Shandaken zoning officer getting tough with violators

By Jay Braman Jr.
There are a couple of extreme cases of law enforcement these days in Shandaken. Not of the police variety, but of the type that occurs when people ignore the towns zoning laws.
In one case a landowner in Phoenicia has been informed that he must take apart and remove a massive wooden framed structure that town officials say was built without proper permission. In another circumstance Hanford Farms in Mount Tremper, a farm stand alongside Route 28, has been issued a violation because the operator of the popular fruit and vegetable stand is not in compliance with the size restrictions specified within the permit granted by the town planning board in 2003.
These measures may indicate that Shandaken is moving away from the days when one could get away with violating the zoning law as long as one got started before the town found out. Years ago town officials would not enforce the law if it meant forcing a taxpayer to incur the expense to actually rip apart something just built. Violators could then go to the zoning board, claim ignorance of the law, beg for mercy and end up with an after-the-fact variance that enabled the construction or operation to become legal.
Gina Reilly, the town’s zoning code enforcement officer, said Tuesday that when she took office in January she notified the owner of an illegally built garage along Old Plank Road in Phoenicia that it must be torn down.
The courts decided last year that the garage, which is partially built, was in violation. An appeal by the owner was unsuccessful, but the building remains despite the order to remove it.
“I gave him until May 1st,” Reilly said, noting that she will take him back to court if necessary.
The more complicated issue is Hanford Farms, a popular local business that has grown beyond the scope of the 100-square-foot size limit set by the town planning board. The business looks to be closer to 1,000 square feet in size.
Hanford Farms was issued a violation in January, Reilly said, with a clause stating that it must comply before opening this season. On April 11 the farm opened. Reilly, having not received a response, sent a notice of violation immediately, giving Hanford Farms 30 days to comply with the conditions of the permit.
Should the farm stand not be in compliance when that 30 days are up, Reilly said, she would then issue the owners an appearance ticket to go to Shandaken Justice court, where fines of up to $250 per week can be levied against code violators. She hopes, however, that it does not come to that.
“We hope to come to agreement,” said Reilly, who replaced longtime Code Officer Glenn Miller, who resigned at the end of last year. “They’ve been in violation since 2003.”