Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR) has violated floodplain regulations by moving trains onto its Phoenicia property without a permit, said Shandaken supervisor Rob Stanley. The railroad must hire an engineer to determine whether the presence of the train cars will cause an elevation of flood waters by more than one foot during a 100-year flood.
Town building inspector Warren Tutt issued a permit to CMRR to install track in November, but upon appeal by a group of Phoenicia neighbors, the permit was rescinded on the grounds that CMRR was intending to use the track for long-term storage of trains, prohibited by town zoning code. A revised permit allowed clean-up of debris from the 2011 hurricane but prohibited installation of ballast, rails, and ties.
However, CMRR, facing a deadline for removal of trains from Ulster County tracks by the end of January, went ahead and built tracks, transferring the train cars to its property on a weekend when officials were out of town.
CMRR has been trying for over a year to obtain permits from the town to store its trains in a residential zone, over the objections of neighbors who cite aesthetic issues and possible environmental consequences from storage of industrial-scale material in a flood zone. The railroad’s latest permit application with the planning board is based on the claim that the tourist railroad is a public transportation facility, which justifies its use of the property for light industrial purposes, according to zoning code. The Phoenicia neighbors claim that CMRR’s excursion business does not fit the definition of public transportation.
Stanley said the planning board is considering referring the issue to the zoning board for an interpretation of the term “public transportation.” The zoning board’s decision would then determine whether the planning board can proceed with granting a special permit for CMRR’s storage of trains on its property.