The operators of a number of controversial C&D dumps may be filing a lawsuit against the town, alleging that Saugerties is unlawfully interfering with their business.
“This case is aging me because it’s extremely upsetting,” town attorney John Greco said this week. “I can’t even believe what’s happening.”
Joe and Rachel Karolys of the Karolys & Sons construction and demolition processing operation filed a notice of claim against the town on April 26. In their filing, which is not in and of itself a lawsuit but a document reserving the right to file a lawsuit at a later date, they claim the town is guilty of, among other things, defamation, violation of their due process rights and wrongfully depriving them of the use of their property and their livelihood.
“It’s going to have no effect on the town’s enforcement efforts whatsoever,” Greco said. “Frankly, the claim is totally without merit and if and when the Karolyses decide to file any type of lawsuit you can be assured that the town is going to vigorously defend every one of these specious, groundless and meritless claims. It’s pretty obvious that it’s just another smoke screen being put up by Karolys in an effort to try to thwart the town’s enforcement actions and thwart the town obtaining the inspection that we’ve been asking for for months now.”
The notice also accuses the town of “tortious interfering with contract rights [and] selective enforcement of zoning ordinances,” “improper extinguishment of a preexisting exception to zoning requirements of the town by activists of the zoning board of appeals” and “deprivation of claimant’s right to equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions.”
Within the document, the Karolyses accuse town officials of falsely claiming the four dumps contained “contaminated C&D material.” The town still has yet to test any of the large mounds of asphalt, concrete and rock for contaminants.
“If they really wanted to show that the town’s claims were not true then they should be inviting us up to all of their sites and encouraging and assisting the town in obtaining samples of all of this construction and demolition debris so that in their eyes their names can be cleared,” said Greco.
Although the Saugerties Zoning Board of Appeals affirmed a stop-work order leveled by town building inspector Alvah Weeks against the 1446 Route 212 dumping site on April 18, more steps must be taken until the town can shut down the Karolys operations entirely.
Stop-work orders were also issued by Weeks against dumping at properties owned by Joe and Rachel Karolys at 90 Goat Hill Road, 33 Fel Qui Road and 43 Fel Qui Road due to, town officials allege, missing stormwater protection plans for the sites and improper use according to the properties’ designated zoning status, as well as a townwide ban on dumping materials from outside of Saugerties inside of Saugerties. The Karolyses filed an Article 78 proceeding, which asks a judge to rule on the validity of a decision made by administrative body, in state Supreme Court. Judge Richard Mott halted the town from enforcing the stop-work orders with an order to show cause, mandating that the town ZBA decide whether or maintain or cancel the stop-work orders issued before he reviewed the case. On April 18, the ZBA affirmed one of Weeks’ four orders, saying that while the alleged violations pertaining to the 1446 Route 212 site were within the town’s zoning code, the orders applying to the other properties — for allegedly violating the townwide dumping ban and stormwater protection laws — are handled under town code.
Now, both the town and Karolys’ lawyer must submit briefs summarizing the April 18 ZBA meeting to Judge Mott; according to Greco, the town’s has already been submitted, but Karolys’ attorney, Melvin T. Higgins, has requested more time to file his brief, and has been given an extension until May 10. The town will then be able to file a response to this brief by May 17.
According to documents from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Karolys’ operation has been in violation of Part 360 of the state’s Solid Waste Facility Management Regulations since November 2016, when DEC inspector Lee Reiff wrote that Karolys was “accepting C&D loads containing, but not limited to, plastic, ceramic tiles, dimensional lumber, fabric and paper.” (There is a note in the document that states “see photos,” but no photos were provided with the report). The inspector also wrote that the facility was “unable to produce sufficient records for material received,” and “[had] yet to construct barriers that prevents unauthorized dumping.” Also, the report stated that “the C&D is not being weighed or records kept to indicate volume being received” and that “unauthorized materials are not being removed within 24 hours of receipt.”
Karolys was then notified by DEC Regional Enforcement Engineer David Pollock (who could not be reached for comment) that he needed to remedy these issues by January 2017; another letter from Pollock was sent in May 2017 telling Karolys that he still wasn’t compliant with Part 360 regulations and that “each day the facilities remain in noncompliance, additional penalties will be assessed.” Additionally, according to Greco, the state DOT has “informed the town that they are not going to offer any type of approval for that curb cut [built to ease access to the Fel Qui sites], and Mr. Karolys was directed to shut that down.”
Greco said neither state agency has made any meaningful effort to penalize Karolys for his violations.
“Obviously it’s unlikely that we’ll be getting a decision on the restraining order prior to the 17th,” said Greco. “We’re concerned about the continuance of the restraining order and we want to get it lifted as soon as possible but frankly I find that Mr. Higgins can play the court’s calendar like a violin, and uses that to his advantage. When you’re on the defense it’s delay, delay, delay and that’s what’s happening.”
Phone calls seeking comment from Higgins were not returned.