Appeals drag on as Cascino defies ruling

COPAKE—It is a brand new year and Salvatore Cascino’s resolution appears to remain the same: Keep ignoring the law.

Mr. Cascino, 73, a resident of Larchmont, 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, and building and excavating without the proper permits.

And he is still at it.

Weed Mine Road resident Stosh Gansowski asked for an update on the ongoing saga at the January 10 Copake Town Board meeting. Mr. Gansowski, who lives near the Cascino place, told the board that Mr. Cascino continues to haul in and dump material daily in violation of town ordinances. He said the color of the stuff being dumped comes in many “different shades” and some of it “looks like sludge,” which Mr. Gansowski urged the board to take samples of and get tested.

Building Inspector Ed Ferratto said he was not aware of the dumping but was aware of the excavation work Mr. Cascino is doing to “level that area” at the southern end of the property. The work involves numerous bulldozers, an excavator and a large rock-breaking machine.

Mr. Cascino continues to do construction work on the farm stand along Route 22 despite a stop work order in force since July 2012. Mr. Ferratto said the farm stand is part of ongoing litigation and work on it is not permitted. The visible work includes construction of side and rear walls to enclose the structure, roof work and the installation of wooden shelving, all visible from the road.

Marcia Peteroy, who has a view of the Cascino property from her window, told the board she can see lights and activity going on there at 1, 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning and has kept a log of the dates and times.

“It would be good to have those notes,” Mr. Ferratto said, adding, the unauthorized activity is “not unnoticed” and “we are constantly taking photos and sending them to the attorney” for inclusion in a future contempt hearing.

In a phone interview this week, Mr. Ferratto told The Columbia Paper that the only permits Mr. Cascino has are a building permit for his house, which is apparently not yet complete, and a permit to construct two retaining walls.

The walls are concrete, both run east to west and both are 10-feet high. One is 250-feet long, the other 150-feet long. One of the walls can be seen just south of the hay storage building where Mr. Cascino has his industrial composting machinery set up. Asked what these massive walls are retaining, Mr. Ferratto said, “dirt” or at least that is what Mr. Cascino told him.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Victor Meyers, the town’s attorney on matters involving Mr. Cascino, said he has not yet filed another contempt motion because Mr. Cascino has asked permission to appeal Judge Jonathan Nichols’ ruling to the state’s highest court. Judge Nichols cited Mr. Cascino for civil and criminal contempt and issued a temporary restraining order. That decision was upheld, with minor modifications, by a state appellate court last fall.

As a result of his findings, Judge Nichols permanently prohibited Mr. Cascino from engaging in unauthorized uses of the property and violations of Town Code and directed Mr. Cascino to take the following remedial measures:

*Remove the steel bridge he constructed over the Noster Kill, a stream that runs through his property, and restore the farm road leading to it to its pre-existing condition before he widened it by 10 feet

*Restore the farm stand buildings to their pre-existing condition prior to 2006, including removal of the concrete slab, all exterior joists, trellises and lattice work

*Remove all wood pallets and construction material stored on the property

*Remove all the fill he dumped on the property, involving at a minimum, 150,000 cubic yards of material

*Remove the stone wall erected on the property after 2006

*Remove all solid waste dumped on the property, including but not limited to trash, litter and construction debris, including glass, rebar, dirt, rock, concrete, asphalt, plastic bags, bottles and bricks.

*Pay all the costs associated with the above mentioned actions.

The appellate court amended that list to say that Mr. Cascino does not have to restore the farm road to its previous condition and allowed Mr. Cascino to engage in construction and excavation activities in furtherance of farming operations so long as building permits are obtained when necessary as required by the Town Code.

Mr. Meyer’s said, Mr. Cascino’s latest filing is a “last gasp” and a “long shot.” The attorney said he is currently working on his contempt motion and may file it before a decision is made on Mr. Cascino’s current request to appeal.

Though the winter does not appear to have slowed Mr. Cascino’s illegal activities, perhaps spending the spring in jail will, said Mr. Meyer.

Mr. Cascino’s attorney, Brian Gardner, did not return a call for comment by press deadline.

To contact Diane Valden email .

 

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