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Monday, October 20, 2014
Canajoharie, NY ,

Joshua Thomas
The "stop work" and "not to be occupied" orders placed last week on the door of 6014 State Highway 5.

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Plans to open farmers market and antique mall derailed

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - Updated: 10:00 AM

By JOSHUA THOMAS

C-S-E Editor

PALATINE BRIDGE -- An order by Palatine Town Code Enforcement Officer Clifford Dorrough to keep people out of the structure at 6014 State Highway 5, allegedly placed with instruction from the Montgomery County Division of Codes, derailed the May 9 opening of a farmer's market and antique mall at the former lumber yard currently owned by Jesse Quackenbush.

Following months of back and forth between numerous village entities, (including Dorrough and Zoning Board Chairman Don Mead, Jr., with input from Town Attorney Robert Subik) and property owner Jesse Quackenbush, resulting in numerous stop work orders being placed on the property, Dorrough said he finally turned the issue over to the Montgomery County Division of Codes. 

Dorrough has alleged that Quackenbush repeatedly refused to follow procedures necessary to safely allow people into the building. As a result, Dorrough said that  Montgomery County Division of Codes representative Joe McGrath ordered him to, on behalf of the town, disallow entry into the building until it's cleared by McGrath, who is planning to visit and review the property on Friday afternoon.

Quackenbush said that he has followed all necessary procedures in preparing the building and opening a business, and called action taken throughout the last 90 days by Dorrough and the Zoning Board "oppressive government action and an unlawful taking of my property."

He stated, "it's a perfect example of overreaching of government into private business."

As a result, Quackenbush has filed a Notice of Tort Claim. As part of this action, he's outlined his case and estimated his past and future damages at just under 3.6 million dollars. The notice of claim has been filed with Subik and Palatine Town Supervisor Sara Niccoli, along with Town Clerk Linda Logan.

The notice of Tort Claim estimates future losses at $300,000 per year for ten years of lost revenues, along with $250,000 in attorney's fees, and thousands in past damages for items such as advertising, signage, heating oil, carpeting and plumbing.

Quackenbush has also submitted FOIL requests for various pieces of information, including "copies of all records at the Town of Palatine which relate to any meetings in 2014 of elected officials where the subject property was a topic of discussion", along with records relating to occupancy permit applications, and "all records from 1999 until present which relate to instances where owners of vacant commercial properties were required to obtain a building permit to lawfully occupy their property."

The FOIL form lists 19 requests, also including all public complaints against Dorrough and "all payroll records relating to" Dorrough and Donald Mead.

"He has blown this thing way out of proportion," Dorrough said of Quackenbush, noting that he filed a complaint against Quackenbush with the Commission of Investigation and with the New York State Police, alleging that Quackenbush used foul and threatening language against him, recently ordering him off the property in an aggressive manner.

Dorrough agreed that the issues between himself, the Zoning Board and Quackenbush began about 90 days ago when work began inside the building. Dorrough said that work continued for three weeks without Quackenbush asking whether he needed to obtain permits.

Quackenbush said that the initial work only included painting, which doesn't require a work permit.

Dorrough agreed, but said, "when you take over an existing structure, you need to have architectural engineer drawings." explaining that he informed Quackenbush that work in the main lobby could continue while architectural plans were created, alleging that he told Quackenbush, "make sure the plans get to me before you put any business in the building," which he said Quackenbush acknowledged and agreed to.

Dorrough said no plans were ever handed over to him, and with Subik's advisement, he placed a stop work order on the building until Quackenbush applied for a temporary certificate of occupancy, which he said had lapsed since the last tenant occupied the space eight years ago.

Quackenbush applied and received the temporary CO, and Dorrough said he again informed him that architectural prints would soon be required. Dorrough said that he was informed by Quackenbush that an "antique store" would occupy the space initially, alleging that Quackenbush's stated intent for the building changed repeatedly. "This guy has changed things over and over," said Dorrough, who explained that upon visiting the property last Wednesday, he found vendor applications placed on the door with extensive diagrams of the property and the potential layout, where he alleged that booths would be placed not only in the front section, but throughout the entire structure.

Dorrough said, "Now he's adding all these vendors. He's turned that property into a mercantile piece of property -- he's advertising vendor space inside the whole structure and he doesn't have the right to."

He continued of the potential businesses that Quackenbush hopes to open, "Nobody's telling him 'no', that's not a good idea. We want him to come in, but he will not comply with handing me prints to that property."

Following the request for architectural plans by Dorrough, Quackenbush hired Ed Pierpont, a certified Building Inspector, to create a report on the property to prove there are no hazards to the public, which was then submitted to Dorrough, who says that he rejected that report on the basis that it's incomplete, without photos, and doesn't detail the condition of the roof. Dorrough also alleged that Pierpont is not qualified to survey a commercial property. "Home inspectors just do homes," said Dorrough.

Dorrough has also contacted the NYS Department of Health after allegedly being informed that "a guy repairing the roof saw mold in the attic underneath the roof." He alerted the Department of Health "to the chance of possible mold being present."

Quackenbush said that he's done nothing illegal, noting that he even approached Dorrough prior to starting any work requiring permits, including the installation of a handicapped bathroom and electrical wiring, which permits were issued for.

"I'm willing to do whatever they want me to do," said Quackenbush, continuing, "if there's problems with the building, I'll fix them."

Quackenbush is also calling for Dorrough's termination, creating a petition that he hopes residents will sign. Quackenbush said he's contacted the New York State Police Department, encouraging them to conduct an investigation of Dorrough and Mead, also requesting that they check into whether illegal meetings have taken place in the town.

Last weekend, Quackenbush said over 300 people tried to attend the May 9 opening of the farmers market and antique mall, and he had to send everybody away. Since farmers market season is upon us, Quackenbush said he's fearful that the vendors he'd secured will take their business elsewhere.

     

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