Al Higley, the embattled grocer seeking to find a new site for the farmstand business he’d been running as Hanover farms in Shandaken until shut down by court order last year, went before the Olive Planning Board July 15 for his latest plans to open a new produce business at the site of a former Bank of America Branch along Route 28, eight miles east of his old one.
Planning Board Chairman Drew Boggess said that the meeting on July 15 was well attended with “many of the faces not from our town,” but that it was preliminary in nature. Higley, his son Alfie — a Town of Shandaken board member — and several others talked about their plans; Boggess said much information would have to be updated and augmented at subsequent meetings.
Previously, Higley was saying that he hoped to open his new farmstand, tentatively named Goodheart, this season. This week, though, the man who opened what is now the Boiceville Market as Al’s Supermarket back in 1978 noted that as of now, he would only go so far as to say he’d “open as soon as I get approval.”
Boggess said that several concerns were raised by he and fellow planners when meeting with Higley about his plans for a tented selling area to be expanded later. First off was traffic safety, given the site is located along a 55 MPH stretch of Route 28 at “the end of a curve;” the state Department of Transportation would have to be contacted, and new curb cuts contemplated. Then there was the fact that a change of use was perceived, requiring the local planners refer matters to the county planning board, and possibly the Olive Zoning Board of Appeals.
And then there was the vagueness of much that was presented to them.
“We want to see how he plans to build out on the property,” Boggess said of Higley’s current plans to set up tents in the parking lot around the bank structure with no mention of eventual uses for the structure itself, including use of its electrical hookups. “We have to discuss setbacks, which are based on the building. We want to have to do this process only once.”
Higley’s Hanover Farms operation first opened in 2004 on a single permit for a 100 square foot temporary farmstand, and later grew into an all-hours, all-seasons indoor/outdoor facility of over 2,000 square feet. When issued town Stop Work orders, Higley countersued. Eventually, State judge Mary Work ordered the operation shut down last November.
Since then, Higley has gone before the Shandaken ZBA for needed variances, with crowds to support him, with the board split as to whether he deserved action to reopen.
As for what happens next in Olive, where Higley had originally been saying he’d be open this month, Boggess said an updated site plan is needed. Then the whole project gets referred to the county planning board, which has been urging the Shandaken ZBA not to okay variances because of state DOT complications…and the project’s history.
“Al seems to be planning a 24/7 operation. We need to see a scheme,” Boggess said. “I got the impression he wants to be open early Spring to late Fall, at least that’s what he told us.”
He said that should Higley come back to planners at their next meeting on August 5, with revised plans, a referral could then be made to the county, who don’t meet until early September. That means the next time the Olive Planning Board would be able to look at the project would be in early October.
Was a public hearing planned?
“Keep in mind it’s not technically required,” Boggess replied. “In this case, however, it would be a good thing to do.”
Asked whether he planned to go back to the Olive planners next month, Higley said this week that he’d be there. And that his long-term plans would be to stay open year-round.
And his view on the process in his new/old town so far?
“It’s bureaucratic,” he said. “It’s okay this time.”