Al Higley of Hanover Farms, the embattled Mount Tremper farm stand, is opening a new stand in the parking lot of the former Bank of America building on Route 28 in Ashokan, eight miles to the east and next door to the Dairy Deli. He said the new market, operating under the name Greenheart, is a separate business from Hanover Farms, and his permit application to reinstate the Mount Tremper stand is still open and under consideration by the Town of Shandaken planning and zoning boards.
The new location, unlike the old one, is in a commercial zone and less likely to run afoul of zoning issues. Higley has filed an application for a business permit and will appear before the Town of Olive planning board on July 15.
Hanover Farms has been closed since November, following a lawsuit brought by Higley against the town, alleging that Shandaken building inspector Richard Stokes improperly shut down repair operations on the farm stand in March 2012 due to violations of the building permit. A judge ruled in favor of the town and told Higley he had to cease doing business at the location or apply to the town for a permit for the stand, which exceeds size limitations established by local zoning laws for farm stands on residential property.
The permit process, however, has dragged out since January with no end in sight, as the zoning board considers safety issues at the location, where cars often park on the shoulder, obstructing the view of exiting motorists as they pull out into rapidly moving traffic.
“They still haven’t made a decision,” said Higley. “They should have had this done no later than April 1. Their game is for the attorneys and the Town of Shandaken to steal money at the taxpayers’ expense to fight farm stands and other businesses.”
He hopes for a more amicable relationship with the Town of Olive. Although he said in an interview that he hopes to receive a permit for Greenheart on the 15th, enabling the market to open in late July or early August, Olive Zoning Enforcement Officer John Ingram said that estimate is optimistic. “When the planning board reviews an application on any state roads,” said Ingram, “it has to refer the application to the county planning board and discuss it.” He expects the process to take at least a month. When asked if Higley would get extra scrutiny due to his track record in Shandaken, he said, “We’re going through the whole routine, everything according Hoyle.”
The low prices at Hanover Farms were partly due to low overhead from the market’s location on property owned by the Higley family. Higley said his relatives purchased the bank building at auction in October.
Although the sign in front of Hanover Farms states that the new market is “6 miles east,” I clocked the distance at closer to eight miles. In front of the bank building, I encountered Glenn Every of Rhinebeck, who said he and several partners own the property. When asked if he were related to Higley, he said, “Well, yes, we’re all related around here.” Every mentioned Higley’s problems in Shandaken, adding, “There was so much community support for him. We wanted to help him out.”
Higley said the new farm stand will be similar to Hanover Farms in terms of its hours — open 24/7 from spring through fall — as well as its size and the products it offers, including fresh produce and grocery items, some of them locally grown or made. Like Hanover Farms, Greenheart will be outdoors, with structures erected in the parking lot of the former bank. “We’re redoing the electric, hooking phones up, bringing in tables,” said Higley.
His son and business partner, Alfie Higley, who is also a Shandaken town councilman, said he had come up with the name Greenheart, along with a logo, a few years ago. “It’s a catchy name, and I like it. We went with that,” he remarked. “We want to thank everyone in Shandaken, Woodstock, and Olive who supported us, and in the Margaretville area. We appreciated their business.”