COPAKE—After years of court proceedings in pursuit of justice for all the wrongs perpetrated in Copake by Salvatore Cascino, the town is now taking a new tact to resolve three of Mr. Cascino’s still outstanding building violations.
Following an executive session to discuss legal matters at the March 9 Town Board meeting, board members voted unanimously to authorize Town Supervisor Jeff Nayer to enter into a stipulation settlement agreement with the town’s most notorious scoundrel.
A convicted felon and serial scofflaw, Mr. Cascino, 77, of Larchmont in Westchester County, has spent the past 19 years racking up violations of federal, state and town laws for illegal dumping, building and excavating at a place he calls Copake Valley Farm. The pending settlement agreement, which still has to be signed by all parties and approved by Judge Jonathan Nichols, pertains only to Mr. Cascino’s illegal construction of three buildings in 2013: two large, square, flat-roofed, concrete-block buildings, sided with red wooden boards and one concrete-block garage near his house.
All were initially constructed and then expanded without benefit of building permits. The town’s building inspector/code enforcement officer issued stop-work orders to Mr. Cascino on each of the buildings—all in 2013.
The new settlement has nothing to do with the Town’s current ongoing contempt case against Mr. Cascino for the illegal dumping of 9,650 cubic yards of solid waste, which he has not yet removed from the property, and several building violations which he has remedied.
In February 2016 Judge Nichols found Mr. Cascino guilty of criminal and civil contempt in the suit brought by the Town of Copake, which accused of Mr. Cascino of contempt for his failure to comply with numerous orders previously issued by the court.
Mr. Cascino was tossed in jail for 69 days between February 25 and May 4, 2016. The judge then locked him up again August 26, 2016 and he has been in jail ever since (202 days as of March 16) for his failure to remove all the illegally dumped waste. He can’t resolve the contempt charge until he hauls away the materials the judge said he dumped.
The new pending stipulation agreement on the illegal buildings requires Mr. Cascino to pay the town $25,000 as a civil penalty. Within 60 days of the agreement becoming a court order, he also has to comply with Town Code and go through all the processes and procedures involved in applying and securing building permits for the three structures, which may involve appearances before the Town Planning Board and/or Zoning Board of Appeals, with no guarantee that the permits will be issued. If he does not do that, he would then have to pay a $10,000 civil penalty for each violation.
Within 20 days of the agreement becoming a court order, Mr. Cascino has to remove a steel I-beam which is about 12-feet off the ground, is attached to the back of one of the large red structures and extends back into the property (east/west) for 100+ feet.
He also has to reimburse Copake for $3,500 in attorney’s fees incurred in the stipulation proceeding.
If Mr. Cascino violates any provision of the stipulation in a way that requires the town to commence court action to enforce the agreement, Mr. Cascino has to pay all attorneys’ fees and costs.
In a phone interview this week, Supervisor Nayer stressed that the new agreement has no bearing on the current Cascino case and Mr. Cascino is still on the hook for removal of the thousands of cubic yards of waste.
In his review of a prior court order with regard to Mr. Cascino’s illegally constructed farmstand, Mr. Nayer said had the three-building case gone to court, he did not believe the court would have ordered Mr. Cascino to remove the illegally constructed buildings.
In the case of the farmstand, the judge did not order Mr. Cascino to take down the building, but said he cannot use it or the illegally constructed entrance to it from Route 22 for any business purpose until he gets all the required permits.
Under the new stipulation, if Mr. Cascino does not follow through with seeking building permits within the noted time frame, he has already agreed to pay $10,000 for each violation and the Town will take him back to court, said the supervisor.
Supervisor Nayer hopes that the stipulation agreement will also allow the town to avoid another two-year wait for a court decision, which happened in the current contempt case.
Whether Mr. Cascino will adhere to the agreement, assuming it is approved by the court, still remains to be seen, though Mr. Nayer said, the town has already received checks for the penalty and the attorney’s fees, which cannot be cashed until the stipulation is finalized.
Mr. Cascino has reneged on similar agreements in the past that he has made with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The State Attorney General’s Office is currently engaged in court proceedings against Mr. Cascino for violating a 2012 consent order that prohibited him from dumping on his property.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is trying to come to an agreement with Mr. Cascino to resolve violations for dumping in federal wetlands.
Mr. Cascino was convicted December 15, 2016 in Copake Town Court for operating a solid waste management facility without a permit, a misdemeanor under state Environmental Conservation Law. His sentencing in that case has been postponed until April 24.
To contact Diane Valden email moc.r1508804725epapa1508804725ibmul1508804725oc@ne1508804725dlavd1508804725