For the past four years residents in the area of Crescent Avenue and Palazzo Lane in Clintondale have filed numerous complaints with the Plattekill Police Department and voiced their concerns to the Town Board about ongoing issues of loud music, traffic congestion, firework displays and repeated trespassing in their neighborhood from weddings that have been held at Liberty View Farm. According to Police records, the farm is located at 340 Crescent Venue in Clintondale and is being leased to Billiam von Rostenberg. Residents have continually stated that these loud events have negatively impacted their lives, especially on weekends. Despite having known about the problems at this farm for years, the Town Board has not limited nor regulated events at this particular venue.
The public record shows that residents filed numerous complaints with the town’s Police Department, starting in September 2014 and right on through to October 2017.
Derrick and Debbie Doubrava, who live on Palazzo Lane, are perched above the farm and have a birds-eye view of what happens on the grounds on a regular basis. Recently they told the board that these ongoing problems have seriously affected everyone living in the area.
Supervisor Joe Croce told the Doubravas that he had attended a seminar on Agra-tourism events and was told that all farms must comply with local laws but if a farm is in an agriculture district they may be protected under NYS Ag & Markets Law, which gives farms broad leeway on the activities that can take place on a farm. He added that towns, however, could develop expedited site plan reviews specifically for these farms and may have the power to regulate hours of operation, noise, traffic, number of events, number of guests, dark skies, egress and ingress, parking, sanitary facilities, health department permits, sale of food, building construction, cow train rides, jumpy-jumps, slides and lookouts. Croce stressed that some of the regulations fall into a gray area.
Doubrava said von Rostenberg’s surveyors, who represented him before the Planning Board, told him the farm “never got site plan approval for anything to do with the venue,” Doubrava added, “they still run past hours and the last big event they had up there, it was hootin’ and hollerin’ going on out there past 12:30 a.m. It was so loud that we could hear it in our bedrooms.” Croce said he was under the impression that the farm did have an approved site plan “but I’m going to get an answer on that.”
In attendance was Planning Board member Darryl Matthews who confirmed that the farm had an approved site plan just for the Bed & Breakfast.
“It was not put on the weddings because Ag & Markets ruled that we could not address that side of it because they had certain things and stipulations that made them believe that through Ag & Markets they [the farm] were legal. Whether they have the true information, that we don’t know because we don’t see what they [the farm] sent to Ag & Markets. All we see is the information that gets sent to us.”
Doubrava said despite Liberty View Farms’ claim that agricultural activities comprise the majority of their income, “there has been no farming at the site for the past couple of years.” He urged the Town Board to verify the percentage figures the farm has submitted to the town to prove they are mostly a farming operation.
“Anybody with seven acres of land can claim to be that [farmer] and are willing to lie in writing, we’re going to end up in this situation; we need to verify,” he said.
Croce said he has seen the farm “and it is hard to believe he could be producing what he claims to be producing but I’m not in the farming business.” He said he believes that a three-year average of $10,000 per year is the minimum requirement to be classified as a farm.
Croce said he is not in favor of putting Mr. von Rostenberg out of business and believes Doubrava feels the same way.
“I think if he operates within the rules and regulations or reasonably, I think everybody can live together,” he said, with Doubrava questioning “where are the rules and regulations?” He said the farm is operating on the “fringe” because they can and no regulations from the town have been put in place to deal with this matter.
Croce said with rules and regulations comes enforcement.
“I’m not clear yet who enforces it, is it our Building Inspector, is it the Police and if there is a violation what is the consequence?” Croce said if von Rostenberg were to appear in court and pay a fine he might just see that as the cost of doing business.
Doubrava said he and his wife would like to see a reasonable solution to this issue.
“If it’s governance, it’s governance. Right now it’s run amok, the guy is making a mockery of Ag & Markets and of the town, frankly. He’s doing whatever he wants to do because it lines his pockets. This is a purely commercial operation over there now.”
Doubrava said von Rostenberg has given no thought to following any rules.
“All that nonsense we heard of wanting to be good citizens and good neighbors, that’s all talk. We can create a laundry list of falsehoods,” Doubrava said.
Councilman Dean DePew said since Ag & Markets has not given the town clear direction on how to handle a situation like Liberty View Farm, he would reach out to the regional representative of the NYS Code Compliance Division in Kingston for guidance.
Doubrava took the matter further.
“I’m asking the board to review this guy’s tax status and in this case his farmer status,” Doubrava said. “We’re two years later here and it’s kind of been hands-off…Its infuriating because its gone on so long.”
Croce said he would speak to the code enforcement officer and to the town police to monitor the farm, “and see if we can address it.” He said before the Town Board reviews or amends the code he wants to make sure the town is not “putting something in our books if we can enforce it. If there are state rules, regulations and laws that we can enforce, why duplicate it with a local law?”
An attempt to reach Billiam von Rostenberg at the farm for comment was unsuccessful. His voice mail indicated it was full and no message could be left.
By Mark Reynolds