Ghent retains legal help for TCI review

GHENT–The town has recruited a law firm that specializes in environmental law to assist the Planning Board in its review of an application by TCI of New York to rebuild its facility in West Ghent.

Town Supervisor Larry Andrews made the announcement at last week’s Town Board meeting, saying that the law firm of Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenburg, Baker and Moore will “represent the Town of Ghent as special counsel in assisting the town with zoning and operational issues concerning TCI.” The primary attorney from the firm working with the town will be Joseph Castiglione.

Mr. Andrews said the law firm will review the environmental and legal concerns raised regarding TCI, as well as look over the town’s code to assist the Planning Board during the application and environmental review process. The retainer for the law firm does not include the costs of litigation.

TCI has applied to the town to rebuild its facility on Falls Industrial Road off Route 9G, which was destroyed by a fire last August that led to air quality warnings within 15 miles of the site and in parts of Massachusetts. The company prepare old electrical transformers for recycling, a process that includes draining PCB-contaminated oil from the devices. The oil was being processed at the site at the time of the fire, according to a recent report on the blaze by the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control.

TCI submitted its application to rebuild last November, but town attorney Ted Guterman said that the application will not be considered complete until the Planning Board has enough information.

“We’re still fact-finding,” he said.

Mr. Andrews said at last week’s meeting that the Planning Board’s decision will be based on the town code.

“We could receive a thousand e-mails, but those e-mails won’t make the difference,” he said of public comments on the application review process. “It’s what comes out of our code.”

Board member Richard Sardo said the attorneys who will assist the Planning Board are “environmental experts in law.”

Mr. Guterman said that the law firm’s services will be funded from an escrow account established by TCI.

Mr. Andrews said that if litigation becomes necessary, the cost of going to court would be a town expense. The rate for the firm’s attorney hours, including travel time, will be $195 per hour.

During the public comment session of the meeting resident Mark Johnson told the board that he has discussed his concerns regarding TCI with Congressman Chris Gibson (R-19th). He also expressed to the board his support of the Planning Board’s process, saying members of that board are being “proactive, not reactive.”

Also at the Thursday, February 21 board meeting:

Mr. Andrews addressed the matter regarding the Columbia County Airport, which is also in West Ghent. On February 13, the county Board of Supervisors approved a resolution to make an offer to CN Production Management Enterprises to purchase 15 acres from the Meadowgreens Golf Course at a price of $629,000. The land is to be used by the county to expand safety zones for the airport. Mr. Andrews said that this is being done to meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements. He said the appraisals were done by two different companies, and that there were “a lot of variables involved” regarding the price being offered by the county

The board set March 14 at 6:30 p.m. as the date and time for the next meeting of the town Recreational Committee. Mr. Andrews added that there are positions available on the committee. Anyone interested in serving should let the town know.

The next Town Board meeting will be a workshop session March 7 at 7 p.m. The next regular board meeting is scheduled for March 21 at 7:30 p.m.

 

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