COPAKE–A State Appellate Court has for the most part upheld an order and judgment by Acting State Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols issued two years ago that found Salvatore Cascino in civil and criminal contempt of a temporary restraining order.
Mr. Cascino appealed Judge Nichols’ 2010 decision to the State Appellate Division, Third Department, which issued a ruling October 18. The appellate court finding slightly modifies the original court order.
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, such as illegal dumping, building and excavating without getting proper permits.
Following a three-day trial at the Columbia County Courthouse in the winter of 2009 during which Judge Nichols heard evidence about Mr. Cascino’s violation of the restraining order, the judge found that Mr. Cascino:
*Dumped trash, litter, construction and demolition (c+d) debris, including wood pallets, glass, dirt, rebar, rock, concrete, asphalt, bricks, plastic bags, bottles and leaves
*Stored, maintained and serviced trucks, trailers, construction equipment and machinery other than farm machinery
*Used the property as a base of operations for his waste-hauling and recycling business
*Stored and maintained construction materials on the property
*Transported soil, gravel, stone and other materials to and from the property
*Enlarged and altered the existing farm stand buildings without a permit
*Constructed a steel bridge over the Noster Kill without a permit
*Constructed a stone wall without a permit.
As a result of his findings, the judge permanently prohibited Mr. Cascino from engaging in unauthorized uses of the property and violations of Town Code and directed Mr. Cascino to take the following remedial measures:
*Remove the steel bridge he constructed over the Noster Kill, a stream that runs through his property, and restore the farm road leading to it to its pre-existing condition before he widened it by 10 feet
*Restore the farm stand buildings to their pre-existing condition prior to 2006, including removal of the concrete slab, all exterior joists, trellises and lattice work
*Remove all wood pallets and construction material stored on the property
*Remove all the fill he dumped on the property, involving at a minimum, 150,000 cubic yards of material
*Remove the stone wall erected on the property after 2006
*Remove all solid waste dumped on the property, including but not limited to trash, litter and c+d, including glass, rebar, dirt, rock, concrete, asphalt, plastic bags, bottles and bricks.
*Pay all the costs associated with the above mentioned actions.
The appellate court upheld Judge Nichols orders, stating for the most part “the court did not abuse its discretion.” But the appeals court made modifications. Mr. Cascino does not have to restore the farm road to its previous condition because the plaintiff, in this case the town, failed to demonstrate that the road is a structure or that a permit was needed to widen it.
Also, the appellate court ordered and the Town conceded that Mr. Cascino can engage in construction and excavation activities in furtherance of farming operations so long as building permits are obtained when necessary as required by the Town Code. The court said Mr. Cascino can use his garage for the storage of farm equipment and use the property for lawful agricultural activities.
Copake Town Supervisor Jeff Nayer told The Columbia Paper this week that he is pleased with the decision, noting that Judge Nichols was upheld and the modifications are minor.
Mr. Nayer said he will not know what happen next until the town confers with its attorney on Cascino matters, Victor Meyers, who is out of town until November 7.
Mr. Cascino’s attorney, Brian Gardner, did not return a call for comment by press deadline.
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