Shandaken ZBA sides with County planners against Hanover Farms
By Jay Braman Jr.
The Shandaken Zoning Board of Appeals upheld the recommendations of the Ulster County Planning on Wednesday, voting to suspend progress on granting variances to Hanover Farms in Mount Tremper until the owners get approval from the State Department of Transportation (DOT).
The decision followed a two-hour meeting/public hearing during which Hanover Farms Attorney Rod Futerfas strongly objected to involving the Department of Transportation. He also urged the Zoning Board to ignore the County Planning Board’s recommendations, immediately grant his clients the variances needed to keep the store at its current size and let the town’s planning board sort out issues with the DOT later.
Town Attorney Larry Wolinsky cautioned the board against any such actions, saying that the board lacked enough information to make sound judgments.
As was the case at a prior meeting on the matter May 8, Futerfas warned that delaying a decision would be a death knell for the store, throw several people out of work and deny town residents access to what many consider to be a popular local business.
The May 8 session had several people speak in favor of Hanover Farms, citing reasons such as quality produce at affordable prices, convenient round-the-clock hours of operation and in general a good addition to the local economy.
But Wednesday saw speakers like Tedd Denman, a neighbor of Hanover Farms, complaining of intrusive late-night noise, a stream of horn honking close calls where vehicles come and go from the store. and even a rat problem in the neighborhood due to the store.
The county planning board believes the zoning board is required to measure Hanover Farm’s request by balancing the needs of the owners against the needs of the community.
“The Ulster County Planning Board is concerned that several of the requested variances are likely to operate to the detriment of vehicular and pedestrian safety both along U.S. Route 28 and on site,” wrote Robert Leibowitz, the county’s principal planner.
Leibowitz wrote that the objective of the town zoning board is to achieve safe access and to do that they should work with the DOT.
“Parking areas will need to be reexamined and parking will need to be removed from areas where sight distances are obstructed,” Leibowitz wrote. “Channelized access with curbing and asphalt…for commercial driveways will also be necessary.”
He also wrote that a permit from the DOT would be needed for any parking, landscaping or material storage planned for the within the state’s right of way.
Leibowitz also expects the zoners to work with the town’s planning board and the state department of transportation to develop a plan for safe access and parking for the store.
“Only if a site plan is developed that provides for a safe environment for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, while at the same time meeting NYSDOT’s requirements, should the minimum variance necessary…be granted,” Leibowitz wrote.
Hanover Farms has been closed since November, 2013 when State Supreme Court Justice Mary Work ruled against the store’s owners, Al and Alfie Higley, in their lawsuit against the town.