Cutting red tape: Rapid testing business upset after being asked to close up shop

Pittsford

PITTSFORD, N.Y (WROC) — Can red tape be cut in a pandemic, for businesses that are helping stop the spread? One private company, SameDay testing has learned: they can’t cut corners. The location in Pittsford was asked to shut down by a code enforcement officer after breaking zoning regulations.

Laura Mattioli is site manager for the new location that recently opened in Perinton. She and her coworkers were upset to hear that their business had to shut down and move, even in a global pandemic.

“They shut us down on the basis that we are a medical facility,” she said. But she, and most of her colleagues are not medical professionals, and legally a “medical business”. There are qualified medical professionals — including Registered Nurses and Certified Medical Assistants — collecting our sites’ samples. The samples are then processed at a partner lab offsite.

So why does it matter that they are deemed a medical facility?

“That decision is made by the town code enforcement officer, and I trust their judgement,” said Pittsford Mayor Robert Corby. He says the rule is that medical facilities can’t operate facing a main drag. He says this is likely the case for any municipality. Those kinds of businesses aren’t going to draw a lot of foot traffic, like hair salons, coffee shops or retail stores would. The more foot traffic a building can attract, the more they support surrounding businesses.

“You don’t allow attorneys offices of medical offices because it creates a dead spot on your main street,” he said. “First floor buildings facing the street need to be retail – there’s a domino effect, the more retail businesses you have they support each other.” It wasn’t just foot traffic that was the problem.

The code enforcement officer was also concerned about neighbors issuing complaints, including one salon owner in the plaza who was concerned about COVID patients near her business. These complaints ended up bringing the zoning problem to light.

As a response to the code enforcement officer’s decision, the site said this:

“Regarding foot traffic to the site, we had initially been asked to move the site because of concerns from a neighboring business about having a COVID-19 testing center with high foot traffic nearby. This contradicts what the mayor said about similar businesses causing dead spots and reducing traffic to other businesses nearby, but we completely understand that Sameday must abide by local regulations.”

Mattioli says because they are an essential business in a global pandemic, there should’ve been an exception. But Corby says: it’s not that easy.

“You cant just arbitrarily say you don’t have to follow the rules,” said Corby.

Mattioli says the business did well and drew a lot of people – and that could’ve possibly helped those surrounding businesses. But, Corby said from the start, the business was very quiet and didn’t open up communication on pursuing a variance or another option.

Mattioli says logistics of sorting through legalities, (like for example, applying for a variance) – would just be a distraction from her priority – just helping people in a pandemic.

“We are here to stop the spread,” she said.

Another concern of Mattioli’s was that a dentist office used to operate behind her building in Pittsford. The site says they explored the possibility of taking over the vacant, rear-facing dentist office’s lease, but were denied on the basis of being a medical business despite being a health screening company. Mayor Corby told News 8: because the building wasn’t facing the main drag, it’s not breaking any zoning rules and a medical facility could operate there.

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