Artistic pursuits, chainsaws and local laws tangle in Olive dispute

Hoppy Quick, Lanny Walter and Jean Duffy at May 4 Olive ZBA meeting.

Jean Duffy and Hoppy Quick have known each other since both were going to grade school in Olive. Her yard’s filled with his handiwork; she’s spent the 31 years she’s lived next door to his mother on Samsonville Road looking at the older woman as a mother figure, and helping out when she could. But a neighbor-to-neighbor dispute between the two over home occupations and the side-effects of their artistic pursuits boiled over at an SRO Olive zoning board of appeals meeting on May 4, and is now threatening to end up in court as the ZBA faces its second Article 78 lawsuit in recent months.

Hoppy is a long-haired, heavily tattooed bear of a man known for his chainsaw sculptures, his carved spoons and walking sticks, and for his love of a deep-rooted family that started its local life in the valley under what is now the Ashokan Reservoir. Jean Duffy is a jewelry maker with extensive gardens and a well-maintained, compact home adapted from a 1940s cabin. Her family has been in town three generations, starting with a farm in West Shokan and a well-known local blacksmith; Jean grew up on the other side of town in Shokan.


The current problems started when Hoppy Quick moved back into his mother’s home from his own property in the Town of Rochester last year, then started doing his work. Which is loud. Duffy, who has suffered from chemical sensitivities for years, says she came down with a debilitating bout of allergic bronchitis last October that lasted through much of the winter. She sent a letter to Quick asking if he could move his chainsawing to another part of his mother’s property, or limit its hours. Eventually, she hired an attorney to look into the matter.

The town code enforcement officer, former planning board chair John Ingram, was asked to look into Duffy’s complaint about Quick’s chainsawing. He ruled that it was allowed as a home occupation, given that Hoppy’s art was his livelihood. It was further noted that the town has no noise violations.

Duffy’s attorney, Lanny Walter of Saugerties, looked over Olive zoning laws and found that home occupations had to take place indoors, in either a main abode or an accessory structure granted a special permit by the town planning board. He applied to the town ZBA for an appeal hearing on Ingram’s determination.

That’s when everything hit Olive chatter lines. Quick, whose sister is town clerk Dawn Giuditta and aunt is former town councilwoman Linda Burkhardt, called ZBA chairman Jim Mays and town supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle about the situation, asking what he could do to keep at his carving. Duffy brought in a private assessor who said her home was worth $30,000 less than it had been because of what he labeled “external obsolescence.” She started calling in support of her own.

On the morning of May 4, before the ZBA hearing that evening, Mays visited Quick and Duffy, telling the latter that the evening wouldn’t include any public comment. Duffy started calling her supporters, saying they wouldn’t need to come out. When Walter asked if he should still attend the meeting that evening, she said he should since she’d already paid for his services.

A DVD of the meeting shows a crowded room for the ZBA’s May session, its first of the year. Everyone was patient as Mays noted mistakes made in a decision regarding the Ashokan Dreams wedding venue case that’s been in the news of late, which the board lost. They cheered when another case got an okay. The Hoppy Quick/Jean Duffy appeal started with Mays passing around a note from the board’s attorney, after which he announced that the evening would have “nothing to do with whether you like chainsaw produced art or jewelry or anything else.” He mentioned how specific town zoning laws are about home occupations, noting that “an accessory use must be conducted inside a building…in the principal residence of the applicant or in an auxiliary building if special permission from the planning board is obtained.”

The next hour and a half went over these points, with much input from the public, Walter, and Quick and his family.

By the end, Mays and ZBA member Fred Perry asked questions about how long each person had lived in their homes, the fact that Hoppy’s father (who a letter from his mother Barbara referred to as “Big Hop”) had operated a sawmill on the property, and various distances from property lines at the Quick’s home.

It was noted that Hoppy Quick had told Jim Mays that he’d be willing to work under a carport that was attached on one side to a workshop where he was sleeping, with a second carport closed in as a dog kennel to the other side. They talked about how his sleeping in the workshop made it a primary residence.

Walter, Duffy’s attorney, suggested a compromise “test run” since Quick had a deadline on the weekend. He could chainsaw under the carport and everyone could see whether it worked out. Quick said he’d only chainsaw outside and do his carving in the woodshed, where he also was living. He added that he didn’t want to move from his mother’s property since the only reason he had moved there was to help her now that his father, Big Hop, had passed away.

Perry talked about how he wished neighbors could just work things out so the ZBA wouldn’t have to be put into the position of making decisions that had the potential for making them, all volunteers, into bad guys. Mays said he didn’t feel right making decisions regarding primary residences and home occupations. ZBA member Dino Giuliano recused himself from any part of the decision because, as he said, he knew both parties too well. His fellow members Sandy Friedel and Chet Scofield said nothing all meeting.

After it all ended, Ingram noted the following week that “I think we can work this out.” Mays said that “Yes, Mr. Quick was in violation and should cease and desist his chain saw carving business which is being done outdoors,” but in a final action letter on May 8 added that, “Mr. Quick agreed to move the business operation to another building on the property, and therefore be in compliance with the Zoning Code. Mr. Quick’s violation is an honest error and his willingness to correct this error negated the previous order. In addition, as Mr. Quick resides in one section of the building, his activities can be considered a ‘Class 1 home occupation.’”

Hoppy Quick talked about what went down, after getting May’s letter, in terms of a zoning code borrowed from New York City suburbs 42 years ago and not fit for Olive’s more rural, old-Catskills’ ways. He talked about country folk getting pushed too far by people moving up from the city and how “we used to be a small town where neighbors talked to neighbors. It makes me sad that I’m seeing the death of a small town in the Catskills. There’s too much anger between liberal people and Republican people.”

He added that he saw himself as a “nuisance bear.” He didn’t want to get darted and moved away from his home turf. He reiterated that the bigger problem was “a law that should be changed.”

Duffy talked about what day-long chainsawing next to the home you work in is like, and how she had felt patronized by town officials when she complained. She said she didn’t want to stop Hoppy’s art, just ensure that it didn’t harm her own art-making. “I really got thrown under the bus on this,” she noted. “This is about consciousness. It’s about awareness. If Olive had a noise ordinance I believe it would save the town money in legal fees, take some of the burden off the ZBA and help remind people to be considerate neighbors.”

Less than a week after everyone received Mays’ Final Action letter, Duffy added, Quick had started chainsawing in the dog kennel carport closest to her home, instead of the one she had thought everyone was discussing at the May 4 ZBA hearing. Her attorney, Lanny Walter, had sent a new letter asking the town to ask Hoppy Quick to cease and desist, noting reservations about the ZBA’s assumption that a carport was “inside,” and a woodshed with a bed a primary residence.

Rozzelle, the town supervisor, said she wanted to stay out of the situation.

Asked about possible zoning changes, including noise ordinances and home occupation wording revisions, Jim Mays pointed out how an attempt at formal revisions had collapsed several years earlier.

“Maybe we could do a line here or there,” he said.

Meanwhile, out County Route 3, otherwise known as the Samsonville Road where Quick and Duffy live and work next door to each other, new homes sprout in developments and many that have been there for years upgrade with new porches, driveways, and accessory buildings as the town, and deep Catskills, continue to change.

There are 10 comments

  1. Steven L Fornal

    Yet another example of a failure of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    Hoppy Quick is a great guy; I met him once. Does wonderful work. But, really gentlemen of the Shandaken ZBA, you need some training quick: “Mays and ZBA member Fred Perry asked questions about how long each person had lived in their homes, the fact that Hoppy’s father (who a letter from his mother Barbara referred to as “Big Hop”) had operated a sawmill on the property, and various distances from property lines at the Quick’s home.”

    Asking how long each person has lived in their homes is ABSOLUTELY inappropriate. That has NOTHING to do with zoning code and its enforcement. Also, that there was ONCE a sawmill on the property is meaningless IF that sawmill ceased operations for more than five years because it loses its entitled (grandfathered) use after five years of disuse. That’s New York State law.

    The fact is this, unless a person keeps ALL impacts on their own property, then there MUST be limitations to what they do and when they do it. To suggest that Ms. Duffy put up with chain sawing for hour after hour, day after day while living in a residential zone is outrageous and against every Planning and Zoning precept that exists. What we are seeing again and again in Shandaken is a failure to plan; to simply allow willy nilly anything anywhere in order to bring in business.

    Sorry, but that isn’t allowable under zoning. Property rights folk HAVE to begin to accept that their rights end at THEIR property line. End of story.

    From what was posted here in the article, the ZBA seems to think because a person lived here x amount of years extra privilege is accorded them. That’s against the law and actually against the concept of property rights as it denies the privilege of using one’s RESIDENTIAL property in a RESIDENTIAL manner. And where do the ZBA members get off even contemplating the devaluation of a person’s biggest asset because another person wants to do his thing?

    I think the Town Board should schedule a day long training session with the UC Planning Department for themselves and the ZBA and Planning Board to learn what zoning is all about because it seems that none of them have a clue.

    Of course, the Town Board dragging its feet on the CMRR ILLEGAL USE of its property to store equipment which isn’t allowed by the town’s own zoning code doesn’t give much hope that it will respond and do the right thing. Seems a clear case of ol’ boys using the land getting the benefit of every doubt and to hell with all the rest of the taxpaying public. Why? ‘Cause y’all ain’t lived here long ’nuff…


    1. Hoppy quick

      There is no noise ordinance in olive and I do not carve all hours of the day so please Steve get your facts straight at the time of the public hearing I had not carved in 3 days …i am not a full time chainsaw carver…i am a professional woodsman…i do many things chainsaw carving is about 25 percent of what I do…and Jean Duffy herself from October to March logged me only 51 days running a chainsaw out of 161 And few of those days where cutting firewood for family never is it all day…i would carve 4 hours a day and spread that out over an 8 hour day ….as far as good old boy whatever your wrong…i think local people have a lifetime vested and want to keep it rural here..sorry your unhappy with this

      1. Steven L Fornal

        I never wrote you “carve all hours of the day.” I wrote that no one should have to suffer chainsawing hour after hour, day after day.

        But, Hoppy…You admit that you were active with the chainsaw “51 days…out of 161.”

        That’s 31 percent of the time your neighbor didn’t have their property rights honored, namely, having a residential use in a residentially zoned district.

        It’s admirable that you moved back in order to help your Mom. But, that can’t trump zoning law.

        What about the idea by Penny Decker below re attempting to fund your purchase of that property she mentions which is supposed adjacent to a logging business? Sounds like a potential win-win scenario.

        I hope you consider it.

        1. Hoppy quick

          Well I don’t run a saw hour after hour same thing Steve and I am in compliance of zoning code so all is good …those 51 days each day was never a full day some where just an hour …and seeing how there is no noise ordinance I am not doing anything wrong I’m not going somewhere else not going to make everyone happy and I’m not going to apologize for doing what I have been doing for the past 39 years unfortunatly newer people to the area will fight to change our area and locals will fight for there way of life a battle that saddly is happening now and will get worse …think what you will

    2. Ryan Trapani

      I would like to have a conversation with you about “defining rural” & zoning issues in particular. Some towns still have no zoning & do just fine. In fact, many of the most beautiful downtowns that are today historic districts were built in the absence of both coding and zoning. How’d they do that? I think what we need a discussion too about how zoning actually discourages “tolerance” of one’s neighbors & pits those trying to make a living locally (earning locally) against those that have earned afar. Also, if zoning is pursued, then each town should be required to post average wait times and costs of starting a business. In this way, there is transparency about these costs & towns can compete for lowering this burden. Also, towns should stop copying & pasting planning models from other towns & instead create their own.

  2. PeaceSouljer

    Precisely the reason why we moved out of the Socialist Republic of New Yorkistan – too many people and too many agencies minding everyone ‘s PRIVACY, and by the way there is absolutely no zoning ordinance which regulates sound emission during ‘business hours’. regardless of the zoning district. Life in Georgia is great, and please contact us if you would like to apply for Refugee Status. Chuck Schumer what a joke for a Senator….

  3. Penny Decker

    I’d heard of Hoppy Quick and his art before. I think he’s a great artist. I’m surprised that he could not find another location to do it besides where it would interfere with the peace and quiet of a neighbor’s home. The problem is also that Hoppy must be deaf by now and isn’t aware of how irritating that loud a noise can be. There’s a plot of land, 2nd from the corner of 212 and 28, Mt Tremper that was for auction, very cheap. It’s next to a firewood logging business. Maybe we can do a collection to help him set up there.

  4. B. Kind

    Sigh. There used to be a “No Tolerance for Bullying” campaign in this country… think someone would actively irritate a neighbor, a long term friend…someone who cared for his mother in his absence…is sad and disturbing. Most people, if they learned something they were doing was not only bothering someone, but also was making them sick, would seek a reasonable, compassionate solution. Perhaps the town could chip in and get Mr. Quick some counseling to begin working on some of his anger issues? What are the options for this abused neighbor? Stay and get sick? Wear ear plugs and a breathing machine all day long? Put her house up for sale and get full price, not 30% less its value due to the noise, by selling to another chainsaw artist or a profoundly deaf person? This is a very sad situation and my heart goes out to the woman who is no longer safe in her own home. Without that, safety and peace in one’s home, it’s pretty hard to function. Why doesn’t he start by just moving to the other side of his property? What has this neighbor ever done to him to deserve such disrespect? Will he feel better about himself if he forces her away? Is that what he is really trying to do? Most artists are full of Light….what’s going on????

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