Special Election for Town Board November 4
Town Government News
Fire Destroys Bradford Graves Gallery
End Of The Rainbow?
A Board Replacement, Code Revisions & Some NY Rising News
Iva's Accord Roots
Donna Marie Ragonese
A Bookseller Extraordinaire Leaves Us
Police look for car that collided with motorcycle in town of Rochester
Alexander Barsky freed from prison
Special Town Board Election November 4, 2014
Voters in the Town of Rochester will vote on a vacancy on the Town Board. Candidates are Greta Baker (Democrat) and Cindy Fornino (Conservative).
Town Government News
The Town Board appointed Cindy Farnino to fill the interim vacancy on the Town Board created by the resignation of Councilman Tavi Cilenti in August. Her term expires December 31, 2014.
There are two vacancies on the Planning Board: member and alternate. The Town Board interviewed candidates: John Dawson III, Laurence Dewitt, Harold Lipton, and Patrick Williams.
The Planning Board held a joint meeting with the Wawarsing Planning Board to discuss a proposal by Dollar General for a new store on Route 209 on the Wawarsing/Rochester town line. Concerns were raised about building siting, delivery truck access, and the developer’s plan to clad the proposed building in vinyl siding. A public hearing will be scheduled for a future date.
Supervisor Carl Chipman reported that the Town will expend about $800,000 on storm remediation on the Rondout Creek and tributaries under the NY Rising grand program initiated by Governor Cuomo. Debris and other blockages will be removed to enable improved water flow; in addition, the Route 209 bridge that crosses the creek will be replaced.
The Rochester Environmental Conservation Commission sponsored a Creek Awareness Program on September 14th at which water quality testing programs were discussed. During 2008-2013 approximately 35% of samples tested showed excessive contaminants, including fecal matter from septic system failures, sewage overflow and farm runoff.
The Rail Trail Task Force held its first meeting on Sept. 23. The committee was appointed to aid and oversee the town’s rail trail system and includes Steven Rice, Greta Baker and Steward Dorris as members. The committee evaluated gaps in the rail trail, including a section of Lucas Avenue on which a fatal accident occurred a few weeks ago.
Fire Destroys Bradford Graves Gallery
The barn that served as the gallery of the Bradford Graves Sculpture Garden in Kerhonkson was destroyed by a fire. All the paper works stored in the building were lost. The fire was caused by mice chewing on electrical wires.
End Of The Rainbow?
New Owners Clean Up Rochester Mess
By Terence P. Ward
KERHONKSON – There may not be a pot of gold to be found, but the end of the rainbow has been found in Kerhonkson — the Rainbow Diner, that is. The charred ruins of the well-known greasy spoon which played a starring role in last year's town supervisor race are being cleaned up by the mystery buyer of the property, with the removal of what had become one of Route 209's ugliest landmarks.
When Rochester supervisor Carl Chipman announced at the October 2 Town Council meeting that the cleanup had begun earlier that day, it wasn't surprising that he sounded pleased.
Asbestos — or at least the possibility of it — made the cost of the clean-up higher than expected, and more than the assessed value of the property. The result was several area citizens blasting their incumbent supervisor, Chipman, for not using town funds to do the work, re-levying the cost onto the lot's tax bill as allowed by law.
The supervisor had instead taken the owners to court, arguing that there was no guarantee the town would be made whole from the expensive cleanup and preferring to compel them to foot the bill themselves.
Eventually, blogger Jon Dogar-Marinescu suggested a middle road of putting up screening in front of the refuse, but no attempts to shield the unsightly mess were made.
"I knew they could pay for the cleanup," Chipman said, because the discovery process revealed that this was so.
With the case settled and the property sold, he was able to speak more freely about it.
"The legal process helped move the sale along," he continued. "It was not the quickest resolution, but it was the right thing to do. We spent less than $2,000 to avoid paying $150,000 to clean up the property."
The supervisor said that the sale and cleanup were the result of the "constant pressure" brought by the town's legal action.
Chipman said that the buyer "wishes to remain anonymous," and as of press time no deed reflecting the sale has been recorded by the Ulster County Clerk. Numerous sources pointed to a particular individual as the buyer, but calls to confirm or deny involvement in the sale were not immediately returned.
Both the husk of the old diner and the house behind it are to be removed as part of plans the new owner has for the site.
And now that the Rainbow Diner issues are being resolved, the supervisor promised to turn town resources to addressing other problem properties.
One such property which was rumored to have problems is town hall itself.
"There are rumors of black mold in town hall," Chipman said. "But there is none. We have some problems with moisture in a couple of the closets in the assessor's office, and we've had an environmental expert in to do some testing."
He added that some tiles will be removed and tested for mold — and asbestos — but putting in more ventilation should resolve the problems. Meanwhile, the public hearings on sections 125 and 140 of the zoning code will remain open another month so the board can consider a number of suggestions made by planning board chairman Michael Baden, who suggested the modifications in the first place.
The planning board has not yet offered its own comments, and Baden was unsure if any would be forthcoming.
"We'll have to see what they want to do," he told the town board.
With another fatality to its name, the town board again is sending a request to the State Department of Transportation to do a speed safety study on Lucas Avenue. After the state declined the last request, the intersection with Kyserike Road was made into a four-way stop, which is unusual on a 55 MPH road... and ineffective in Chipman's view.
"It's become the quick way to Kingston, but it has no sight lines or shoulders," he said. "I'm tired of looking at memorial markers." (Shawangunk Journal 10/9/14)
Old Is Out, New Is In...
A Board Replacement, Code Revisions & Some NY Rising News
By Terence P. Ward
ACCORD – The Rochester town council is poised to finally make a decision on a package of zoning code revisions first proposed nearly two years ago, and when it makes that decision, newly-appointed council member Cindy Fornino will be one of those voting on the measures.
Fornino was selected from three candidates who applied to fill in for Tavi Cilenti, who resigned at the end of July.
Public hearings on the code changes were held open until the October 2 meeting, to allow time for the town and county planning boards to weigh in.
Fornino is a longtime employee of the local hardware store who has served as an alternate member of the town's planning board for the past four months, following a failed bid to be elected to the town council on the Conservative party line last year. She will serve until the end of this year, at which point the last year of Cilenti's term will be served by the successful candidate in a special election to be held this November.
The changes to the code have followed an unusually circuitous path. After the contentious overhaul of town zoning late last decade, Rochester found itself embroiled in litigation over new restrictions to mining, a fight it eventually won. That held up what planning board chairman Michael Baden has described as a fairly routine process: the code is tested through actions of the planning board and zoning board of appeals, and any wrinkles which come up are smoothed out with revisions to the law. There was considerable reluctance to make any changes until the court ruled on the questions before it, so the number of "tweaks" added up over time. With the help of building department staff, Baden put together a package of these revisions, presenting them to the town board in early 2013.
Rather than have the planning board chairman explain the voluminous changes, the town board decided instead to reconvene the committee which had written the overhaul. Replacements were found for those individuals no longer willing or able to serve, and the revised committee made recommendations on a lot of the suggested revisions. A minority of the changes — which board members have loosely referred to as "the 20 percent" — became a sticking point, with board members split on whether it would make more sense to wait on those more contentious sections, or bull through and decide on the remainder themselves. That approach eventually prevailed, with board members Brian Drabkin and Sherry Chachkin leading the charge.
Two public hearings were held, one addressing changes to the chapter on subdivisions, and the other on zoning. Comments mostly focused on refining various definitions to be more precise, as the courts have relied heavily on what definitions a town has in its zoning code when ruling on lawsuits. While members of the public suggested changes no one spoke out in opposition to the revised code or any particular section of it.
Also, the NY Rising funds are nearly ready to start trickling in, and the first project to be addressed in the town will be flooding along the Rondout and Rochester creeks, for which $800,000 has been allocated. Board members authorized Supervisor Carl Chipman to accept the money, which will be kept separately from town funds and doled out once contractors for the work are selected. Chipman said that a request for proposals, or RFP, should be released in about four months. While federal procurement rules are all that's required, Chipman said that the RFPs for NY Rising funds would all follow the more stringent town standards, which call for three written bids for any project of more than $10,000. Federal standards only require that many bids for $100,000 or more.
By the supervisor's description, managing these funds will pose more storage pressure on the town.
"I've been advised to set aside half a file cabinet per project," he told the board.
He also noted that plans to redesign the Route 209 bridge will not be paid for with NY Rising money, being funded instead from several state and federal sources. (Shawangunk Journal 9/11/14)
Iva's Accord Roots
by Vivian Yess Wadlin
Iva Lawrence’s mind is as tidy and organized as the lovely home she and her late husband, Vincent, built. About to celebrate her 97th birthday, Iva speaks with authority about her wonderful neighbors and family. Many regularly drop by to chat or to inquire about this or that—local history, local news—how to make something, or just discuss the weather. But sometimes, as with Hurricane Irene (August 2011), they are there to ensure her safety.
"The stream (Peterskill) was expected to flood, so they told us to evacuate. We’d just crossed the bridge and turned to watch it wash into the field," Iva recalls the adventure with a broad smile. "You can still see part of it out there," she indicates with a toss of her head. "Out there" is a rolling field across the dead end road on which she lives.
I am immediately reminded of the study done in the mid 1990s and written up in American Demographics magazine titled "Strong Home Towns." The authors looked at all 3,600 plus counties in the US and identified that quality we might call "civic connectedness." It’s made up of all the roots and connections we have where we live and why so many of us stay rooted to the place. Out of the 3600 plus, Ulster County was ranked number three.
Accord is hard to describe. It’s hamlet is just off 209 at a curve and hidden on the far side of a small bridge. Hidden not because anything really blocks your view, but because the curve and the stoplight demand your attention. Accord was once a bustling place drawing miners, vacationers, berry pickers, farmers, hunters, hikers, and shoppers. Located in the Town of Rochester, Accord is another of those unincorporated villages without a governing body. Its residents, all 590 or so, elect government at the Town level. But, Accord does have it’s own post office and zip code. Accord got its first postal service in 1826, and its first rural carrier (by horse) in 1913.
The Accord Post Office and Store of Ira Davenport
When asked about changes to the Accord area Iva has seen since she moved there in the early 1930s, she said the biggest change was the loss of summer tourism. She assessed it, "I guess young people could afford to go more interesting places." Another change the loss of summer tourism brought was the closing of part of her road to save money by the town. "The people voted to close the road, it wasn’t used enough," Iva explained, "now it’s a dead end."
In a 1950’s publication, Enjoying the Catskills, there is reference to the fact that at the time Accord had its own airport. The book also lists airports in New Paltz and Esopus, among others scattered farther afield. In fact, most were fields with a windsock and a shack.
One of many hotel and resort cards from the late 1930s - 1950s, printed on linen textured paper in full color. Cold Spring had a Kerhonkson phone # of four digits. "Noted for Natural Spring Water," is one of the selling points of the card's reverse.
I met Iva when my friend Lisa Sterrer suggested I might want to interview her. Lisa, who is Iva’s neighbor, accompanied me to the visit with Iva and added to our conversation. Lisa owns the Big Cheese Shop in Rosendale. She added that tourism is coming back, and people once again are seeking out and appreciating the serene beauty here. I have to agree with Lisa, especially as we sit in Iva’s home gazing out onto the fields, rock formations, mature trees, and creek. I am reminded of a John Burroughs’ quote that is emblazoned on a sign on the path to his cabin-study Slabsides, "nature close at hand..."
Iva was born Iva Dunham and raised in West Field, Pennsylvania. Her father worked in the tanning industry there. When Iva was five her mother died in childbirth. Eventually, Iva’s father remarried a woman who had taught school in the Town of Rochester, and she wanted to return there. The family moved to Accord where Iva’s father worked for John Schoonmaker on his farm. The family did not stay in Accord very long —actually, long enough for Vincent Lawrence to take an interest in Iva Dunham. When the Dunham family moved away, Vincent drove his "Model A Ford green convertible with a tan top" to Pennsylvania to ask if Iva could join his family for the Thanksgiving of 1938. After that visit, he drove one more time to Pennsylvania to ask Iva’s father for permission to marry her. Vincent Lawrence’s father and uncles had been in the millstone business. They mined the stone in the summer and dressed it in winter. "Shawangunk grit" conglomerate stones (also known as Esopus millstones) were shipped all over the world—according to the recently published book, An Unforgiving Land, two large millstones from the area were shipped to Germany in 1902. Stones were purchased in pairs and were grooved for specific uses. Although we usually think of milling grains, it was gypsum and other industrial materials such as paints that often claimed the lion’s share of millstone pairs. Cutting and "dressing" the stone for milling or for building was done by skilled craftsmen like the Lawrences.
This lovely old millstone is one of many stones located at Tuthill House at the Mill, Gardiner. The restaurant, housed in the old mill, is beautifully restored. The mill was the last locally to actually be used.
In Charles Hockensmith’s book on international quarries, The Millstone Industry, are several pages devoted to the Shawangunk area businesses. Vincent and his brother, Wally, and the Lawrence family are mentioned several times. One particularly interesting section deals with the Accord train station and the special spur that was cut so the on-loading of the weighty stones could be accomplished from wagon to train car without lifting the load vertically.
Looking much as it did when O&W rail service brought tourists and their money to support a flourishing local economy, and took millstones and other prod- ucts to far away places, the Accord train station is awaiting its next use. What is your idea for this historic, picturesque, and interesting building?
In addition to millstones, other stone-cutting businesses thrived during the construction of the mountain houses at Minnewaska and Mohonk, and other large building projects. The unique stone is easily visible on the bank building on the southeast corner of Plattekill Avenue and Main Street in New Paltz.
Iva tells us Vincent and his brother, Wally were "stuck together." Wally, a bachelor, ate dinner with Iva and Vincent every night and lived across the field in the family’s original farm house. Lisa added the brothers were simply inseparable—"...you saw Wally, you saw Vincent." They worked together, they ate together, and they traveled to town together. At 84, Wally died of a heart attack. One year later Vincent succumbed to a brain aneurysm.
I asked Iva what was the worst thing she could recall (other than war) on the international scene. She said stories about the Titanic came to mind. Since that was 1912, and she was born in 1917, the ongoing blow to the national psyche of those who expected the march of technology to be smooth and one way, must have been enormous. It still fascinates us.
Iva brought up the changes that electricity brought when it came to Accord in the 1930s. Her mother-in-law was fascinated with the concept of an "ice box"—with no ice. There had been a place dug into their cellar wall that was used to keep things cool, and of course real ice boxes, but a refrigerator was a true technological breakthrough for the average homemaker—not to mention the purveyors of fresh foods and ice cream.
Iva knew a lot about the food business. For over thirty years she worked in Carl’s Market, now Rondout Grocery. For the most part, she liked her work and the people she worked with or encountered. In the June 2011 issue of The Accordian, the front page story is "Carl’s Market II". On page two is the following quote by Elinore Carl Churchill who wrote the story, "I can’t speak highly enough of Iva (Lawrence). She was so good to everyone, and is still like one of our family. We love her."
However, her least favorite time was during hunting season when the deer would be brought in for butchering. Vincent hunted, as did most men in those days.
Iva and Vincent had one daughter, Barbara, who works for "a foundation in New Jersey." Iva is very proud to have such a well-educated and successful daughter. Iva has one grandson, and like all of those of us with grandchildren, says she wishes she saw him more often.
Westerns were and are Iva’s favorite movies. We agreed that the old westerns were far better than the "modern" ones. Early westerns presented real heroes who had values and lived by them, and now, not so much.
I asked about the Accord Speedway, a subject that just about caused a "range war" in the mid 1990s. The racetrack had closed down for a while and was about to reopen when the more recent emigres brought all sorts of complaints and suits to stop it. It became the usual new-comers against the old-timers and put Accord in the regional spotlight.
Iva said Vincent and Wally went to the races (this was before it closed). We discussed how many men who lived off the land or mined, got caught up in auto racing in the 1930s-1960s. There were many tracks in our area, everything from horse racing in New Paltz, to auto racing in Woodstock and Accord.
I thought it proper to inquire as to advice Iva might give those of us fast approaching true seniority (define it as you will). She said without a moment’s hesitation, as though she had been just waiting for someone to ask, "Throw away your cigarettes, liquor, and guns." Then she added, "Eat your vegetables." Accord has its sage. From: http://abouttown.us/index.php/ulster-featured-article/1242-Ivas-Accord-Roots
Donna Marie Ragonese
Donna Marie Ragonese, of Kerhonkson, passed away September 23, 2014 surrounded by family in the home of her dear friend Phyllis Goodwin.
Donna taught Special Education in the Brentwood School District from 1964 to 1996.
She earned her first master’s degree from Adelphi University in 1967. She later earned a second Master’s degree in social work from Stony Brook University in 1985.
Donna was well known for her volunteer and philanthropic efforts. She was president of the Ulster County Cornell Cooperative Extension from 2003-2007, helped found Little Ones Learning Center in the Town of Rochester and volunteered at Family of Woodstock where she answered their crisis hotline.
Her most recent formal training was as a court advocate to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
Donna traveled internationally with Earth Watch and assisted in studies of African wildlife, sea turtles in Costa Rica, Macaws in Peru, tortoises in the Galapagos, mosques in Turkey and ruins in Thailand to name a few. Donna loved helping people and had a true affinity for nature. In 2003 she completed a Master Gardener course and was very active in the program. She was the very essence of a true “Friend of Extension”.
Donna is survived by her beloved husband Gene Gaston, daughters Allison Purciello, Valerie Prentiss and step daughter Lorrie Berger Gaston and grand-daughters Nicole Purciello and Caroline Prentiss, her brother John and sister Patsy Lynn.
The service will be held at St Mary’s Church on Broadway, Kingston at 10am on Saturday, October 18, 2014 with a reception following at Deising’s.
A Bookseller Extraordinaire Leaves Us
Rondout Valley Legend Was One Of A Kind
By Chris Rowley
ACCORD – This is not the age of the bookshop. And there are very few bookshops, other than the Barnes & Noble chain, left in our region. Indeed, independent book stores like the Golden Notebook in Woodstock are becoming rare birds indeed.
Yet tucked away on Route 209, near Alligerville, there lies a gem of a bookshop that will likely soon be gone. Its owner, Andrew Curtis, passed away last Tuesday of a heart attack at the age of 61. He and his store, Get Real Books, will be greatly missed by the devoted tribe of book lovers who knew him and loved exploring his great bookshop.
Curtis started Get Real Books in 2011 after a lifetime of selling books, which he claimed started when he was twelve in Queens. He started coming to High Falls in 1995 and moved up permanently in 2003. He previously owned Big Bang Books there, which eventually settled in Astoria for a long run before he started selling most of his wares on Amazon.
Due to ever harder financial circumstances for those who love and sell books, Curtis was actually in the process of suing the City of Kingston for the right to sell books from a stall on the street or sidewalk. He feared that he would soon be forced to close his bookshop and was seeking an alternative way of continuing what he had spent his life doing — collecting and selling books — and by doing so, turning people on to everything from Virginia Woolf to Rimbaud, from Asimov to Zola, Dostoevsky to Elmore Leonard.
Curtis had discovered, to his dismay, that Kingston's peddling ordinance meant that to sell books he would have to provide license fees, a surety bond, and show proof of a minimum of $100,000 in liability insurance. The license, he claimed in his lawsuit, would cost $150 a year.
Curtis further noted that newspaper and magazine vendors are exempt from the peddling law, as are milkmen, farmers and charitable solicitors.
Books, it seems, are considered more dangerous, more likely to cause trouble. And there are currents in our society that, indeed, think exactly that way, and would prefer restrictions on the right to read. The coming age which will contain few, if any books, will likely suit them fine.
Curtis claimed that when he inquired about getting the necessary license, the police detective in charge of those asked him specifically about the content of the books he wanted to sell. He was told he could not operate in front of any businesses, including on the far side of a parking lot from a strip mall.
Thus is literature driven to the margins, and thence to extinction.
Curtis said the city ordinance violated the First and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution, as well as the New York State Constitution; he sought to have it enjoined.
On Get Real Books' Facebook page, his partner and companion, Judy Lotto Dorman, wrote, "My dearest Andy Curtis, owner of Get Real Books, passed away on Tuesday. He loved his bookstore, all his customers and the joy you brought to his face when you found the book you wanted. He sat at the first window as you look at the store behind the word books waiting for his customers to come visit and find their special books. He will be forever missed, I will carry him in my heart and soul forever."
There will be a memorial service for Andrew Curtis at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 320 Sawkill Avenue, Kingston, this Thursday, August 28 at 6:30 p.m.
As of press time there was no word on the fate of the many thousands of books in Andrew Curtis's remarkable collection. For more info visit www.getrealbooks.com. (Shawangunk Journal 8/28/14)
Police look for car that collided with motorcycle in town of Rochester
TOWN OF ROCHESTER >> The driver of a Honda sedan believed to have collided with a motorcycle Sunday afternoon on Granite Road was still at large Monday, according to state police.
About 4 p.m. Sunday, Freddy Jefferson Jr., 29, of Wallkill, was northbound on a 1996 Suzuki motorcycle when it collided with a dark-colored Honda Civic traveling in the same direction, said Sgt. Mark A. Nielson of the state police Wawarsing barracks.
The sedan left the scene immediately and has not been located, Nielson said.
Jefferson suffered a minor injury to his right leg and was treated by Kerhonkson-Accord First Aid at the scene. His motorcycle sustained minimal damage, the sergeant said.
An investigation is continuing, according to police. (Freeman 10/6/14)
Alexander Barsky, one of two people convicted in beating death of Kerhonkson teen Joseph Martin, freed from prison
By Patricia Doxsey, Daily Freeman
KINGSTON >> Alexander Barsky has been released from state prison after serving six years for the 1996 bludgeoning death of Kerhonkson teenager Joseph Martin.
According to the New York State Division of Parole, Barsky, 33, was released from the Groveland Correctional Facility in western New York last Thursday after earning a “limited credit time allowance” that moved up his conditional discharge date by six months.
Martin, 15, disappeared from his Kerhonkson home on July 15, 1996. His disappearance remained unsolved until May 2008, when, under renewed questioning by state police, Barsky admitted he and Daniel Malak, both 15 at the time, beat Martin with a pipe and hid his body in a crevice in a nearby rock ledge.
Barsky was charged with murder and, in August 2008, pleaded guilty in Ulster County Court to one count of felony manslaughter, saying he intended to cause Martin harm but not to kill him. In statements to the court, Barsky said he and Malak devised a plan to “hurt” Martin because, he said, Martin had stolen from him. Barsky said Malak hit Martin twice on the head with a steel pipe and that he, Barsky, then hit the unconscious or dead Martin twice more on the legs.
Barsky was sentenced to 3-1/3 to 10 years in state prison, the maximum sentence allowed under state law for a juvenile convicted of first-degree manslaughter.
He was denied parole twice, in 2011 and 2013
In 2011, a parole board called Martin’s slaying “a violent, malicious act” and said freeing Barsky “would so deprecate the seriousness of the ... offense as to undermine respect for the law.”
The 2013 decision stated that despite a spotless record in prison, Barsky did not deserve to be freed because his crime was “brutal and with a total disregard for human life.”
Barsky was due to be freed on a conditional release in January 2015, however, according to the Division of Parole, inmates are eligible to earn a six-month “limited credit time allowance” against their sentences if they have achieved certain significant program accomplishments in prison, have not committed a serious disciplinary infraction or maintained an overall poor institutional record and have not filed any frivolous lawsuits.
According to prison records, Barsky had no disciplinary problems in prison, completed an aggression replacement training program and participated in welding program..
Malak — already serving 20 years to life for murder for the 1997 shooting death of 62-year-old George Allison at the man’s weekend home in Samsonville — was convicted of murder in Martin’s death following a four-day trial in September 2010. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
Malak’s conviction in the Martin killing was upheld by a state appeals court this past May. (Freeman 9/2/14)
The upcoming general election in November will offer the citizens of the Town of Rochester a rare opportunity. Running on the Democratic ticket for town council is an unusually well-qualified individual: Greta Baker.
Ms. Baker has been in our community since 1990. She has been active in our local schools and college, teaching and mentoring in theater and public speaking, and has raised two children here.
But it is when you talk to her and hear her assess the town's needs that you realize what an asset she would be on the town board. She listens. She considers. She probes. She is thoughtful in her responses and decisions. I can't imagine she wouldn't be an asset to any organization. Let's not let this opportunity to have a great public servant work for us slip away.
She has my vote.
José Sotolongo, MD
Greta Baker has left the sidelines to run for town board in Rochester. She has our support and ought to have yours. Here's why:
Greta and her husband Brit care about our town. It's always a pleasure to see that she and her husband Brit care enough to make Main Street pretty. Her garden is an oasis on Main Street in front of the house that she and Brit have raised their two daughters. She knows about Main Street businesses and the struggles that small business owners face.
Greta supports continued development of the rail trail. She is against fracking in our community. She is for keeping Rochester green, with clean water in its streams and creeks, open spaces and forested lands. She supports local agriculture and local business.
Greta has a deep commitment to the Town of Rochester. She'll make a good addition to the existing board because she knows how to listen, contribute, and cooperate. And besides, she's a lovely, gracious human being.
Gene Moncrief & Walter Levy
Mr. Jerry Davis
Code Enforcement Officer
Town of Rochester
Accord, New York 12404
Dear Mr. Davis,
I am in receipt of Jason Broome's recent email concerning the fact that illegal work performed on the Accord cell phone tower has been allowed to remain. In reading Jason's letter a number of his statements raised serious issues of trust, transparency, and the viability of the town of Rochester to enforce any subsequent zoning issue as a result of this decision.
For zoning laws to be effective, they must be enforced strictly,with impartiality, and as part of a public review process. If Mr. Broome is correct in his email, it appears that the decision to allow the new tower work to remain, was a decision of one. Yours.
At the stroke of a pen, or of a phone conversation, you have just gone on record to the citizens of Rochester, as well as any company wanting to construct anything in the town, that, "Well yes we have zoning regulations in effect....BUT WE DON'T REALLY MEAN IT." By this action you have effectively gutted the town of Rochester's zoning resolution. It is far more serious actually, for by this action not only have you sent a message to anybody considering construction or alteration to a property, that they can do what they please. You have negated the trust that the residents of Rochester place on the Enforcement Office to do just that. Enforce.
You have also lost the high moral ground. Now that you have sent such a strong message on un-enforcement procedures, on what ground do you stand for making a code enforcement decision? I hear the argument now which sounds like "...Well I know I didn't get a permit to build my 10,000 square foot five story garage three feet from the road, in a residential neighborhood, and did it at night...but the cell tower did what they wanted and got away with it. Why shouldn't I?" Why shouldn't I indeed?
There is also the issue of apparent lack of transparency. If Mr. Broome is correct, why on earth are we allowing one person, to make such a decision in private. Transparency exists for a reason. It is to instill the public with the trust that decisions are made on the merit.... and not as a result of conversations by private individuals who do not necessarily represent the public interest. It is also to protect public officials themselves from the suspicion that they took a bribe. Can you prove you did not take a bribe for this decision if someone were to accuse you? Are you above suspicion? How will we know when it appears there there was no public debate or review with a written Record of Decision. If someone FOILED this process, what anything be available?
Localities adopt zoning resolutions to determine how towns are developed. They designate land use; residential, commercial, industrial/farming, mixed use etc. and take into effect such things as water, air, density, hours of construction, materials, height and setback etc. If this town has a zoning resolution, and we do, it had better be followed or development descends to chaos in the wild west.
I might remind you of an incident that occurred in NYC in the late 1980's when a developer began construction of a building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on Third Avenue and 96th Street. As they were constructing, it became clear that they made a was mistake and the building was 11 stories higher than what was allowed. After the city notified them of their error, they immediately rushed to finish the exterior of the building and began a long series of "negotiations" on what they would "give back" in subsidized housing etc if they were allowed to keep the eleven extra stories. Mayor Koch was furious. He had always been considered pro development. He was also a very smart lawyer who knew that if the city backed down, it would open up a Pandora's box, with every other developer disregarding the zoning resolution and trying to cut a deal. Koch insisted those eleven stories come down, and come down they did. The Town of Rochester should have done the same.
If a developer wants to construct something not allowed in the zoning, that developer must file for a variance, give sound reasons why, and go through a public review process with formal approval.
I am unable to attend the public meeting regarding the T-Moble tomorrow night. While other community members will speak on many separate important issues. This email serves as my testimony to the town on what I consider the core issue, which as I stated at the beginning of this email: trust, transparency, and the gutting of the zoning resolution. The town is at a precipice and needs to restore confidence on the transparency and trust issues. Rochester needs to take a strong stand on its will to enforce its own zoning resolution. It must not continue to abrogate its responsibilities as it has done on this issue.
Stephanie Pinto, Accord, NY