The zoning issue swirling around Stewart's proposed location on Culver Avenue in Utica is taking a personal turn.

Amid allegations that he has a conflict of interest in the zoning debate, the City of Utica's  Marketing Director is responding personally to the criticism.

At issue is whether Allen's support of allowing Stewart's to utilize the proposed location on the city's east side is a conflict of interest, given that he is an employee of the City of Utica and his brother-in-law, Jim Stasaitis, is one of the owners of the property.

In a statement released to the media on Thursday evening, Gene Allen says he checked with the city attorney and he is not violating any ethical standards by distributing a petition - on his own time and without the use of city resources - in support of rezoning the area in East Utica sought by Stewart's.

The text of the statement is below:

  "As a private citizen I have been voicing my opinion in support of the rezoning of parcels to Neighborhood Commercial and the placement of an Auto Overlay Zone along Culver Avenue.  As part of that I have been encouraging people I know to sign a petition in favor of the change.  Everything I have done has been on my own time and using my personal contact information.

For the sake of full disclosure and clarity . . .

  • I am employed as the Marketing Director for the Urban Renewal Agency in the City of Utica.
  • I have checked with the City Corporation Council and have been assured my conduct in no way constitutes a conflict of interest
  • One of the owners of the property on Culver Ave. is my brother-in-law. 

I am in favor of this initiative, to support a family member, and  I feel this is the highest and best use of the property.  Some people will agree with my stance others won’t.  I simply offer it and allow people to make their own choices.

Allen then attached a copy of correspondence that he had distributed in support of the re-zoning of the land.

WIBX has requested to speak with Allen more on the matter but have not received a response other than that which has been sent via electronic mail.