Also, board hears about logging, Breakneck intervention
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Philipstown’s Town Board last week voted to sue owners who allow illegal dumping on their properties and shield those responsible.
The board voted 5-0 to sue homeowners who it says, in separate cases, permitted “phony fill” to be dumped. The town code forbids trash dumping or fill operations on private property without permits.
The properties are at 15 Howland Road in Garrison and 240 Carol Lane in North Highlands. The 2018 tax rolls list 15 Howland Road as a 1.5-acre property and 240 Carol Lane as a 2-acre parcel that belongs to the owner of 236 Carol Lane. Both parcels contain houses.
Resolutions authorizing the litigation state that the town’s code enforcement officer issued notices for both properties but that the messes remained.
Supervisor Richard Shea said each incident involved “tractor-trailer loads” of fill and that “complicit” property owners claim to not know who had dumped it. “They’re going to give us a name,” he emphasized. “We’re going to find out who did this and they are going to get fined and are going to clean it up.”
He said that one case involved 5,000 cubic yards of debris that included toilet tanks, pipes and paint cans. The haulers appear to have come across the Tappan Zee Bridge, he said. They apparently were paid to remove debris from another site and brought it in Philipstown, where they were paid again for providing “fill,” he said.
“We’re trying to take care of our town” and illegal dumping “could destroy streams and [neighboring] properties’ well systems, wreak havoc, and cause a serious problem for us for a long time,” said Councilor Mike Leonard.
Christopher Prentis, a forester representing Lower Hudson Forestry Services, appeared before the board to explain the planned logging of about 40 acres on Bald Hill, at 70 Reservoir Lane in the Town of Fishkill on the Philipstown border.
“We’re not doing anything in Philipstown” except to use one or two roads for access, Prentis said. He said the operation would remove 502 “over-mature,” damaged or otherwise poor quality hardwood trees while preserving underbrush and other trees. Because of state restrictions, the work must occur between Nov. 1 and March 31, he said.
Shea said the Town Board’s concerns include “use of our roads and the disturbance” in that part of town and Leonard added that the roads “are extremely small.” Shea said Philipstown would want a bond payment to cover any damage caused by the logging trucks.
The supervisor, who holds a forestry degree, also noted that “there are no boundaries in the forest,” which can extend across town or county lines. But “forests do need to be managed” and “there are ways to mitigate the negative impacts” of tree harvesting, he said. “We’re not looking to crush somebody’s business.”
Max Garfinkle, the town natural resources officer, observed that the paperwork filed so far does not mention that the surrounding area serves as a winter habitat for bald eagles “That will be important,” he said. Prentis said he would check with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Michelle Smith, executive director of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, told the board that a national conservation organization, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, has begun a study of Breakneck Ridge, which is plagued by trash, vandalism, trail erosion, overuse and related problems.
Leave No Trace, which works to preserve endangered parks and scenic areas, is collaborating with the New York State park system and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, as well as private backers such as the outdoor company REI. The group conducted a similar review in the Catskills at the Blue Hole, a woodland pool inundated by visitors and garbage before the DEC restricted access.
On its website, Leave No Trace says that its “goal is to bring long-term solutions to the Breakneck Ridge Trail that will help it on its road to recovery.”
The board voted unanimously to upgrade the moisture-damaged gym floor at the Recreation Center. The Recreation Commission passed along three options: Repairing the floor, which is more than 50 years old, for $7,900; replace the floor with rubberized sheets, at a cost of $60,000; and replace the floor with a new wood floor, for about $90,000.
The Recreation Commission recommended the rubberized floor, although the estimate does not cover any necessary repairs to the underlying slab. Councilor John Van Tassel, the Town Board liaison to the commission, said he would make a sample cut into the floor to determine the condition of the slab.
A contractor, Van Tassel concurred with the Recreation Commission that installing the rubberized floor makes the most sense. He said it would be less vulnerable to moisture damage than the wood floor, which has buckling that looks like “speed bumps.” He said the Recreation Commission budget has enough money to cover the cost.