To the Editor:
In my opinion, Don Cropsey, chief zoning administrator and building inspector for the town of Guilderland, is corrupt. After close to four years of what I believe to be harassment from the town, corruption and real estate deals seem to be happening right out of Town Hall. Also, in my opinion, Mr. Cropsey is abusing his position with the town to harass and cause me severe financial stress and hardship.
In 2008, the property next to mine was sold. This piece of property was on the market for several years.
In my opinion, the property wasn’t selling because of the ingress and egress restrictions. The only access to said property is a shared roadway that is 38 feet wide and is used by four separate properties: Mr. Lustenhower, Mr. and Mrs. Peck, Mr. and Mrs. Audi, and myself.
At a May 19, 2010 zoning board meeting, George Audi stood before the zoning board and said “Don turned us on to the property. Don hooked us up with the property and Don said there was not much traffic.”
I am under the assumption that Mr. Audi was referring to Don Cropsey, which leads me to believe that Mr. Cropsey greatly influenced the Audis on their purchase.
Not long after their purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Audi applied for a building permit to construct an “accessory building.” The plans called for the construction of a 50-by-100-foot building with a maximum height of 15 feet. After construction was complete, the building height far exceeded the restrictions….
To add to the town’s complete neglect in regards to the enforcement of these zoning laws, which Don Cropsey was hired to uphold and oversee, the rear portion of the Audis’ property was used as a gravel mine, several years ago that had already been reclaimed.
The Audis also started a massive clearing and grading project in which they cleared and graded more than 20 acres of land, moved more than 100,000 cubic yards of soil, and blocked a waterway on their property. The extensive grading had such an impact on the environment that it changed the water table on my family’s property.
Mind you, Don Cropsey was made aware of the grading going on and the building. He chose to ignore any complaint or zoning violation against the Audis, once again. Several calls were made to both Rodger Stone, [former] town of Guilderland’s zoning code enforcement manager, and to Don Cropsey with no response.
I then called the Army Corps of Engineers and spoke with John Pye, now retired, who said he would contact the town and that the town had local jurisdiction. When I next spoke with Mr. Pye, he informed me that he had, in fact, spoken with the town of Guilderland and was told, “There are no violations on the Audis’ property; it is a neighbor dispute.”
The law clearly states any disturbance over one acre of land needs a permit. When the grading was completed and several more calls to the town were made, the town gave the Audis a permit for one to five acres of disturbance with no grading plans submitted.
Prior to the Audis purchasing this property, they built a mansion on Meadowdale Road. After numerous conflicts with their neighbors and the town zoning board rejecting a variance request from the Audis, they decided to move.
The town rejected the request because the proposed building height exceeded the 15-foot allowance. Neighbors to the Audis also complained that the building would be used for a steel fabrication and welding business. The R3 zone encompasses both pieces of property. The warehouse that the town rejected on Meadowdale Road is the exact same warehouse that the Audis built next to my property….
There are no outstanding violations on my family’s property, which is located on the far end of Maeotsa Lane (which is the shared roadway spoken of in the beginning of this letter). The property that my family owns has been a gravel pit for a very long time, prior to 1933, long before any mining regulations were put into place.
The property has been owned by the Wagners since 1959. In 1987, my father was issued a mining permit from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the town. After the permit expired, the reclamation was complete in the area of disturbance. In my opinion, the other portion of the property is exempt from the mining standards of today, not to mention sprawling with vegetation and wildlife.
I became proactive. I went to the DEC, spoke with several department supervisors and invited them to view my family’s property and my business operations. Three separate departments from the DEC came out and found no violations. I believe the Audis called the DEC after I had already spoken with the agency myself, and again, no violations were found.
In 2009, I was speaking with my sister Barbara Wagner, and telling her about the situation; she was outraged and she wrote a letter to the town supervisor, Ken Runion. Mr. Runion was made aware of the ongoing violations on the Audis property, and the harassment, but again, no response from the town.
One would think that, with all of the activities taking place, the town should have issued a stop-work order to the Audis. However, the only stop-work order that was issued from the town was to me.
In 2009, I was constructing a new driveway in the town of Guilderland. The Audis followed my hired truck to the job site, called the town, and I got a verbal stop-work order, delaying the project for several weeks.
The owner of said job site obtained a permit from the state’s Department of Transportation and there was less than one acre of disturbance. The wetlands perimeter was flagged. All of the silt fence was in place prior to the start of the driveway construction.
At one of the many zoning board meetings, the Audis’ attorney listed the trucks going in and out of my family’s property. One of them being a second-generation business owner in the town of Guilderland. Ironically, they also started getting notices from the town questioning zoning operations.
After getting no response from Don Cropsey on the Audis’ violations, I brought it to the zoning board. When Mr. Cropsey was asked by the board “Is the building legal?” — referring to the Audis’ building — his response was, “Yes, I believe it is.” Mr. Cropsey was aware that the building was not, in fact, [in compliance at that time].
These are only a few of the things that have happened to make me believe that I am being harassed, and have been harassed by the town of Guilderland.
It continues. Last week, I noticed the Audis setting sono tubes [foundation columns] in the ground next to their [non-compliant] building. When I called Don Cropsey regarding the work being done, his reply was, “They are putting the addition off the side of the building to lower the roof line.” Again, this seems like he is covering for the Audis.
I’ve approached the Audis several times and offered to purchase or trade some property to avoid any more interference, but to no avail. They have refused. The Audis seem to have a key player on their team/side making them less willing to talk or even reason with….
As a taxpayer and resident of this town, I have no respect for Mr. Don Cropsey and I am outraged at his conduct. Something needs to be done.
Thank you for your time.
Frederick L. Wagner III
Editor’s note: See related story under Guilderland.