Over the weekend of January 20-21, Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR) moved its trains from Ulster County tracks to its own property on Station Road in Phoenicia, without permission from the Town of Shandaken. The railroad is facing a January 29 deadline from the county to vacate the tracks, while Phoenicia neighbors oppose storage of the trains on CMMR’s residentially zoned property for environmental, esthetic, and legal reasons.
Town supervisor Rob Stanley said the town board discussed the issue at a January 23 special meeting, already scheduled to address other topics. “They brought the trains in over the weekend when no one was around,” said Stanley. “We got a number of letters and emails about it over the weekend…The town is going to send a letter requesting a formal response from CMRR regarding their intentions for the parcel.”
Stanley said that legal action was possible.
“Although they’re going through the process of obtaining a permit, in the absence of permit, what is the timeline for removing the vehicles? We want to keep a strict timeline, and we’ll ask for specific milestones, so we can check on their progress,” he said. In the absence of a permit, since it’s a residential parcel, we’re going to give them the opportunity to try to work this out. It could end up in litigation.”
CMRR has been trying for over a year to get approval to put the trains on its property, but Shandaken zoning code does not permit industrial storage in a residential zone. Their most recent application to the planning board resulted in a decision to consult with the town lawyer on the legality of granting CMRR a one-year permit to allow time to move the trains elsewhere. At issue is whether CMRR, a tourist railroad, could be considered a public transportation company, which would justify a special permit under the town code.