Ulster Co. Planned Board fears Higley's farm stand is unsafe
By Jay Braman Jr.
The Ulster County Planning Board has reviewed plans for the reopening of the Hanover Farms store on Route 28 in Mount Tremper and has warned the Shandaken Zoning Board of Appeals that if those plans are passed as submitted, it would not be safe.
Hanover Farms is in front of the zoning board and looking for several variances from town law in order to reopen the store as it now stands. A meeting/public hearing on the subject is set for Wednesday, May 21 at 7:30 p.m. at town hall in Allaben.
The county planners are required to review the project and did so on May 7. They gave their recommendations to the zoning board in a two-page statement reminding the board that they are required to measure Hanover Farms’ 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 Route 28 and on site,” wrote Robert Leibowitz, the county’s principal planner.
Leibowitz wrote that the objective of the town’s zoning board is to achieve safe access and to do that they should work with the state department of transportation.
“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 state department of transportation 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 towns 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.
Work said that after being granted approval to build a 100-square-foot farm stand the Higley’s gradually expanded the business to over 2,000-square-feet despite receiving stop work orders from the town’s former code officer, Richard Stokes.
In response to the Higley’s lawsuit, the town claimed that Hanover Farms had ignored more than one stop work order and undertook a vast expansion without building permits or site plan approval and did it all too close to Route 28.
When all was said and done, according to the town, Hanover Farms created a retail space 26 times larger than the area authorized in the permit issued in 2004 to build 100 square feet.
Town officials say the lawsuit has cost the town over $70,000 in legal defense fees.
A sentencing hearing to determine what fines and reimbursements Hanover Farms must pay the town has not yet happened. The hearing has been delayed while the zoning and planning boards review the case.