Water Harvest Plan reappears

By Jay Braman Jr.
A local businessman, who has tried unsuccessfully for almost a decade to get permission to develop a water harvesting system in Phoenicia, is trying again. Andrew Poncic, who last year had his permit voided by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, is now seeking an interpretation of Town of Shandaken zoning laws by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Poncic, who came to a zoning board meeting Wednesday night, is asking the board to decide whether his project falls into a category of the law that would allow him to proceed.
On Wednesday the zoning board was given the Appellate Court decision and was expected to engage in a discussion about the matter. Instead, zoning board member Rolf Reiss made a motion to table the discussion to give board members an opportunity to absorb the material.
His motion was unanimously endorsed by the five member board. The discussion will take place at the next meeting, set for November 19.
It was in October of 2006 when the town’s planning board gave Poncic a permit to draw two truckloads of water a day from a spring at the head of Woodland Valley near Phoenicia. Neighborhood opponents of the project then sued the planning board in the belief that the board exceeded its authority when the permit was granted. In July 2007 State Supreme Court Justice John C. Egan Jr. determined that the board was on solid ground.
“The court finds that the collection and hauling of non-potable water falls within the category of permitted uses under “water bottling and related uses” and it was within the planning board’s jurisdiction to grant good water a special permit” Egan wrote in his 16-page decision.
That decision was appealed, and last June the Appellate Division of the State of New York Supreme Court decided that the Town of Shandaken Planning Board overstepped its jurisdiction by attempting to interpret zoning law, something that only the Zoning Board of Appeals is authorized to do. Without a ruling from the zoning board the planning board therefore had no authority to grant Poncic’s Good Water Corporation a special use permit.
The permit was voided and the case sent back to the planning board. The planning board then referred the matter to the zoning board for consideration on whether harvesting water for entirely non-potable uses is sufficiently similar to water bottling and related uses.