Judge: Planners were ‘rational’ about Cascino

HUDSON—Salvatore Cascino got another piece of bad news on the legal front this week with Acting State Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols’ rejection of his lawsuit to overturn the Copake Planning Board’s denial of his massive building plans, June 16.
The lawsuit, called an Article 78, was filed by Attorney Dennis Schlenker for Mr. Cascino in December 2008.
In June of that year, Mr. Cascino submitted a site plan proposal to the Town Planning Board for the construction of multiple structures on his 300-acre property called Copake Valley Farm along the east side of Route 22.

In its final incarnation, Mr. Cascino’s plan included:
*A grain dryer with two 70-foot-high silos, structures that exceeded the height limit in the town’s scenic overlay zone
*A 24,000-square-foot barn for composting
*A 10,089-square-foot addition to an existing hay barn/compost machinery building
*An 18,500-square-foot run-in shed
*Various roads to connect the buildings
*A 17,500-square-foot commodity bin structure.
Over the five months that the proposal was being considered by the board, Mr. Cascino continuously changed the plans—altering the sizes of buildings, their uses and even his basic operating plan.
Planners repeatedly asked that Mr. Cascino’s drawings and documents be labeled in a consistent manner, but he never complied with that request. Town Planners unanimously rejected the applicant’s site plan at their November 6, 2008 meeting.
Mr. Cascino alleged in his lawsuit that the planners’ determination was arbitrary, capricious, without a rational basis, erroneous as a matter of law and beyond its jurisdiction. 
He also alleged that planners’ based their denial on community prejudice and opposition to the project and the board merely speculated that the property would not be used for agricultural purposes and that Town Laws unreasonably restrict farming.
Represented by Attorney Victor Meyers, the town’s response was that Town Law was enacted to promote public health and safety and encourage appropriate land use.
In his 22-page decision, Judge Nichols found that the abundance of legal actions brought by and against Mr. Cascino over the years by the Town of Copake, the Town of Dover, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and the state Attorney General “created reasonable and justifiable doubts for the board” about Mr. Cascino’s intended use of the property.
The judge called the board’s conclusion that the Mr. Cascino would continue to use his property as part of his waste-hauling business instead of “legitimate farm operation” a “rational view of the record” and that the board “clearly had discretion to deny the site plan application to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community.”
Mr. Cascino owes the Town of Copake $15,000 it paid to expert consultants to review the application. The town’s attorney speculated a couple of months ago that Mr. Cascino might be awaiting the outcome of his this lawsuit before paying up. Whether he will now, remains to be seen.
Mr. Schlenker could not be reached for comment.
To contact Diane Valden email

 

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