Cascino site abuzz with farm stand, other unapproved projects
COPAKE—Can Salvatore Cascino be stopped?
Town officials told residents at the May 9 Town Board meeting they share the public’s concerns about the illegal activities going on at the Cascino property and continue to document the unpermitted construction and excavation work there.
But the violations just keep piling up. Mr. Cascino, 73, a convicted scofflaw, lives in Larchmont and owns 300 acres along the east side of Route 22, across from the southern entrance to the Copake hamlet. He calls the place Copake Valley Farm and for the past 16 years has racked up violations of federal, state and town laws there, for illegal dumping, building and excavating without getting proper permits.
At the May meeting, Roberta Roll, who lives near the Cascino property, asked the board, “What’s going on with Cascino?” She wanted to know if anyone is doing anything about the continuing illegal activity there and asked if he had applied for any building permits for new or existing buildings.
Town Supervisor Jeff Nayer replied that Mr. Cascino “continues on with his endeavors” while the supervisor and Building Inspector/Code Enforcement Officer Edward Ferratto regularly visit the site, document the building and the dumping and stay in touch with the town’s attorney on Cascino matters, Victor Meyers.
Mr. Ferratto issued a stop work order to Mr. Cascino last summer prohibiting work on the farm stand along Route 22. Yet Mr. Cascino continues extensive construction on what used to be two separate structures without having obtained a building permit. The structures are now connected under a new roof, with new siding and enclosed behind a glass front. “Mr. Cascino has obviously not” paid any attention to the stop work order, said Mr. Nayer.
“What’s going to happen in another two weeks or so when he is ready to open?” asked Ms. Roll.
The farm stand cannot be legally opened.
Mr. Ferratto was advised by the attorney not to issue a building permit because the farm stand is part of the town’s ongoing criminal and civil contempt case against Mr. Cascino. Additionally, Mr. Cascino’s farm stand plans would have had to undergo a site plan review by the town Planning Board because of its location in the Scenic Corridor Overlay Zone.
Mr. Cascino’s unpermitted work on the farm stand has also raised the hackles of the state Department of Transportation.
A letter sent to Mr. Cascino from DOT’s Columbia County Permit Engineer Joseph A. Visconti advises Mr. Cascino that he is in violation of both state Highway Law and Vehicle and Traffic Law for not getting a permit to work in the state highway right-of-way and for the illegal work he performed in the right-of-way.
Mr. Visconti says in the letter that all the material used and associated with the illegal work: concrete, granite cobbles, drainage work and the discharge of water onto the state’s right-of-way must be immediately removed and the site “re-established to the way it was prior to any construction you have done.”
The removal of material was supposed to have been done within 30 days of the date of the letter “or the State will be required to remove this at your expense.” The letter from the DOT was dated July 17, 2012.
Neither the voluntary removal, nor the removal of the material at Mr. Cascino’s expense has happened.
Apparently, this is not the first instance of Mr. Cascino doing work illegally within the state right-of-way, because Mr. Visconti goes on to say in his letter that he has met with Mr. Cascino “on several occasions over the past few years” about right-of-way work requirements, “Yet you continue to do illegal work within the Highway Boundaries along Route 22 without securing the necessary permits…You have never submitted an application for any of the work you have already completed and continue to make improvements without the proper permits or contacting our office.
“Please be aware that the New York State Department of Transportation will take whatever measures necessary to ensure the safety of the traveling public.”
Among those who received a copy of the letter is the New York State Police Livingston Barracks.
A call to Mr. Visconti to find out when enforcement of the law might happen was not returned by press time.
Also at the meeting, Ms. Roll said it seemed to her that Mr. Cascino was building a new road into the property off Weed Mine Road, not far from Lackawanna Road. She also described work Mr. Cascino has done using drainage pipes to enclose a small stream and cover it over.
When contacted by The Columbia Paper about whether Mr. Cascino has applied for or has any permits for stream work or excavation, state Department of Environmental Conservation Spokesman Rick Georgeson said, “No.”
Mr. Cascino is also doing major excavation work on the south end of the property, where his also bringing in tractor trailer truckloads of material, a violation of Town Law.
Neighbors have reported to the Town Board in recent months that they see and hear trucks entering and exiting the property in the wee morning hours.
Yellow scaffolding has now been erected next to the steel beams near the composting building, a possible indication that Mr. Cascino’s may start construction there as well.
“Let’s say he opens the farm stand,” said Ms. Roll, “Is it within the town’s purview and will the town do something?”
Supervisor Nayer said he could not comment. Councilpersons Susan Winchell Sweeney and Kelly Miller-Simmons told Ms. Roll the town is actively seeking clarification about what it can do and that the board is aware of the situation and is as frustrated about it as she is.
The board went into executive session at the conclusion of the regular meeting to discuss the Cascino case with Attorney Meyers. The much awaited May 8 court date when Mr. Cascino was to “show cause” why he should not again be held in contempt of court for continuing to violate town law by dumping, building and excavating without getting proper permits, was unexpectedly put off until July 31 by County Judge Jonathan Nichols due to a scheduling conflict.
In a follow-up phone call, Mr. Ferratto said that Mr. Cascino has not done anything to comply with the judge’s original orders to restore the farm stand to pre-2006 conditions and to remove the illegally built bridge over the Noster Kill.
Mr. Ferratto also said that the two entrances to the farm stand and the curb cuts are not in accordance with DOT requirements.
A call to Mr. Cascino’s attorney Brian Gardner for comment on his client’s behalf was not returned.
To contact Diane Valden email email@example.com.