Hanover Farms has been operating since 2004 in a residential zone on Route 28. It has expanded several times. It has nice fruit and vegetables and prices are competitive with other outlets. It’s convenient, right on the way home for many. But it’s illegal.
Shandaken has thought of changing the zoning to make it legal, something the owners of the stand would like to happen. But that could be interpreted as spot zoning, something you’re not supposed to do, if you’re a municipality trying to keep order. And town residents spoke out loudly against such a change, claiming the possible overdevelopment of Route 28 would be detrimental. There are not too many interpretations of the law as it stands that could help.
The town has considered changing the use tables in the law, making it legal to operate the farm stand if it was 1000 square feet and open between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. But this stand is already larger than that and operates longer hours.
The town has received official complaints and has to act in some form or fashion. Shandaken has a lonely Zoning Enforcement Officer Gina Reilly who will have to make a determination on the official complaints and could issue an order to remedy. But then, unless the farm stand ignores the order, there goes a good business, a few jobs, and some people’s livelihood in a business that’s been allowed to operate for seven years now. Logical?
What’s pretty clear is that nobody is going to shut down Hanover Farms. The town of Shandaken will probably arrive at some sort of compromise with the owners — if it can’t continue to ignore the situation, as a previous administration seemed to do — to allow its operation while restricting others from doing the same thing.
The time for settling problems like this is in their inception. A municipality has to act when the violation is first illuminated, and in a decisive fashion. A town can look the other way at a small situation because it doesn’t have the enforcement capability, or because the one who commits the initial violation has friends in high places, temporarily. But it often leads to situations such as this where the pragmatic solution leaves the law hanging out there, cut off at the knees. No one (with the possible exception of neighbors) wants the farm stand gone. But changes to the law always have larger ripples and need to be further thought out.
It’s one of those problems that are neither left wing nor right wing. Just a problem of governance, of democracy, and late action is usually compromised and unsatisfactory. ++