After 15 months of legal struggle with the town, Gregg and Douglas Weeks have decided to close down Gregg’s Custom Sawing on 168 Patch Road.
A court order instructing the father-and-son business to remove all illegal structures onsite and to sell and remove all milled wood had been issued. According to town attorney John Greco, no further legal action will be necessary so long as the Weeks family complies with these terms.
“It was not the town’s intention to have the sawmill discontinue but to comply with zoning and provisions of a special use permit,” said town building inspector Alvah Weeks, who says he’s not related to the family which ran the mill. “The Weeks sawmill operation has expanded on the small lot area way beyond the dreams of Greg and his dad Douglas, and has adversely affected the neighboring property owners quality of life.”
The town of Saugerties went to court seeking the court order back on March 19 after an inspection of the business in December 2017. Court papers allege that Gregg Weeks “crumpled up” the stop-work order issued to him by a town official in December and ordered the officer off his property.
But according to Gregg Weeks, the process of arbitration with the town has cost him and his father over $5,000, and he said he plans to leave the community rather than give Saugerties “another dime of [his] fricken tax dollars.” He also hopes that his father, 86-year-old Douglas Weeks, can live comfortably in the area after the conflict.
“We do not have the money to hire a lawyer to fight this. We had to fight the town and the town lawyers on our own,” said Gregg Weeks, who said he felt he had been dealt with unfairly by the town. “They rescinded our special use permit, and they are the ones that are unwilling to work with us because we have done everything the town asked and we’re the ones out of business. The town has already tarnished my name to the point where I’m the bad guy. I’m a small business owner in this town and they are the ones putting me out of business, them and my two neighbors,” he said.
The site’s neighbors claimed the sawmill was not only operating during the hours allotted by the town-issued special use permit — 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday — but on Sundays as well, and that logging trucks were arriving on the property after 6:30 p.m. two to three times a week.
According to building inspector Weeks, the family was given a special use permit in 2002 for a sawmill operation; when the family divided the property that spanned the corner of Glasco Turnpike and Patch Road into multiple addresses and moved their operation to a smaller parcel adjacent to the original site, that permit no longer applied and a new one would need to be issued.
According to Alvah Weeks, the pair were “very close” to getting the new special use permit for the site, and he insists the town had no intention of running them out of business. The case, Alvah Weeks noted, has also brought some discrepancies in local zoning codes to light.
“Even in the [state] Supreme Court we explained to the Weekses that there wasn’t the intention of putting them out of business,” said Alvah Weeks. “There was a discrepancy in local zoning law — there was a section in the old zoning law that said the manufacturing of products such as plywood was only permitted in certain districts, but it didn’t include sawmills or logging camps. Then it had another section where sawmills or logging camps were allowed to be operated. When they rewrote the zoning law, they included the same language. If it’s not included, where in the town zoning are you going to allow things? That’s something you have to address.”
Alvah Weeks said that the town did “their due diligence” in attempting to work with the sawmill owners, initially encouraging them to start the planning board process to apply for a permit for the new address rather than taking them to court. But the final straw seems to have been a building, a large storage shed, that Gregg Weeks began to erect on the property without permission.
Gregg Weeks has a different perspective. “We had gone to Alvah Weeks to get a building permit; he said that he wasn’t going to give it to us because we were in the process of litigation. I went ahead and started the building anyway,” he said.
“I continued running the sawmill because that’s what the town said to do,” said Gregg Weeks, claiming that town planner Dan Shuster and town board member Paul Andreassen both told him he could still run the sawmill. “When we were issued the stop-work order for the building, we stopped building. We never received a stop-work order for the business,” Gregg Weeks said.
Andreassen insisted that the intention was never to shut down the Weekses’ operation.
“A lot of time has gone by since the Weekses’ original site plan in 2002, the permitting of the sawmill on Patch Road, and today,” said Andreassen. “As with any project that’s successful there comes a time when the success does not keep pace with the original intent. This is a case where the Weeks family, and a hard-working family they are, may have outgrown their operations and may need to consider relocating to another more suitable parcel or scale back operations significantly. It’s clear that not a single person from the planning board, town board or building department desired or facilitated in any way to interrupt the Weeks sawmill.”