Controversy springs from Freshtown 'flood wall'

By Brian Sweeney
A temporary “flood wall” erected behind the Freshtown Supermarket in Margaretville on Sunday was dismantled Monday because there was no permit for the structure.

The floodwall was put into place as the Freshtown owners were attempting to protect their store from potential flooding predicted when the effects of Hurricane Sandy moved through the area.
Village Code Enforcement Officer and Town of Middletown Flood Plain Administrator Pat Davis said he informed Freshtown owners Dan and Noah Katz on Monday morning that this type of structure was not allowed in the flood plain without a permit. A short time later, workers began dismantling the temporary wall.

The wall, which was primarily located on village property, was about 40 feet wide, approximately 10 feet high and set up around the entire perimeter of the supermarket. The “Aqua Berm” was essentially a large membrane that was filled with water to act as a barrier and divert water away from the building. The supermarket owners reportedly had the “wall” shipped to the village from a company in Texas.

Mr. Davis told the News that he received a complaint regarding the wall from a village business representative very early on Monday.

John Fairbairn III, who serves attorney for both the village and the town, issued a statement to the News on Monday.

“Mr. Davis informed the owners that they should have applied for and received a flood development permit for such work, and that no application had been made.

Company decision
“However, at no time were the owners or their contractors told to cease work or remove the berms — the decision to remove the berms rested with the owners of Freshtown, for their own reasons,” the attorney’s statement continued.

“No stop work order was issued. No enforcement actions, of any kind, were taken against Freshtown. The owners were simply reminded that, if any damage resulted to any neighboring properties, that Freshtown could be held responsible for such damage,” concluded Mr. Fairbairn.

Low rainfall amounts
As it turned out, with less than two inches of rain reaching the area from the hurricane, there was no flooding from the storm.

The August 2011 flood resulting from Hurricane Irene caused millions of dollars worth of damage to local communities, with Freshtown being among the hardest hit. The store remained closed until mid-May 2012 as the supermarket was underwent a complete interior renovation.

No official word
The Katz brothers were contacted several times to comment on the situation, but had not responded before the News went to press.
A call to Margaretville Mayor Bill Stanton seeking comment on the situation also was unreturned.