Phoenicia Hotel site cleanup put on hold by state officials

By Jay Braman Jr.
The mountain of rubble that was once the historic Phoenicia Hotel will remain the most prominent feature on the Phoenicia Business district, at least for now, but at least it’s not an asbestos hazard. That’s the latest word from town officials and the property owner who responded to complaints that the unsightly debris has been sitting for too long.
At an August 4 town meeting, Shandaken resident Dave Channon reminded the town board that the pile of plywood, roof shingles, TV sets, broken glass, lumber and other assorted materials, including asbestos shingles, has been sitting alongside the sidewalk on Main Street since the spring when an excavator machine crushed up what was left standing after the hotel burned up in July 2007.
Channon said he was aware that owner Declan Feehan, who bought the property after the fire, plans to develop it, but said the town should require that the land be cleared and cleaned up, at least until something is built.
“In the meantime that rubble needs to go and let’s put some grass there,” Channon said.
Channon feels that the land, located on the corner of Main and Church streets in the center of Phoenicia, would be a good place for a gazebo, or something that would benefit the public.
Feehan, who happened to be in the audience at the same meeting, said that his hands are tied right now. The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), he said, has issued a stop work order for the premises while some legal matters get sorted out.
Last month the DEC issued tickets to two local men involved in what DEC alleges was the unlawful disposal of remains of the hotel.
The charges, which were misdemeanors and violations, are leveled at Harry Jameson, the owner of Romer Mountain Park in Woodland Valley and David Gutierrez, owner of Woodstock Landscaping and the contractor that demolished the remains of the structure. DEC Police charged Jameson with operating a solid waste management facility without a permit after some amount was debris was trucked off the hotel site to Jameson’s property.
Gutierrez was charged with unattended open burning, open burning without a permit and open burning for commercial purposes. He was also charged with two counts of unlawfully disposing of solid waste. While much of the debris remains on the site in a huge pile, some was allegedly trucked off site to Jameson’s property.
Councilman Tim Malloy added that DEC also investigated the possibility of harmful levels of asbestos at the site, but found no problems.