Mt. Tremper farm stand flap heats up with lawsuit flap
By Jay Braman Jr.
The owner of a controversial farm stand, which is said to be in violation of the local zoning code, has taken his case out in the open this week, claiming that in the court of public opinion he has been found innocent and should be left alone.
Al Higley, representing his son’s Mount Tremper-based produce stand called Hanford Farms, appeared before the Shandaken Town Board Monday with an attorney and several supporters. The visit comes as Hanford Farms faces a court appearance for allegedly being in violation of the town’s laws.
Hanford Farms in Mount Tremper, located alongside Route 28, has been issued a violation because, according to Shandaken Code Enforcement Officer Gina Reilly, the operator of the popular fruit and vegetable stand is not in compliance with the size restrictions specified within the permit granted by the Shandaken Planning Board in 2003.
The popular local business has grown beyond the scope of the 100-square-foot size limit set by the town planning board. The business looks to be many times 100 square feet in size. There are also items for sale at the business, which, to some, make it more of a retail business than a farm stand.
Hanford Farms was issued a violation in January, Reilly said, with a clause stating that it must comply before opening this season. On April 11 the farm stand opened. Reilly, having not received a response, sent a notice of violation immediately, giving Hanford Farms 30 days to comply with the conditions of the permit.
Should the farm stand not be in compliance when that 30 days are up, Reilly said last month, she would then issue the owners an appearance ticket to go to Shandaken Justice Court, where fines of up to $250 per week can be levied against code violators. She hopes, however, that it does not come to that.
“We hope to come to agreement,” said Reilly, who replaced longtime Code Officer Glenn Miller, who resigned at the end of last year. “They’ve been in violation since 2003.”
But on Monday, attorney Daniel Heppner emphatically denied any wrongdoing, saying that no violation could be proven in court.
Heppner said he was present to let the town board know that his client wants to discuss the issues with town officials and reach an amicable solution.
But Heppner also delivered a threat that if the town was not prepared to reach an agreement with his client then officials would find themselves embroiled in what Heppner described as “expensive litigation.”
Before being told by his lawyer to stop talking, Higley chimed in that such litigation would cost taxpayers “a lot of money.”
The two were armed with a petition said to carry 1,000 signatures in support of Hanford Farms.