2015-04-22 / News

Greenheart Farm owners in property use battle with DEP

By Jay Braman Jr.
It appears that the owners of the now defunct Hanover Farms grocery stand in Mount Tremper cannot escape regulatory problems.
Less than a year after owners Al Higley and his son Alfie were forced by the State Su­preme Court to close Hanover Farms, they opened a similar venture on Route 28 in Shokan, calling this one Greenheart Farms. They leased a former Bank of America branch building after getting town approvals and have been open for several months.
But now the New York City of New York Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has gotten wind of the enterprise, and after a little research has alleged that the premises cannot be used as a farm stand and have threatened legal action if they continue to operate.

Received letter
In a March 23 letter to Higley, DEP Engineer Chris Costello, the agency’s Supervisor of Wastewater Design Review, said that the new operators need to upgrade the properties septic system to a level of compliance with DEP regulations.
“The (septic) can continue to operate, without being upgraded, for other nonfood activities that are more in line with the prior activity such a general office space or a non-food retail shop, but it cannot service a New York State Agriculture and Markets Farm Stand or any other food establishment,” Cos­tello wrote.

So, how did DEP learn of this?

Back in February the Higleys applied to DEP for a permit for the stand. After a meeting on the premises between DEP and Higley’s engineer, it was determined that site restrictions make it impossible to install a fully-compliant septic system.
So, Costello enclosed with his letter an application for a variance, along with strong language that suggested that getting one was a long shot.
“Variances are within the sole discretion of DEP and there is no certainty to the outcome of a variance application,” he wrote.
Even stronger language was included about what would happen if the Higleys don’t get one. “DEP will pursue enforcement action if the farm stand or any other food service operation operates at this location,” the letter warned.
Despite the tough talk, Greenleaf remains open for business this week, and DEP spokesman Adam Bosch said Monday that the matter remains under review.
“At this point there has been no regulatory ruling or any determination about whether the farm stand will qualify for a variance under our regulations,” he said. “We have been in touch with the owner’s engineer and are looking forward to meeting soon, perhaps even this week. We are also hopeful that a solution can be reached that accounts for the needs of everyone.”
On Tuesday, Higley said that lawyers are now involved. “This has been going on for five months,” he said.

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