It doesn’t look like Hanover Farms will be open any time soon. On May 21, the Shandaken zoning board of appeals (ZBA), with one member absent, generated a tie vote on whether to grant all variances to Al Higley in his application to reopen his Mount Tremper farm stand, Hanover Farms, following last fall’s court ruling that he was in violation of local zoning law. The ZBA, unable to come to a decision, took no action in the hope that its fifth member, Joe Michaels, will break the tie at the next meeting, but that meeting has not yet been scheduled.
The ZBA voted unanimously to okay three of the five variances requested, overriding requirements that accessory structures be ten feet from lot lines and not project farther than the primary structure on the property. The members were divided on whether to approve variance #4, allowing structures to extend closer than 20 feet from the street. Town attorney Larry Wolinsky considered the request “substantial,” observing that the 20-foot rule relates to traffic safety, and therefore approval might be contradicted when a state DOT permit is applied for.
Similarly, variance #3 was a sticking point, given that Hanover Farms is allowed 2686.9 square feet under the farm stand regulations, while the area requested is more than double that amount at 5773.04 square feet, including the parking spaces.
“I don’t see an issue,” said board member Gary Guglielmetti, “unless the DOT comes back and requires curb cuts that will infringe on the size.” He suggested approving the variances and letting the DOT be in charge of forcing any changes.
ZBA chair Tom Hickey and Rolf Reiss voted in favor of waiting to hear from the DOT before ruling on the application, while Guglielmetti and Keith Johnson voted against this proposal. Johnson made a motion to accept the application subject to DOT and Shandaken planning board approval. Again the vote was split, 2-2, with Guglielmetti and Johnson in favor, Hickey and Reiss opposed.
Wolinksy suggested closing the public hearing to start the clock ticking on the 62-day deadline for the ZBA’s decision. Meanwhile, he said, the board can update its absent member, Joe Michaels, while Higley applies to the DOT. But the board voted unanimously to keep the public hearing open, buying more time for its decision-making process.
Because Wolinsky will be out of town for two weeks in June, the next meeting of the ZBA has not yet been set.
The Ulster County Planning Board has filed its opinion that the farm stand needs better parking lot planning to ensure public safety on Route 28. Hickey encouraged Higley to apply to the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) for information on what the state would require, in order to assist the zoning board in making its decision. But Higley’s attorney, Rod Futerfas, said his client prefers to wait and see if the variances will be granted before going to the expense of applying to DOT.
Vehicular and pedestrian safety noted
The May 8 public hearing drew a substantial crowd, with many residents expressing support for the farm stand, but at the May 21 meeting, only six opinions were delivered by the public, three of them opposed to the granting of the requested variances.
Shandaken resident Tina Harp emphasized the service Higley provides in enabling residents to shop locally. She also noted that employees have remained at the store over a long period of time because he pays fair wages and treats them well.
Higley’s neighbor, Ted Denman, pointed out that when farm stands are permitted in residential areas, “the idea is that they’re not intrusive. They allow neighbors to buy produce but they don’t interfere with anyone.” Hanover Farms, on the other hand, is open 24 hours a day with lights on, while early mornings are disrupted by dumpsters being emptied and trucks bringing deliveries. Cars turn onto Route 28 into highway traffic, creating what many observers believe is a hazard.
In its comments, the county planning board remarked, “We are concerned that several of the variances are likely to operate against vehicular and pedestrian safety,” recommending that Hanover Farms apply to the DOT and the Shandaken planning board to “develop safe access and adequate parking.”
Hickey said he had contacted DOT permit engineer David Corrigan for feedback. Corrigan replied that he could not offer information until Hanover Farms submitted a site plan prepared by a licensed professional.