Cascino hauled back to court

Judge will hear case for contempt charge as building goes on
COPAKE—Salvatore Cascino and the Town of Copake will square-off again in court Wednesday, March 27 at 10 a.m.

At that time, Mr. Cascino will be expected to “show cause” why he should not again be held in contempt of court.

Earlier this month, the town’s attorney on Cascino matters, Victor Meyers, filed another contempt of court action against Mr. Cascino, 73, a scofflaw, who lives in Larchmont and 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, building and excavating without getting proper permits.

In late January, Mr. Cascino lost his appeal to pursue a further appeal of civil and criminal contempt rulings made by Acting State Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols, who also issued a temporary restraining order against him. Judge Nichols permanently prohibited Mr. Cascino from engaging in unauthorized uses of the property and violating Town Code and ordered him 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 c+d (construction and demolition), including glass, rebar, dirt, rock, concrete, asphalt, plastic bags, bottles and bricks
*Pay all the costs associated with the above mentioned actions.
At the February 14 Town Board meeting, Copake Supervisor Jeff Nayer announced that after Mr. Cascino lost his appeal, the town received three checks from him totaling $21,088.80 for legal and related costs the town had incurred in suits against him—costs the court had long ago ordered him to pay. Mr. Cascino had apparently decided to fork over the money under threat of having his property sold at a sheriff’s sale, an auction of property by the sheriff under court authority to satisfy an unpaid obligation.
Mr. Nayer also announced the upcoming March court date at the Columbia County Courthouse’s temporary location in Claverack, noting, “We’ll see where that takes us.”
In the meantime, Mr. Cascino has continued extensive work on the farmstand buildings, which are part of the court order. Mr. Cascino was supposed to undo all the work he did on the buildings after 2006 because he did not obtain a building permit for any of it.
But instead, since last summer and despite the issuance of a stop-work order, Mr. Cascino has essentially rebuilt the buildings, replacing and adding rafters, supports, siding, a new roof, shelving, put up signs and connected the two once-separate structures. He has constructed five small open-front, shed-like structures on one side of the farm stand entry way, which he has also paved. He has not obtained permits for any of the construction work.
Mr. Cascino did get permits to build two 10-foot high concrete retaining walls over by the compost/hay building, one of them 250-feet long, the other 150-feet long. But according to Copake Building Inspector Ed Ferratto, Mr. Cascino’s masonry contractor came to him recently seeking an inspection of one of the walls so he could go ahead with pouring another five or six foot-high extension on top of it. Mr. Ferratto told The Columbia Paper this week that he told the contractor no permit has been issued for an extension, the original permit does not cover an extension and to get a permit for an extension stamped engineering drawings will have to be submitted to ensure that the wall is stable. The contractor said he would come back with the drawings, but never did.
On Tuesday, Mr. Ferratto saw that the six-foot extension had already been poured and immediately issued a stop-work order/order to remedy a violation and personally spoke to Mr. Cascino about it.
Mr. Cascino’s attorney, Brian Gardner did not return a call for comment by press deadline.
In other business at the February meeting the Town Board:
*Agreed to stick with the law as it is written regarding board consultant fees. Planning Board Chair Marcia Becker asked the board for “a threshold” above which an applicant would have to start picking up the tab for consultants hired by a board in the course of reviewing an application. Ms. Becker proposed a $150 threshold, noting there was previously a line in the Planning Board’s section of the budget allotted for consultant and legal fees.
Supervisor Nayer spoke against any threshold, saying, “It’s the town’s money, taxpayer money to use as needed pending Town Board approval. If something needs an opinion, the applicant should pay for it, not the whole town.”  Though Councilwoman Linda Gabaccia said she would be willing to consider a threshold, after hearing the discussion, she noted it was clear that the board was divided on the issue and the town should go by what the law says at this point.
*Heard from Supervisor Nayer, who was looking for ways to increase town revenue, that he investigated selling the town’s five voting machines. Since voting no longer involves the machines, but rather hand-marked ballots, Mr. Nayer thought the machines might be worth something. They are also taking up space. But when he checked with the Board of Elections about the legality of selling the machines, he was told that no matter who purchased the machines, they are now owned by the BOE. He then called for a motion authorizing him to “tell the BOE to come and get them.”
*Heard from Copake Community Day organizer Chris Quinby that the annual town celebration is slated to take place June 29 and will include a three-day carnival complete with rides and games along with all the usual Copake Day activities/attractions.
To contact Diane Valden email .

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