After alleged illegal activity on town-owned property at West Hook mountain was brought to light by community activists, the Town of Clarkstown has been working to resolve issues of unpermitted development and illegal tree removal. On June 1, Judge Scott Ugell heard one of the three charges in the case against the property owner of 20 Old Stone Road.
The property owner’s attorney, Donald Feerick, discussed the soil disturbance charge, which involves the unauthorized leveling of a slope adjacent to the property. The town accused the property owner of not obtaining a permit to complete the work that was done. Feerick said a stormwater management plan was submitted to the town for resolution.
If the town accepts the plan his client submitted, “the soil disturbance issue will be resolved,” said Feerick. The attorney went on to say that the resolution of this particular issue will not resolve the other charges levied against his client.
The property owner has also been accused of illegally removing a section of trees on both his own, and town property and illegally adding a second-floor to his home. A gate that the owner had also constructed, has already been removed following a government survey that revealed the structure rested on public property.
Some community members have expressed dissatisfaction with the town’s handling of this case.
Milo Barney disagreed with Clarkstown’s decision to separate the charges against the property owner. “The decision to divide the cases seems to diminish the importance of the real issue,” said Barney. “The destruction of park property, and the post facto permit policy that Clarkstown practices.”
Marvin Baum, the activist who initially reported the destruction of town trees, noted that other residents have been fined for much smaller violations. “A town that has prided itself on being tough on violations, seemingly is just giving a pass for reasons that are inexplicable at this point at least to the public eye,” said Baum. “And that is what is very concerning to me and I think many other people, that they feel that some people get treated differently.”
The town has not yet concluded its criminal investigation regarding the illegal tree removal adjacent to the property owner. In a letter addressed to town attorney Leslie Kahn, New-York-New Jersey Trail Conference Executive Director Joshua Howard urged the town to “not to move forward on any settlement until the Clarkstown Police have fully completed their investigation,” wrote Howard. Baum and other community members share this sentiment.
We reached out to the Town Supervisor’s Office for more information about the case and will report any updates.
The soil disturbance charge will be brought to trial on June 29, at 9:30 a.m.