The chain saw’s role as part of the Town of Olive’s community character may get another hearing sooner than later. According to attorney David Griffiths, who represented long-term Samsonville Road resident and town native Jean Duffy in a recent special use permit site plan review process involving the operation of an “artist/chainsaw wood shop” that culminated before the Olive Planning Board on January 2, he will be filing preliminary paperwork for a potential Article 78 reversal order by week’s end.
“Unbelievably, the planning board granted the permit with the following condition: ‘The business use of operating a chainsaw (gas) is restricted to the time frame of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., 7 days a week. No use of a chainsaw for business purposes will be conducted outside these hours,’” Griffiths noted. “14 hours a day every day of the week, with no apparent consideration of the nuisance effects the prior more limited activity has already imposed, including, perhaps most significantly, the decrease of $28,000.00 in Jean’s property value — confirmed by the town’s assessment being changed to reflect this impact.”
The planning board issue involved the property adjacent to Duffy’s owned by Barbara Quick, where her son Howard Jr., popularly known as Hoppy (his father was known as “Big Hop,” and also worked with wood for years), had moved in the past year and started making his chainsaw bears and other works from a three-walled carport over the past year. Site plan review ended up before planners on January 2 after the town zoning board of appeals found that a previous determination to okay Hoppy Quick’s application as an allowable home occupation, made by Olive code enforcement officer and former planning board chairman John Ingram, had been made in error. It had also been found that a previous site plan okay by the planning board had been in error because the board had failed to either hold a public hearing before their decision, or notify Duffy that they were considering the matter.
The January 2 hearing was attended by a standing-room only crowd, a majority of them there to speak on behalf of Hoppy Quick and for the role chainsaws play in their lifestyles, and income. After Duffy and her attorney left the meeting, the planning board made its decision with input from the Quicks’ consultants, from Peak Engineering in Stone Ridge, who assured them that by holding the hearing, and allowing Duffy and Griffiths to state their objections, they had done due process. As to the attorney’s contention that planners should strive to never worsen an existing situation, discussion centered on the fact that they were not doctors and could not judge health effects of any action.
“After reviewing the site plan application, it was determined that the Artist/Wood Shop is operating out of an approved accessory building in compliance with the Town of Olive Zoning Code,” a subsequent letter of approval read, including the “restricted” hours. “All Planning Board members present voted in agreement.”
Olive’s unwritten standards
“This isn’t about a war on chainsaws as some would like to make it out to be. Folks who make a living with their saws are a vital part of our community and our rural way of life. Where would we be without them, from storm clearing to firewood to the lumber we use for building,” Duffy wrote in a letter to Woodstock Times published last week. “The intermittent cutting of firewood is completely different than someone carving large sculptures. Listening to firewood being cut in the distance conjures up a feeling of being warm and cozy, huddled up next to the wood stove on a cold winters day. On the other hand, a chainsaw carving business is not intermittent. It is stationary with the carver going at a single large log for hours and hours. This can take place day after day, all year long, with no end in sight.”
Griffiths said this week that Duffy had been keeping an eye on Hoppy Quick’s business actions all month, but then realized she had to act this week if she was to make any action in regards to the Planning Board’s decision. He noticed that “he’s not a nuisance right now but it’s hard to predict all that’s going to occur in the future.”
He brought up the ways in which other issues involving Olive zoning have tended to side with unwritten standards over the years, including a longstanding battle between a Route 28 business and property owner who objected to an unlicensed business behind them hurting their own peace and quiet, as well as the stability of their business.
“Maybe the reality is that in Olive hometown heroes have a license to abuse the common folk,” he wrote in a note last week.
“How can the board issue a permit for a business without understanding the impacts on a residential community. Something is wrong with this town when the only option they leave me with is to sell my home,” Duffy concluded her own letter on the chainsaw business. “I have lived and worked peacefully out of my home for 32 years. I would never want my in-home business to impact my neighbors. Our homes are our sanctuary. It is where we go to get away from the world, to find peace and serenity, to restore and center ourselves. This is a classic case of kindly asking your neighbor to compromise, and instead, having them go to war with you.”