Farmstand controversy growing among Shandaken town officials
By Jay Braman Jr.
Last Tuesday afternoon Shandaken Supervisor Rob Stanley was hopeful that the process of preparing a new farm stand law would move forward later in the evening when the town board was scheduled to meet with the planning board to try and hammer out something that would allow larger enterprises of this type in Shandaken.
By the time the meeting was half over it was clear that his hopes would be dashed.
At the second “Farm stand Summit” meeting, the first was last month, the divide widened between those that want more restrictions and those that want fewer.
At one point, Stanley proposed that the size of stands be based on a percentage of the lot size, but it was pointed out that if Al Higley’s farm stand at its current size is allowed, that would mean that other farm stands could be as big as 8,000 square feet on larger lots.
Stanley, planners Joanne Kalb and Charlie Frasier, seemed to be the ones trying to push for relaxing prohibitions on farm stands, while planners Maureen Millar and Barbara Redfield were the most vocal about making sure there were protections established that would prevent development that could harm the town and any neighborhood where they would be allowed.
There was the age-old disagreement of restricting hours of operations, with Stanley trying to avoid restrictions and Millar wanting restrictions.
At the midway point of the meeting Millar said what was on the minds of everyone, but something that saying out loud was considered a taboo of sorts.
“We’re trying to make Al legal and everyone knows it,” Millar said of the process.
Higley’s Farm stand has been in operation for several years in Mount Tremper on Route 28, and is considered by the town to be illegal because it has expanded in size to be way larger and more comprehensive than Higley’s permit allows.
Higley and his attorneys have disputed that notion, claiming that they are in good standing. Legal battles over the matter have ensued and do not appear to be slowing down. Critics of the process complain that it appears that the town ignores the matter until spring when the stand opens, then takes several months to talk about solutions and then each year, at the end of the farm stand season, concludes that more discussion is needed. The result is that Higley keeps his stand open another year, and some say it leaves the town liable in the event of a traffic accident at the site.
At the sparsely attended session Tuesday, Higley was not present, which was unusual, but his attorney was on hand. He did not participate in the discussion.
Stanley argued that he only wanted a general law for the town, but Millar noted that regardless of Stanley’s position, everyone knows the reason for the discussions and meetings about new laws were because of Higley’s stand. She pointed out the reaction to the work the planning board has done so far on the issue of preparing a new farm stand law, that is supposed to be for the entire town and not only for Higley.
“Everything the planning board came up with last week is being attacked because it doesn’t make Al legal,” Millar said.
Councilman Tim Malloy said the town needs to come up with a plan because he does not like people just building whatever they want and telling the town to just accept it, and added another element to the argument.
“The commercial business already in town are now getting pissed,” he said, because many invested based on current laws, and now there is talk about changing the rules to allow new business more leeway.
Finally, Stanley asked if the town board would hand the matter over to the planning board and see what they come up with. The board unanimously agreed.
Planners have until October to come up with something, he said.