Dec. 24, 2008: What's at risk in Shandaken politics?

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To The Editor:
We must take issue with Peter DiSclafani’s letter in last week’s paper. It seems that the Shandaken Supervisor wants everyone to think that he has no personal agenda and that he does not withhold information. Mr. DiSclafani has repeatedly stated this year that Shandaken now operates as a “transparent” town government. A review of his actions related to our farm stand proves that his statements are lies.
When DiSclafani took office in January, one item clearly on his agenda was shutting down Hanover Farms, despite his open denials. To do that, he hired an attorney from Westchester County.
DiSclafani demanded that the Code Enforcement Office (CEO) issue a “cease and desist” order for Hanover Farms, before we even opened. (Absurdly, the cease and desist order was issued while we were having our driveway repaired with new gravel.) However, no such similar action was taken against an identical business just a half mile down the road from us. Prior to and after the issuing of the cease and desist, we had tried continually to resolve this matter to no avail. Eventually, the supervisor agreed to meet with us and our attorney. At that meeting on July 2 the supervisor, the town’s attorney, the CEO and the chairs of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals were in attendance. The town’s attorney agreed with the CEO that the same rules that were applied to our business must be applied to all other businesses. Yet DiSclafani has made no attempt to do that.
At that July 2 meeting, we reached an agreement that Hanover Farms would submit a site plan which the town would approve. It was agreed that no additional fees would be required because we had already paid the site plan fees. But on July 25 the town’s attorney and the supervisor demanded that we pay a $2,500 fee, a fee never approved in the town’s fee schedule, never approved by any of the town’s boards (past or present), and a fee not demanded of any other farm stand or retail business in the town.
We paid the $2,500 fee, in protest, hoping to resolve this ongoing matter. But instead of acting in good faith as agreed at our July 2 meeting, DiSclafani arbitrarily and unilaterally appointed a new town committee to study the matter that the attorney was already being paid to resolve.
The planning board tells us that they cannot issue a permit because there is no law to cover it. Yet without any law in place, the town has demanded and cashed a check for $2,500 to pay for a review which they apparently knew that they were not going to conduct. Our cover letter with the check stated our expectation that the fee would be returned to us with interest if the approval was not received by September 30. Yet the town cashed the check. Worse, before cashing our check, the town illegally altered it, to say that it was payment for a site plan rather than a site plan approval as we had been told and had submitted.
It is quite clear that the supervisor has an agenda. The question is whether or not his agenda is in the best interests of all Shandaken citizens. It is also quite clear that the supervisor acts without telling the town board or the town’s citizens what he is going to do. So the other question is, How long are we going to continue to let him get away with this and how much will our town lose if he succeeds?

Al Higley,
Hanover Farms,
Mt. Tremper