Town makes new laws, interprets others

By Jay Braman Jr.
The Town of Shandaken government is taking a look at its laws. Some are new, another is being reviewed and interpreted to perhaps pave the way for at least one controversial project, and still another is being scrutinized to see if there’s a way to change it that would allow one popular business, whose owner is currently at odds with town officials, to continue.
Shandaken has a new law on the books that will give the town the power to order the removal of debris from private property. The law was adopted this month, officials said, when it became clear that, while the town had authority to order that structures be removed, it had none that dealt with structures that have either collapsed or have been torn down. The law describes debris as follows: “the remnants, remains, ruins and parts of all materials resulting from breaking down, demolition or destruction of buildings, structures or the parts thereof or accidentally by any individuals entity or by natural forces and /or natural elements.”
Debris includes metals, furniture, glass, crockery, mineral waste, sheet rock, roofing materials, siding, pipes, conduits, wire and other demolition and building materials.
The law seems aimed squarely at the Phoenicia Hotel property, where months ago owner Declan Feehan crushed the burned, historic structure into a pile of rubble and left it, pending issues with state agencies as to the proper way to dispose of it all.
The board also amended another portion of the law at Highway Superintendent Eric Hoffmeister’s request. Now fences cannot be built that will “impede the plowing of snow on a public right of way.”
The amendment also prevents the building of fences or walls within the town right-of-way along any roads, prompting one resident to complain that the town might be overstepping its bounds.
“You just have a right-of-way, but now you’re telling people what they can and can’t do with their own property,” said Big Indian resident Chuck Perez.
Still in the research stage is a new law that would alter the town’s current definition of a roadside farm stand. The town has been battling with the owners of Hanford Farms in Mount Tremper because the business, according to code enforcement officer Gina Reilly vastly exceeds the 100-square-foot size allowed under current law.
Reilly said Monday that a revision committee meets later this week to work on changes.
Lastly the zoning board took action last week to interpret current law that governs water bottling.
The local businessman who has tried unsuccessfully for almost a decade to get permission to develop a water harvesting system in Phoenicia is trying again. Andrew Poncic, who last year had his permit voided by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, is now seeking an interpretation of Town of Shandaken zoning laws by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Poncic is asking the board to decide whether his project falls into the category of the law that would allow him to proceed.
At a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting last Wednesday the matter was discussed. Although one member said that he talked to chairman of the Ulster County Planning Board, and a lawyer for the Association of Towns and both agreed that there must be a public hearing on the issue, no public hearing was set.
Instead, a vote was called on the question of is the harvesting of water for non-potable purposes (the filling of swimming pools etc.) a similar use to water bottling?
Chairman Keith Johnson voted yes along with Steve Stettine. Rolf Reiss voted and Gary Guglielmetti abstained. Tom Hickey was absent.
With one member absent and one member abstaining, the board lacked a majority vote to decide the issue.
It has been tabled until the next ZBA meeting on December 17th at 7:30 pm.