Tonight's public hearing on Hanover Farms, a farmstand on Route 28 in Mt. Tremper, ought to draw a feisty crowd to the Shandaken Town Hall.
The farmstand was shut down by a New York State Supreme Court judge's order last November, the latest in a long battle between the Hanover Farms and the town of Shandaken over the farmstand's disregard for local zoning law. In 2012, that battle moved from the court of public opinion to an actual courtroom, when Hanover Farms sued the town and its code enforcement officer for issuing a stop-work order on new construction at the farmstand. The town then filed a countersuit against Hanover Farms.
In her November decision, acting State Supreme Court justice Mary Work ordered the farmstand to be torn down, but later agreed, with the consent of the town, to allow Hanover Farms to remain standing while the owners applied for permits from the town to operate legally.
Hanover Farms owner Al Higley Sr. and Michael Higley, who owns the residentially-zoned land the farmstand sits on, have recently applied to the town Zoning Board of Appeals for several variances from local zoning law, and submitted site plans to the town Planning Board. The farmstand's plans will be the subject of a public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m., Thursday, May 8 at the Shandaken Town Hall.
In the application, the Higleys ask for five variances from local zoning requirements, seeking to allow the farmstand to be closer to the street and to lot lines than town zoning allows, and to have a bigger farmstand than the town's new farmstand law permits.
The steep slope of the land behind the farmstand prevents it from being moved further back from the road, the owners claim in an application.
Shandaken's farmstand law was passed in February of 2012, in an effort by the town board to craft a zoning code that would allow Hanover Farms to operate legally. The farmstand law was passed after another effort -- to re-zone the land Hanover Farms sits on as "commercial" instead of "residential" -- drew fierce opposition from the community.
Before the farmstand law was passed, local zoning law forbade any farmstand over 100 square feet to operate on residential land. The farmstand law expanded that to allow a stand that occupies up to 49 percent of the land a residential landowner can legally develop -- 10 percent, under existing town law. For a lot of the size of Hanover Farms', the new law allows for a 2,687-square-foot farmstand, including parking.
Hanover Farms is asking the town for a variance to occupy 5,773 square feet: 1,390 for the farmstand, 3,721 for the parking lot, and a few hundred square feet for coolers, a shed and displays.
The farmstand is a popular spot for Shandaken residents and out-of-towners alike, and Hanover Farms has many passionate local supporters who blame the town for the shutdown.
Not far from the farmstand, there may be another local land use issue brewing. At the most recent Shandaken town board meeting on Monday, May 5, town board members got an earful from Chris Fisher, a local resident who lives near The Phoenician, a restaurant soon to open at the former site of Al's Seafood in Phoenicia. The restaurant, which is owned by local restaurateur Mike Ricciardella, is under construction and expansion.
At the meeting, Fisher accused the town of selective enforcement against Hanover Farms, while ignoring zoning violations at Ricciardella's building project.
"There's so many town laws that are being violated. It's double the size," he said. Fisher accused several town officials of unethical behavior, calling supervisor Rob Stanley "as crooked as the rest of them."
For video from Shandaken town meetings and public hearings, see the town's YouTube channel.