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They’ve seen it all before


Copake Planning Board rejects retread of Cascino ‘barn’ plan

COPAKE–The Copake Planning Board last week sent Salvatore Cascino back to the drawing board with his latest proposal to expand an existing hay barn/composting building on his property.

Mr. Cascino’s consultant David Wiener appeared before the Planning Board September 6 for a site plan review of a proposal to expand the building across from the southern entrance to the Copake hamlet, where his commercial composting/grinding equipment sits.

The total size of the building when expanded would be 14,805 square feet and would involve enclosing the giant grinder, which is already flanked by rows of vertical large steel beams, presumably in preparation for the proposed construction.

Mr. Cascino, 72, a resident of Larchmont, owns 300 acres along the east side of Route 22. He calls the place Copake Valley Farm and for the past 15 years has racked up violations of federal, state and town laws there for illegal dumping, and building and excavating without proper permits.


After entering into the record a set of drawings, and a grading and drainage plan and a survey, all bearing 2007 dates, Planning Board Chair Marcia Becker told Mr. Wiener she did not see any “substantial difference” between the recently submitted building plans and those submitted to the Planning Board in 2008.


Back then, the hay barn/compost machine building expansion was only one of several proposed large-scale construction projects on the property. At that time Mr. Cascino also proposed a grain dryer and two 70-foot-high silos, an 18,500 square-foot run-in shed, a 24,900 square-foot cattle barn, a variety of roads, and a 17,500 square-foot commodity bin structure.


In a written decision dated November 6, 2008, the Planning Board denied the massive proposal for several reasons organized into four general categories:

*The lack of credibility created by the changing nature of the proposed operation and by the applicant’s inability to provide a comprehensive and coherent application

*The plan to build an illegal composting operation and silos that exceeded the legal size

*The failure of the applicant to address water quality and traffic concerns raised by the board

* The applicant’s history of violations of state and local laws.


Mr. Wiener acknowledged that the most recent plans were indeed for the same building, but he said the new plans were now being presented on a “stand-alone basis.” The purpose of the expansion, said Mr. Wiener is that “we need more space for hay.”


“After hearing an enormous amount of testimony and study of the project done in 2008,” said Mrs. Becker, “the determination was made that this specific building was considered and deemed not permissible. This structure in this area cannot be built as proposed.”


The board then unanimously voted not to undertake a second review of a project it had already thoroughly examined.


When Mr. Wiener asked the reasons why the board found the structure not permissible four years ago, Mrs. Becker said it is all spelled out in the board’s 2008 decision and he could look it up. She also told Mr. Wiener that he could revise the plan and submit it again.

But the same plan you have just submitted is “off the table,” she said.


Mr. Wiener said he had been advised that because the proposal was now a stand-alone project it would not be subject to a full site plan review.


Town Attorney Ken Dow explained that might have been the case had the board’s decision not specifically mentioned that this structure cannot be built as proposed.


In answer to a question from Planning Board member Gray Davis about what the grinder would be used for, Mr. Wiener said that when Mr. Cascino purchased the farm, the town Zoning Board of Appeals said it was allowable to bring in suitable material and compost it. Mr. Wiener said the trucked in material would be mixed with manure.


“You’re proposing to reactivate that grinder?” asked Mr. Gray.


Mrs. Becker then cut the exchange short, stating, “We are not reviewing it without modification. Maybe we’ll see you again soon,” she said to Mr. Wiener, noting she would keep the recently submitted material, but that Mr. Cascino would have to make a new application and the plans can’t be substantially the same.


The board’s 2008 decision on the proposal states that composting is not a permitted use according to the Town Zoning Code. The ZBA interpretation was issued in 1997 but the code was changed in 2006, rendering the interpretation invalid.


Meanwhile Victor Meyers, the town’s attorney on Cascino-related matters, told The Columbia Paper Wednesday morning that he argued town’s appeal in the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Albany last week.


Mr. Cascino had unsuccessfully appealed Judge Jonathan Nichol’s November 2010 decision, which forbids Mr. Cascino from dumping any solid waste on the property; operating any commercial or industrial enterprise, including commercial composting, construction or excavation without permits; using a garage on the property for maintenance, repair and storage of trucks, tractor trailers and other equipment.


Mr. Cascino had hoped for a stay of enforcement of Judge Nichols order pending appeal. Now there is nothing preventing Judge Nichols’ order from proceeding, said Mr. Meyers, noting he expects a decision in six to eight weeks.


In a related matter, state Department of Environmental Conservation Officer Peter Brinkerhoff inspected Mr. Cascino’s property last Thursday because he received a complaint about potential violations. Officer Brinkerhoff did not find any violations during his inspection.


Mr. Cascino was maintaining an existing drainage ditch on his property and was not impacting any mapped state wetlands. The excavation on his property was not in violation of any state law or regulation, according to DEC Spokesman Rick Georgeson.


To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com.


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