was because he, rather than the corporation, was the current owner, a move that suggested it was illegal.
“It’s been a constant thing for us, we started off as a family situation we bought the tavern to preserve it. Then went through the process of getting on the National Register and starting a nonprofit board to run it with an educational charter,” Booth said to the US&J. “It’s really been difficult throughout. We don’t have a reason as to why the town has been so against what we’re doing. They say we’re all for it, but at the end of the day, they’re really not, and they’ve definitely shown it.”
“We have unwavered support of the community and the only person who spoke at the town meeting against us was the supervisor, and I think that’s very telling.”
Supervisor Wright Ellis told the US&J that rezoning is not something done lightly. He said, going forward, Booth should continue to use the special permits that have been approved for him.
“What they started out with was like an art museum that would display artwork from the period, and reflection on that period,” Wright said.
Wright did not believe that “spot zoning” the tavern from agriculture and residential to business would benefit the community. He also noted that the intersection in that area had been the site of numerous accidents and is being looked at by the Department of Transportation.
Amacher would not expand on the comments recorded in the unapproved minutes of the Planning Board’s meeting in November.