Activities at the site contaminated water bodies and wetlands on site at the eastern gateway to the Catskill Park
March 28, 2022 Town of Kingston, NY—A resident of the Town of Kingston and two nonprofit organizations whose staff and members regularly use the Bluestone Wild Forest today filed an Article 78 action against the Town of Kingston’s Zoning Board of Appeals, Robert Cologero, in his role as Code Enforcement Officer, 850 Route 28 LLC, U.S. Crane and Rigging LLC, and Thomas Auringer for construction activities and illegal storage of cranes, rigging, vehicles, and industrial equipment at 850 Route 28.
Officials from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Town of Kingston have previously issued violations at the site for damages to water quality in water bodies and wetlands resulting from a lack of pollution controls during the activities; the current action challenges a memo from the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer that appears to state that those activities and outdoor storage of industrial equipment are permitted at the site as a “Contractor’s Storage Yard.”
Residents of the Town of Kingston and staff, officers, and members of Catskill Mountainkeeper and the Woodstock Land Conservancy requested an interpretation of the Town’s Zoning Code from the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA held a public hearing on February 10, 2022, at which attorney Claudia Braymer, representing those challenging the activities at the site, noted that “Contractor’s Storage Yard” is a term that does not appear in the Town’s zoning code, with the nearest similar category, a “Contractor’s Storage Area,” only permitted as an accessory use incidental to a residential use, which is not present at the 850 site. Ms. Braymer and multiple residents of the town and recreational users of Onteora Lake, Pickerel Pond, and the Bluestone Wild Forest presented the magnitude and extent of the harms resulting from the erroneous interpretation of the zoning code, including noise, visual, and traffic impacts.
On February 24, 2022, the Town’s ZBA met again, but instead of making an interpretation of the zoning code as requested, the members of the board unanimously decided that none of the people or organizations requesting the interpretation had “standing” – a legal term meaning the right to bring an issue or case before a board or court. Having ruled that near neighbors of the project and members of the public who travel Route 28 frequently and use the Bluestone Wild Forest for recreational purposes lack standing, the ZBA declined to make an interpretation of the zoning code as requested, potentially opening the door for further excavation, tree-clearing, and earth moving at the site.
Kathy Nolan, Senior Research Director for Mountainkeeper, expressed frustration with the ZBA’s unwillingness to interpret the Town’s zoning code. “The ZBA wiggled out of making a decision, which is unfortunate,” she said, “and they did so by refusing to recognize the rights of nearby residents and others to turn to them for assistance in clarifying these matters.” Dr. Nolan continued: “The Town should stand with its residents and those who support the local economy with their purchases during travel to the recreational areas in the town, and the Town should follow the existing zoning code, which is designed to prevent land use conflicts and protect the town’s most valuable resources, including clean air and water.”
“This has been a long process,” reflected Andy Mossey, Woodstock Land Conservancy’s Executive Director. “We have been following the 850 Route 28 project closely since we first learned of the proposed manufacturing facility on a property surrounded by the Bluestone Wild Forest and its sensitive natural resources. This new decision by the ZBA is a shame and we believe incorrect as a matter of law. Accordingly we are challenging the decision as part of our commitment to protect both the public and the natural resources.”
For more information please contact Kathy Nolan, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Senior Research Director at [email protected] or 845-417-6489 or Andy Mossey, Woodstock Land Conservancy’s Executive Director, at [email protected] or 845-663-7987.