Deal reached for Binnekill clearing to start

Staff Report
As Margaretville prepared to mark the one-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene, a new effort was underway to help revitalize the flood-damaged village. The goal is to get the village’s picturesque stream, known as “The Binnekill,” flowing again after it started  to run dry about five months ago.

According to Mayor Bill Stanton, village officials signed an agreement last week with landowner Lauren Davis, that would allow workmen to enter the stream from his property in order to clear flood debris that was deposited there by Irene.

“There are three gravel bars in the way and a lot of tree limbs,” said Stanton.
The agreement, which was brokered with help from local business people, is regarded as a major breakthrough in the long-standing dispute between village officials and Davis over stream access.

“This has been going on for seven years!” said Stanton.
According to Davis, he agreed to “let the village go in and do what it needs to do, including debris removal,” because of the “diligence” of a number of members of the community. Under the agreement, Davis will hire an excavating company, while the village will foot the bill. Both sides say that the work should begin any day now.

According to Stanton, the business people who played key roles in the negotiations have asked to remain anonymous. However, late Monday, at Davis’ urging, retired Margaretville banker and community activist Lew Kolar acknowledged his role in the talks.

“He did most of it,” said Davis, gratefully. It was not the first time that the business community stepped into this dispute. Negotiations  over the Binnekill were given a jumpstart last year, after village shopkeepers launched a sign campaign to seek Davis’ cooperation in unclogging the bulkhead.

Davis’ property on the north end of Main Street has been in his family for generations, He explained that since 1902, the village and the landowner reached “gentlemen’s agreements” on how the village would maintain the bulkhead on the property. It’s where East Branch of the Delaware River flows into the Binnekill. However, things grew contentious between the two sides in 2005. Since then the dispute has repeatedly landed them in court.

According to Middletown Code Enforcement Officer Pat Davis, who is no relation to Lauren Davis, Irene piled debris into the Binnekill  and damaged 93 buildings in the village.

“Just about every structure that was in the floodway received some sort of damage. Most of the businesses on Main Street have been restored and they look terrific,” said Stanton.

“The reopening of Freshtown in May has brought a lot of people to the village.”
The village  and the business community have turned their attention to the Binnekill, because they consider it to be  a vital tourist attraction, that’s important to Margaretville’s recovery..
“Getting water flow  back in the Binnekill is going to make it much better,” agreed Pat Davis.