POTSDAM — Frederick “Hank” Robar Sr., the man who provides commode art for the village, says that the passing of a new junk law could target people the village holds grudges against and would waste his and the village’s time and money if it chose to go to court again.
Mr. Robar popped onto the village’s radar in 2004 when he asked to get a zone change at his property on 82-84 Market St. so he could sell it to a buyer who would put in a Dunkin’ Donuts. When the village denied his request, he set up what is referred to now as a toilet garden. Since then, he and the village have butted heads twice inconclusively and unsuccessfully in the village court system.
In 2008 the village issued Mr. Robar an appearance ticket for a code violation. Mr. Robar argued that the toilet gardens are art and it’s his First Amendment right to have them. The case was dismissed because Code Enforcement Officer John F. Hill failed to bring documents to the court.
In 2010 the village tried again, but after the presiding judge resigned amid cocaine-use allegations, the case was dropped and the village decided not to pursue it.
On Dec. 3, however, the village passed a law that, once approved by the state Department of State, will give power to the code enforcement officer and village police.
The law provides more restrictions as to what cannot be in view of drivers on local and state roads in the village. It forbids junk items, such as any item likely found in a bathroom, from resting on one’s front lawn. Mr. Robar said that although the law could be used to benefit the village, the village targets those it has grudges against and can be selective with how it chooses the people it helps. He mentioned his initial attempt to sell his property to have a Dunkin’ Donuts built there, which was denied because, among other reasons, the traffic would have been an issue. However, now, directly across the street, is a Five Guys, which has caused temporary traffic issues.
Gregory O. Thompson, village administrator, said the law was not made to target Mr. Robar and that it would affect a wide variety of people, including those with unkempt college apartments and homes.
Mr. Robar also said that he keeps his toilet gardens looking pristine and refers to them as art. If he notices a scratch or a crack he replaces the commodes, which he refers to as flower pots.
Mr. Robar said he is unsure what he would do if the village cited him with a ticket, but he would never take the toilet gardens down. He said he would suit up and pay for a lawyer if necessary. He said the cases in the past had wasted a lot of his and the village’s money, and to go to trial again would waste even more money.