Can this work?

NYC woman wants to preserve local produce for urban market

NEW LEBANON–A Stephentown woman wants to start a canning company in town and put up the produce of local growers.

Kristen Greer Woolery, a weekend resident, appeared before the town Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday, September 1, with her attorney, Brian Baker, to discuss plans for the Shaker Mountain Canning Company, a food processing plant she hopes to create on property she has under contract on Route 20, the former Jackie van Deusen property.

She has not yet filed an application for the business, and Ms. Woolery stressed that she was not planning to create a large industrial factory. She said the plan was to “capture the authenticity of the place” and to be an extension of the eat-local movement, contracting with local produce growers to process their surplus for sale “in the New York/Metropolitan area. It’s a link for people to be able to eat local year round.”

Ms. Woolery is chairwoman of the board of Just Food, a New York City non-profit working “to develop a just and sustainable food system” in the city, according to information available at the ZBA meeting. In New Lebanon she proposes that some of the products will be sold in a retail space in the building. The facility she has in mind will “perhaps employ two or three local people,” she said. The zoning for the property is General Commercial, but there is no provision for food processing plants.

Each of the products would be packaged in transparent materials with a label advertising the number of “food miles” and the names of the farms involved in production. The company will also consider developing and then canning recipes for “seasonal items like garlic scape pesto” or spaghetti sauce, made with locally produced ingredients, the literature says.

The facility would store or dry vegetables and fruits to be sold out of season, and will process other produce by either canning or freezing. 

She also plans to grow some crops that can be frozen, dried or canned on two or three acres of the property.

Discussion of the project at the meeting focused on the definition of a restaurant and a farm.  ZBA Chairman John Dax suggested Ms. Woolery pursue the idea of a home occupation, if the facility is small enough, or ask the Town Board to fit the use into the district. But he said that the ZBA couldn’t render an opinion on whether or not the use would be permitted.

In other business, the board continued the public hearing on the proposed go-cart track at Lebanon Valley Speedway. Mr. Dax said that the Planning Board has not yet seen the plan. In response to questions from the ZBA, speedway owner Howard Commander said he planned to have the track open four days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and for “special events.” He will begin with one day a week, he said, and expand the use to another day “when the drag or the track is running.”

The special events, he said, would be “one–maybe two a year, where you bring people in from the tri-state region.” They “load in one day and two days of racing,” with perhaps eight cars on the track at a time. “We’re not interested in running anything with three cars. We can’t make any money at it,” he said.

Mr. Dax, who asked about noise, said most of the people who had spoken at the previous hearing on the proposal didn’t want “incremental noise.”

Mr. Commander said that the carts have mufflers and make “no more noise than a lawnmower.”

“Eight large lawnmowers make noise,” Mr. Dax said.

Both Mr. Dax and Mr. Murad said that they would like the manual of the WKA, the World Karting Association, a sanctioning authority, govern operations at the go-cart track. The manual spells out requirements for mufflers and other equipment. The two officials also said they would like to see any non-sanctioned cars listed on a special permit from the town.

Mr. Dax said that the board would not want the track open “on a random night,” because noise would be an issue.

The ZBA decided to leave the matter unresolved until the town Planning Board weigh in and Mr. Commander files the paperwork for the required state environmental review.

The board also set for a hearing at its next meeting, Tuesday, October 6, on an appeal of Zoning Enforcement Officer Stan Koloski’s ruling that a “private recreation area” using firearms existed on property owned by Philip Gellert and leased by Frank Carrozzo.

Mr. Carrozzo and members of his family said that those using the property on West Street were family and friends. “We do not do anything for profit,” said Mr. Corrozzo. The family has leased the 400-acre property, much of it in Stephentown, for 16 years, using it for target practice and hunting, he said.


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