By Doug La Rocque
In a letter addressed to Derrick Gardner, the Chairman of the Stephentown Planning Board, Attorney Brian Baker indicates that work now in progress at the corner of Brown Road and NYS Route 22 is inappropriate and possibly illegal. According to Baker, Tom Hanson, owner of the property, is undertaking the creation of a mobile home park on that property for up to nine lots. Baker owns three properties that abut the lot in question. In his letter he indicates that lot is currently zoned commercial according to Town Land Use maps, and a mobile home park is prohibited. He also indicates that the current construction work is being undertaken without any site plan approval, which he indicates is in contrast to town regulations that have been in existence since 1991.
He is also questioning the permitting for a new large septic system that he believes is being installed and further questions the validity of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) form that was filed. He says in his letter that he spoke with Rich Elder, a supervisor in the Rensselaer County Health Department about that form. He states that Elder told him there were two boxes checked, indicating no Planning Board or Zoning Board authority was necessary. He also expresses concern about groundwater contamination and flooding onto his property because of three foot raised beds.
Baker also states in the letter that he spoke with Owen Cassavaugh, the Deputy Codes Enforcement Officer for the town. who he quotes as saying “I was told this has all been grandfathered in because of the other mobile home site.” Baker contends there is no grandfathering, indicating the two previous lots that currently contain mobile home sites were separate deeds purchased by Hanson. He further writes “it is not grandfathered for new mobile homes, simply because it abuts a prior mobile home development. He uses the legal term “legerdemain” to describe the situation.
As to discussions with Codes Enforcement Officer Dean Herrick, Baker indicates they have been very limited and not informative. The letter states it seems clear to him that Herrick’s “permission” for the project “may well have been seriously overstepping his authority,” in regards to a development that Baker says “will have a lasting and very major impact on a number of people in the town and the town itself.” He concludes his letter by saying the whole process may have been in a “clandestine manner.”
As to the town’s response, Town Attorney Craig Crist told The Eastwick Press he cannot comment on any possible or pending litigation. Attempts to reach Town Supervisor Larry Eckardt have, as of press time, been unsuccessful.
An Article 78 proceeding is usually brought in State Supreme Court and challenges whether the authority involved, in this case the Town of Stephentown, proceeded without or in excess of its jurisdiction, or in violation of a lawful procedure. In his latest communication with The Eastwick Press, Baker says at this point he plans to bring the action “against the Town, Rensselaer County and Tom and Debra Hanson, seeking a temporary order and injunction to stop this project and refer it to the Town for further review.” Debra Hanson is identified in the letter as the wife of Tom Hanson.