Town enforcement questioned as neighbors fight over cars and dogs

GUILDERLAND — The town’s zoning board and enforcement practices are being questioned in the midst of an escalating dispute between two neighbors on Route 158.

Each has filed complaints about the other — one on dogs and the other on cars — and both say town enforcement is skewed.
Roger Carr, of 6588 Route 158, owns three dogs he says are for "coon hunting" and allegedly has a fourth dog living on the property. Carr applied for a special-use permit from the town last October when he had five dogs on the property, one of which was in poor health.

The town’s code states that only three dogs are allowed at a single residence. Having more than three dogs requires a kennel special-use permit from the town’s zoning board.

Carr says there are now only three dogs on the property and that he has withdrawn his application from the town. He said he plans to sue the town.

According to records at the town clerk’s office, Carr has three licensed dogs on the property.
Brian Bataille is Carr’s neighbor at 6580 Route 158 and he says Carr’s dogs are "incessantly barking." Bataille has filed several complaints with the town but said he doesn’t believe that "neighbors should be pitted against neighbors" when it comes to enforcing the town code.

Bataille was asked to appear three times in court as a witness against Carr, but either Carr or Guilderland code enforcer Rodger Stone did not show up in court and the case was postponed. The case has since been adjourned until Oct. 22, according to Stone.

Stone said the court date was a scheduling mishap and that he apologized to Bataille for not calling him when missing the last court date. The first two were postponed because Carr did not show up.

Although he cannot comment on specific cases and was not familiar with this case, Guilderland Town Judge John Bailey said that, as a matter of procedure, the town court sends letters to people if they miss a court date for low-level town-code violations or for traffic infractions.
In the case of a criminal proceeding involving felonies and other serious crimes, the court can issue bench warrants for a persons arrest if they are a "no-show," Bailey said.
The town court, he said, does not have "equitable jurisdiction," meaning it does not have the power to order people into enforcement; instead, it uses fines to enforce town codes.

Skewed enforcement"

The two feuding neighbors agree on one thing: They say the town of Guilderland’s code enforcement is skewed and biased in the cases it enforces.
Carr said that town codes are enforced based on a system of favoritism and are often not enforced at all. Bataille said in a letter to the Enterprise editor, "The zoning regulations within the town of Guilderland are a farce"If you pay your taxes, keep your property nice, and abide by all the laws, this town doesn’t care.
"I shouldn’t need to do the zoning enforcement. I pay to have that done for me," Bataille wrote. (See letters to the editor.)
"Zoning in this town is who you know," Bataille said last week

Stone said that neighbors should try to work out their differences on their own.
"This all transpired outside of the court," Stone said. "If I see it, I enforce it. If we don’t know about it, we can’t enforce it. They need to get together to work this thing out," he said of Carr and Bataille.
"We try to be as consistent as possible with everyone," Stone concluded. "Sometimes the wheels of government work slowly, but they do work."

Some other residents in town say that is exactly the problem with the enforcement — that it uses neighbors to report on each other’s violations and then takes months or longer to actually enforce the code.
"You cannot do that to people. You don’t let people report on each other and then do nothing about it"and it’s left to fester," Sue Green told The Enterprise. "If it’s not enforced, why bother having it" Just get rid of the law."

Green, a one-time dog-control officer for the town, is active now in a volunteer group, Guilderhaven that helps local animals. She lives near Carr and Bataille.

Carr claims he has reported Bataille to the town several times for having boats and other vehicles on his property registered year-round with Vermont license plates.
Carr has also complained that Bataille’s house lights "light up the whole damned neighborhood."

In return, Bataille said that lights shine on his house when Carr is outside working on his property.
Saying his complaints have amounted to "nothing," Carr said that Bataille continues to be in violation of town code. Carr told The Enterprise that he has contacted a lawyer so he can sue the town for its lack of enforcement and what he described as "harassment."

Stone said he thought Carr was getting a lawyer to re-apply for a special-use permit.
"All his vehicles are registered in Vermont," Carr said of his neighbor, Bataille. "I went to the Guilderland Police and they said they would check into it and nothing was done," Carr said. "Nobody will do anything about it"I don’t understand the big issue with this town"I think I’m going to file some lawsuits against the town."
Carr said Stone does not act on his complaints and he feels he is being "set up" by Stone.
"I talk to Rodger about this all the time. He just says, ‘Oh, I sent him a notice,’" Carr said. "Yeah, right. He doesn’t do anything."

Stone said most cases like this are resolved on their own.
"The vast majority of complaints that we get," he said of neighbors with allegations, "when they talk, they solve it themselves and we never hear from them again," said Stone. "For some reason, in this particular case, this hasn’t happened. I’ve told them to talk; I don’t know why they’re not doing it."
Green said she thinks the town needs to rely less on neighbors and more on actually "enforcing the law."

Kennel permit

Carr said that Stone has dropped off application papers for a new kennel permit, but that he isn’t going to apply.
"I think he’s setting me up"Once the [zoning] board of appeals says ‘no,’ I can’t apply again. That’s the way they do things in this town.
Carr says he is being harassed by the town’s code enforcer, Stone, on Bataille’s behalf, and Bataille says that his quality of life has been compromised as a result of Carr’s "constant barking dogs."
"My life is hell. As soon as my daughter graduates in three years, we are moving," Bataille said of his problems with Carr. "I thought I found my little piece of paradise, my American dream, but my American dream has just turned into a big pile of crap."

Bataille said Carr’s dogs are always barking and the town does nothing about it.
"In three years," he said, "I’m putting the ‘For Sale’ sign up."
Carr counters that Bataille uses a low-frequency dog whistle to get his dogs "all riled up." Furthermore, Carr contests that his dogs are harassed by people shaking his fence and that one of his $3,000 champion hunting dogs was stabbed with a sharp object.
Bataille denies knowing about the dogs’ being harassed and is angry that "nothing gets enforced."
Green, who was familiar with Carr’s and Bataille’s problems with each other said she didn’t think Bataille would harm someone’s pet. But, she said, the town has allowed a small neighbor-to-neighbor argument to "escalate out of control."
"The Guilderland Police say they don’t want to hear it; it’s a zoning issue. The zoning board says it’s an enforcement issue. Then it’s left up to Rodger," said Bataille.

Donald Cropsey, the town’s chief building inspector and zoning administrator, said that, regardless of the number of dogs on a property, if a dog is barking for more than 10 minutes, it violates the town’s noise ordinance.

Violating the town’s noise ordinance can result in a ticket being issued for a violation.
"Neighbors need to work together," said Cropsey, "but if you had even a single dog and it was barking incessantly"you have the right to call the police and it would be a violation."

Both Cropsey and Stone said the town does not enforce its codes using favoritism; rather, they said, codes are enforced consistently among everyone in town.
"I empathize, but until this matter is resolved [in court], we can’t do anything about it," Stone said. "That’s how it works."

More Guilderland News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.