Follow Up on the
It On To SCOTUS
what we could gather this is a driveway there and some construction
equipment parked on that driveway,” Planning Board
chairman Drew Boggess said after Alan Eisenson addressed
the board. The former owner of Just Alan, and current landlord
for Scandinavian Grace on Route 28 in Shokan, charged that
the board had not only failed to answer letters he’d
sent documenting property enhancements made over recent
years, but never even acknowledged previous reports that
it had erred in never holding a site plan review for the
property owned by local excavator David Jones, who pulled
his application for site changes when he was under review
by the current board’s predecessors in 2005.
“Why didn’t we answer your letter?” Boggess
later said, rhetorically. “You misspelled my last
name and the town supervisor’s first name.”
“Are you saying this is like school and you didn’t
answer me because I didn’t spell your name right?”
Eisenson replied, outraged.
“Why don’t you take it to the Supreme Court
then,” chimed in planner Robert Tisch. “I think
you’re getting pretty close to Defamation of Character
“We didn’t see any evidence of a business. If
there had been, we would do a site plan review,” Boggess
Eisenson has charged that Jones has been letting a construction
business operate out of his property, which he accommodated
by reinforcing a dead-end driveway by nine inches, closing
off a culvert he (Eisenson) had put in to drain his property’s
parking area and side yard. He has also pointed out, in
photos and in person to this reporter, how the Jones’
lot has been expanded to include parking for numerous heavy
construction vehicles, a storage shed utilized as an office,
side roads, a wood-splitting business, and what appears
to be work within what appears to be a small wetlands area.
The December 2005 public hearing on a site plan application
from Jones, who was seeking to park and store equipment
for his and another’s logging and trucking businesses,
with an office trailer and free standing sign, was abandoned
when the current planner was told to meet a number of mitigation
When Eisenson took his case to the media earlier this summer,
town supervisor Bert Leifeld and Olive code enforcement
officer John Ingram said they had talked to “Jonesie”
and the board, and a site plan application was in the works.
The town’s zoning secretary noted at the time that
the previous 2005 public hearing was still considered open
on the application.
But following Eisenson’s unannounced appearance before
the Olive Planning Board this week, it seems even that matter
is now closed… at least according to everyone on the
What about town zoning laws that require site plan review
for, “All principal uses except single-family homes,”
which further stated that “no building development
or site work of any sort shall be conducted prior to or
shall be carried out except in conformity with such approval
and its conditions?”
Boggess kept asking Eisenson, at the meeting, if there was
an actual office on Jones’ site, or a telephone. When
Eisenson replied that the work was going on via a cell phone,
the questioning shifted to the complainant’s own driveway
and parking lot and a state Department of Transportation
request that he put in curb cuts from 30 years ago. It was
noted that the planners had overlooked such things when
he had come for site plan review when reviving his commercial
building for its new tenants.
There was also much talk about how water drainage and culverts
were not their business, and how little authority planners
actually had, given the larger scheme of things.
Boggess noted that, the area in question being a commercial
zone, it was okay for landowners to “put in some site
improvements” without review. All the planners agreed:
Jones’ driveway and parking area did not constitute
a business. Or site work, for that matter.
“We don’t do site plan review on a parking lot,”
In the evening’s other business, the planners opened
site plan reviews on three applications and held one ten
minute hearing, later closed and all papers signed. They
work fast and Boggess noted that they weren’t actually
required to hold public hearings on everything, as they
Would either the board, or Jones, consider doing a site
plan review simply to clear the air?
“I’m not doing any more than I’m required,”
Jones replied. “They all say it’s not a business.”
When Eisenson brought up a letter Jones had sent him which
he described as being threatening, the planner replied that
it wasn’t an official missive, but personal. And he,
too, felt libeled by being questioned.
After the meeting, Jones said that the work he’d done
was simply to help out a younger contractor, Pete Estes,
who had almost been forced out of business when he was earlier
forced to move his construction vehicles from a residential
“I don’t even charge him money,” he said.
As for the wood cutting, the excavator added that, “I
do that for my own use.”
On which he crossed his arms.
Eisenson, by then, had stormed off long ago.
End of discussion. For now, and here, at least.
Unless, of course, this thing starts to move through the
courts... which could be hard, given no legal decision’s
been made. Unless that first hearing may still be open,
as was once noted...
“…And as the school board sits only a few windows
down in the library,” Kocher said, “I know we walk
today in silence, that our message was heard loudly.”
In a separate interview, Corey Cavallaro, President of the Onteora
Teachers Association, said, “We need to bring attention
to our cause that the board is refusing to come to the table
to negotiate in a good faith manner.”
He explained that the board has not been involved in “negotiations,
mediations or fact finding sessions up to this day.” Following
mediation, the union and administrators had one meeting with
a fact-finder as appointed by PERB (Public Employment Relations
Board). Details of fact-finding can be made public within five
days after that the report is submitted.
According to Labor Relations Specialist Jeffrey R. Benton, the
district is not even close to reaching that goal. For teachers
in New York State, there is no such thing as binding arbitration.
He said only police and firefighters can submit their issues
to a neutral representative and that person decides what the
contract should be.
“Public employees don’t have that in New York State,”
he said, adding that everything is about the “collective
Onteora Schools Superintendent Dr. Leslie Ford explained, in
the regular meeting, that the board has not met with the appointed
lawyer yet and will decide in the next couple of weeks on what
route to take. She said the board has been in negotiations,
but when asked about direct talks with the union she said, “The
board has been involved through its negotiating team, which
would be Victoria (McLaren), myself and the lawyer.”
The board would need to decide if it wants to get directly involved,
according to Ford, but to date has made no decision on sending
members to the table. During the board meeting, school board
president Laurie Osmond said, “As most of you have seen,
we had Onteora teachers picketing outside. I just wanted to
say we thank them for being here, we thank them for what they
do and we all hope that we can get any kind of contract disputes
resolved very, very quickly.”
During the regular meeting part of the evening Sept. 8, the
board unanimously chose Tom Hickey and Rob Kurnit as the two
new members who will fill the seats left vacated by Michelle
Friedel and Richard Wolff. Hickey and Kurnit were the only two
who presented themselves before the school board and were asked
a series of questions by trustees. Both have been involved with
the school district for several years.
This was Hickey’s third and successful attempt to become
a trustee. He is a resident of Shandaken, has two kids in the
Middle/High School, and volunteers for school functions. He
also sits on the Shandaken Zoning Board. He would like to run
for school board when his seat is up in May. His background
experience is in business, financial consulting and music composition.
He supports the arts but also makes note of fiscal responsibility.
“I think there is a point where you have to make a decision
to make the education we give our children the best we can afford,”
he said, “as opposed to the cheapest we can afford.”
Kurnit has lived in Woodstock for 18 years and has attended
board meetings and other board related forums regularly for
the past four years. He is a fine woodworker and cabinetmaker.
He is interested in a run for school board in May and said this
was a way to get his feet wet.
“I think these are difficult times in many ways,”
he said. “I would like to see us do what is best for the
kids and that is really my main interest.”
Kurnit added that he believes that with such a large district,
it is important to maintain local schools and does not support
The school board accepted the resignation of district secretary
Elizabeth Sopata, who allegedly stole a sum of money (possibly
exceeding $9,000) from the Extra Curricular Account, monies
raised by school groups. Ford was not sure if Sopata was arraigned
yet because there was a mix-up on the location, but said if
it did not happen already, it would soon. Sopata is charged
with, third degree grand larceny, second degree forgery and
second degree falsifying business records.
think people, when they hire a contractor, have a right to know
three things: that the contractor is competent, ethical, and
has insurance. I think this law could help do that,” said
Legislator PhilipTerpening, the Rosendale Democrat who chairs
the Labor Relations Committee. “But it should be noted
that this is still in discussion. We’re still looking
at it. It’s out there for input and revision.”
At present, about half the states in the country utilize contractor
licensing or registration of some sort, and those either adopting
or discussing such matters appears to be growing, with neighboring
Pennsylvania initiating its own licensing this past July.
In New York State, the five boroughs of New York City require
general contractors to be licensed, as do Putnam, Rockland and
Westchester counties. Dutchess County recently enacted an electrician
licensing law, similar to Greene County.
The proposed county licensing law is currently discussing requiring
all contractors doing more than $1,500 worth of work on a residence
or business to hold a county license. The law would set the
amount of money a consumer would have to give to the contractor
as a down payment for work, spell out payment terms and set
requirements for record-keeping by the contractor. The proposed
law also calls for the creation of a board to oversee the licensing
of contractors and hear complaints filed against contractors,
with the possibility of revoking licenses of those found to
be in violation of the law. Administration of the law would
be financed through licensing fees paid by contractors.
Local contractors and planning officials asked about the law
seemed evenly split between its benefits and possible liabilities,
with everyone saying it would improve the quality of work and
craftsmanship in the area, with folks wanting cheap jobs still
able to go with unlicensed workers, given they can still get
building permits. But they worried about those just starting
out, or using contracting as a stop gap measure in between other
careers. They also wondered who would enforce the new licensing
Similar complaints and accolades have arisen in those states
that already have registries and licenses, although all seem
to agree that in the end, it works in the consumers’ favor.
Terpening, in recent interviews, has said that his committee
has not set a time frame for their proposed law, or for bringing
it to the full Legislature for consideration.
“I would like to do it as soon as possible, but I want
to do it right,” he said.
“It’s hard to justify the elimination of basic contractor
licensing that allows local and state governments to track,
identify, and prohibit scandalous contracting practices that
threaten the financial security of homeowners and the legitimate
business of reputable and customer-oriented companies,”
reads the Pennsylvania FAQ on why it passed such laws. “Regardless
of the legal or ideological tilt in your state, you must pursue
multiple avenues of quality control before you make the decision
to hire a contractor.”
Getting Our Cats?
As of earlier this year, reports indicate the fisher population
has returned to areas from which they were previously extirpated,
such as Connecticut, the Hudson Valley in New York, and New
Jersey. But as of press time, no recent tracking signs have
emerged locally in the creek’s vicinity regarding this
large member of the weasel family with short legs, small ears,
and a long well-furred tail.
But fishers do inhabit this part of the country… and can
climb trees after their prey. According to the state Department
of Environmental Conservation, “fisher dens used for giving
birth to their young typically are found in large trees, high
off the ground…They make use of natural cavities frequently
found in older trees. They also use cavities in rocky areas.
Dens for general cover and protection consist of hollow logs,
turned over stumps, brush piles, or ground burrows.”
Coyotes, meanwhile, have been on the rise not only in the Catskills,
but as far south as the metropolitan area suburbs and even New
York City itself.
According to the DEC, a coyote’s diet, “depends
on one thing - what is easiest to find or catch and kill. During
the summer, coyotes will feed heavily upon berries, insects,
and rodents. During early fall they rely on abundant grasshoppers.
Small mammals become the prey of choice during late fall and
winter. As winter becomes harder and small mammal populations
decline, coyotes turn toward their largest prey - whitetail
The animals tend to live in family units made up of an adult
pair and their pups from the current year, defending a territory
of 6 to 15 square miles against other coyotes. The coyote population
in New York during the summer is approximately 20,000-30,000.
Young coyotes are driven from their parents’ territory
between September and March.
As for how to protect one’s pets from either predator,
the following is recommended on several websites…
Bring your pets in at night. This is not a guarantee since coyotes
will do what they have to do to stay fed. However they generally
hunt at night, including twilight hours.
Try to eliminate outdoor odors. Coyotes have a keen sense of
smell. Strong garbage odors and food left outdoors is a strong
invitationto a hungry coyote.
Wooden stockade fences may deter, but not totally keep all coyotes
out of your yard. They can climb many fences or just leap over
them. And fishers can definitely climb most anything.
Take note if your pets seem nervous and frightened if they have
Since all these efforts also help keep the bear away, they’re
good maxims for all of us living here.
Coyote season runs from October 1 through the end of March,
with junior hunting, small game, small/big game, sportsman,
super sportsman, non-resident hunting, or non-resident super
sportsman license required… and no limits or restrictions
on night hunting.
Fisher trapping is allowed October 25 through December 10, again
with special permits.
The Environmental Conservation Law allows ‘problem coyotes’
to be killed at other times of the year. Section 11-0523 says
coyotes that are “injuring private property may be taken
by the owner, occupant or lessee... at any time in any manner.”
“I know I’m the one that has to protect my pets,
just as I have to deal with the bears, or the deer when driving,”
said one local woman who’d lost a pet but didn’t
want to be named for this story. “But then I say to myself,
‘I’m living in the country and not a city. It really
shouldn’t have to be this way.’ And then there’s
my cats, looking at me with those eyes.”
Ah, the cruelties of nature...
Jar Of Olives...
A Nip In The Air
I am hoping that we have a duplicate of today’s sunshine
for Olive Day next Saturday, September 12. Come, bring the family
and enjoy the entertainment of the X-Files, Ben Rounds Band,
Red Feather Singers and Cloud Breaker Drummers. There will be
over thirty vendors and a virtual feast to entice your palette.
This is the week to catch your frog (or rent one at the park)
and counter that first week of school with some fun tossing
eggs, riding on Bert Leifeld’s hay wagon, playing “Pluck
a Duck”, participating in the Wayfinders’ Adventure,
doing the bicycle safety course or just hanging out with friends.
Speaking of Katydids, our own Kate McGloughlin and Doris Goldberg
will be displaying the flags at the Olive Free Library that
Olive residents created to be carried over the newly constructed
walking bridge over the Hudson River. The summer recreation
program children and the Senior Art Class helped sew the twenty-five
flags that will represent Olive at the grand opening ceremony
in October. Judith Boggess, Henny Wise and Evie Konjas created
a work of art in their flag of a the turtle representing the
Native American creation myth. Since these flags were to represent
our town, Jeannette Kahil appliquéd a deer, and Lois
Ostapczuk, Jane McCabe, and Dianna Reynolds quilted scenes of
the Catskills. Mine was (what else?) a jar of olives.
The senior art class will have an art exhibit on Olive Day and
will begin its fall semester at the Reservoir Methodist Church
on Monday, September 14 from 10 until 12.
The senior yoga, conducted by Kathy Carey, will resume on Thursday,
September 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Olive Free Library. Another
exercise class is being organized for Wednesday mornings at
9:00 a.m. Any seniors wanting to join these groups can contact
Judith Boggess at 657-5817 or email email@example.com.
Another activity starting up this fall is the ballroom dancing
group that was so successful last year that they have added
a third session. A beginner’s class for couples is forming
that will run for eight consecutive Tuesdays from September
15 until November 3. Interested terpsichorean novices can contact
Cheryl Kosarek at 657-6783 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I am told that
husbands and boyfriends who are dragged into this kicking and
scratching emerge with their dignity and masculinity intact.
Judging by the fact that all of last year’s couples chose
to do it again, it was a social success.
Tomorrow I will attend a Not-Back-To-School luncheon. I still
get that rush of adrenalin each fall as students, both expectedly
and reluctantly, go off to school. There is an energy fueled
by reunions with classmates, recharged teachers, and relief
as parents send students off to a fall that marches with more
routine than the meandering summer.