Binnekill controversy escalating in village

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By Geoff Samuels
Last Thursday’s Village of Margaretville Board meeting saw the resurfacing of the somewhat infamous Binnekill bulkhead dispute.

At present, the “bulkhead” consists of a 20-foot-long culvert that runs from the East Branch of the Delaware River and carries water to the head of the Binnekill Stream. It is situated on property owned by village resident Lauren Davis, and the maintenance and development of this small but important location has been a source of contention between the village and Davis for the last decade.

Muddy mess
Widely seen as one of the more charming aspects of the village, the Binnekill Stream, which normally flows serenely through Margaretville’s business district, has run dry at various occasions over the years due to either dry weather conditions, the buildup of debris in the bulkhead area, or a combination of both; thereby creating a picture of decidedly less serenity.

Past disagreements between the two parties have centered primarily over what the scope and purpose of any mitigating actions at the bulkhead should be. And now that Hurricane Irene and the Local Flood Hazard Mitigation Projects have been thrown into the mix, the situation is still turbulent.

In December of last year, the village signed a $50,000 agreement with the engineering and consulting firm of Milone & MacBroom to design a system that would better regulate the water supply of the Binnekill. This project, so far, one of design only, is being done reportedly under the auspices of a FEMA work order meaning that funds will eventually be recouped by the village.

Flood work considered
Also under consideration by the mayor and the board is the possibility of extending the project to include some flood mitigation efforts with the hopes of reducing the incidence of minor flooding in the area.

Davis took issue with this and, reading from a prepared statement at the top of the meeting, asserted that “the scope of the village’s proposed bulkhead project makes no provision for flood hazard mitigation…and preempts a 10-year controversy as to whether the Binnekill bulkhead is a factor in flooding in the Margaretville community.”

Davis went on to say, “The village board has not informed the community where the money will come from to pay for the $50,000 design contract or how it will pay for any project construction.”
Neither the mayor nor the board made any comments after Davis’ statement, but the issue will certainly resurface when Mayor Elect Diana Cope takes the reins on April 4.

Local tax cap override passed
A new local law to accept a two percent tax-cap override was passed by the village board. This will allow the village to exceed the state mandated two percent property tax cap that Governor Cuomo signed into law in 2011. Many municipalities in the area have already been forced to pass their own tax cap overrides due to the difficulty of holding their tax levies to that two percent yearly increase.
Area residents were shocked recently when they first heard the news that, according to Village Treasurer Beth Bush’s initial estimate, taxes were set to go up about 25 percent due to large shortfalls in the village’s revenue.

Since then, the tax situation has improved somewhat. At Thursday’s meeting, Board Trustee Fred Miller said that among other things, $5,000 had been removed from the budget for next year’s snow removal, and a few items on the revenue side had been “upped.” Miller finished his comments saying, “I think the levy is going to go up just under 14 percent on a tentative basis.”

Owners of “Gundelach” building cited
A letter was received by the board from Margaretville businessman Steve Tanzer complaining about the unsightly appearance of the Gundelach building on Main Street. The structure, which sits between Tanzer’s accounting practice and the Ming Moon Chinese Restaurant, has been left in a burnt out condition since it caught fire shortly after the flood from Hurricane Irene.

Brothers Rudd and Burr Hubbell purchased the building from former owner Eugene Gundelach in late 2012 through their company Big Indian Partners LLC, and they stated at a previous village board meeting that they intend to restore the building at some future date. The problem, they said, lies in the stringent laws of the NY Department of Environmental Protection when it comes to rebuilding structures in the flood plain.

At the previous board meeting, Mayor Stanton asked them if they could temporarily spruce up just the front of the building in the meantime in order to help beautify Main Street for the summer tourist season, and they said they would.

Apparently, they didn’t do it fast enough. Stanton told the meeting attendees, “(Code Enforcement Officer) Pat Davis got a hold of the letter and went down and cited them for the building today…They’re going to have to go to court.” According to the mayor, these things usually take a few months to go through and, by that time, some beautification of the building might have already taken place.”

Diane Galusha praised for work in Historical Society
One of the attendees at the meeting was the Catskill Watershed Corporation’s Director of Communications, Diane Galusha, who was there that evening to represent the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown. She told the board that she was happy to hear that their preliminary budget included the village’s traditional appropriation for the Historical Society’s projects.

“I appreciate that and I hope that the budget deliberations that follow won’t remove that,” she said adding, “We have a lot of projects and programs coming up this year and we really could use your support…we continue to collect, preserve and promote the history of Margaretville and hope you will continue to support us.”

Mayor Stanton replied, “On behalf of the board and myself, I thank you for doing a great program and being the director of that program. Over the years you’ve done a fabulous job, and I wish you and your committee all the best.”