Drop or postpone legal action against Hitmans Towing

To the Editor:

This is an open letter to the Knox Town Board.

Background: Hitmans Towing is a thriving service in Knox run by Kristen Reynders. In 2010, she purchased land with a pre-existing commercial garage, believing her real-estate agent had confirmed with the Knox zoning administrator that she could operate there and meet all zoning regulations

Because of the success of the towing service, Kristen built a new home on her property, setting down roots in the community and strengthening her ties to the area. The Knox building inspector, who is also Knox’s zoning administrator, charged with enforcing zoning ordinances, visited the property several times during the construction of the house.

In 2012, she asked for a letter of approval from the town to add New York State inspections to the services she offered to Hilltown residents. After a year of continuous negotiations with both the zoning board of appeals and the planning board, Knox’s response to Kristen was to file legal papers and take her to court in an attempt to shut down the business. Her next court appearance is in March.

The town of Knox has no business district. Many residents are concerned about the future of Knox and the current, outdated zoning ordinances that, for example, forbid the reopening of the only general store in Knox. Many of these citizens are joining a very vocal group who believe that Hitmans’ struggle with the town officials can be a pivotal point that changes the direction in which the town is heading.

Message: If you, the town board, decline to take action without direction from the planning board, and the next planning board meeting is Feb. 27 (the Feb. 13 meeting was canceled), the earliest the town board can respond with any action on the Hitmans situation is the March 11 town board meeting.

Since any action requires public notice and an open, public hearing, and more review by the planning board, it will be several more months before any decision can be made.

My request to you is to drop or postpone or ask for a continuance for all legal actions in progress against Hitmans Towing until at least July or later. The current court date in March does not allow enough time for serious consideration of alternatives.

My hope is we can all reach an agreeable compromise — either a new multi-use district, even a small one, or a change in classification of a public garage, so this business can remain in town. Then everyone can relax and focus on the comprehensive plan and the long-term goals for Knox.

However, I find it unforgivable and unconscionable that Hitmans should have to pay legal fees and possibly fines for all the extra months the town needs to reach even the simplest decision. It would be devastating to Kristen’s finances and your reputation if the town succeeds in shutting down the business in court next month, and then, four or five months from now, you vote to change regulations that would have allowed Kristen to stay in business.

Postponing all legal action while everyone works together, without undue time pressure, on a reasonable solution would do a lot to cool the tempers and calm down the situation. 

Thanks for your time and consideration,

John Elberfeld
Knox

Editor’s note: The town has not confirmed that the land purchased by Kristen Reynders had a pre-existing commercial garage.

The property had been owned by Kenneth Tambasco who built a garage, he said, with the intention of having a mechanics shop but never opened it to customers. Tambasco said this week he had been putting the finishing touches on it when he sold it to the Reynderses.