Neighbors suffering from dumped tree waste oppose permit

— Photo Dwight Sickler submitted to Guilderland’s town planner

When Richard Gifford and Dwight Sickler complained of wood chips and logs being dumped on former pasture land near their homes, Gifford said the town’s response was that it was no different than a property owner placing wood chips from a garden center in his yard.

GUILDERLAND — Two residents of West Old State Road are distressed with KT Tree Services, which they say has been illegally dumping tree waste on property adjacent to theirs.

Kyle Trestick, who owns the business, has applied for a special-use permit for 7160 Route 158, the site of the former Knightes Farm, which, his application says, had operated for more than 20 years as a business selling and servicing lawn, garden, and farm equipment.

That land is adjacent to property owned by Dwight Sickler of 2369 West Old State Road and Richard Gifford of 2357 West Old State Road. Both men have submitted comments, with maps and photographs, to the chairmen of the town’s zoning and planning boards to document their concerns with the proposal.

The special-use permit request is on the agenda for the planning board’s Sept 14 meeting, which says Trestick plans a contractor’s yard, with business services including tree removal and trimming, firewood processing, landscaping, excavation, and snow management on about 11.7 acres located in a rural agricultural district.

The business would run seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and also during weather-related emergencies.

Trestick could not be reached for comment.

Gifford told the Guilderland Town Board in August that 5,000 cubic yards of tree waste from off-site locations was dumped on a pasture near his historic home.

“The dumping violated town ordinances,” he told the board on Aug. 16. “It also disrupted the natural drainage systems, covered wetlands identified on the national wetlands inventory, caused groundwater backup on our properties, created a fire hazard, and created an environment for rodent infestation.”

When this was brought to the town’s attention last November, the town was receptive at first, Gifford said, but then issued a directive telling Gifford and his neighbors that “our emails were taxing the town’s resources, that the town considered our concerns to have been addressed sufficiently, and that any further communication should go through the town attorney.”

A Freedom of Information Law request from The Enterprise resulted in a sheaf of paperwork that substantiated Gifford’s claims.

A call log kept by Inspector Lou Vitelli, as part of a “complaint action summary,” shows on Dec. 1, 2021, Vitelli heard Gifford’s concerns and spoke to Trestick and told him he must amend his special use permit with regards to running a business on the property.

A Dec. 7, 2021 email from the town said of Trestick, “He had been told not to dump. And especially not to dump in wetland areas.”

After a series of emails in which Gifford and Sickler question why to town is “granting Mr. Trestick such latitude” and not enforcing its rules, Jacqueline Coons, the town’s chief building and zoning inspector, addressed Gifford and Sickler in a Jan. 10, 2022 email, saying, “I will one final time address the barrage of emails that have been taxing the resources of this department ….

“I will offer this in the form of a truth sequence for you to better understand:

“If Mr. X is operating under the conditions of a Special Use Permit

“THEN Mr. X must comply with said conditions.

“BUT Kyle Trestick is not operating under the conditions of a Special Use Permit

“SO Kyle Trestick must comply with the Town Noise Ordinance that applies to all.”

Coons went on, “Further, based on your allegations regarding Mr. Trestick’s daily activities, it is possible that he SHOULD be operating under the regulation of a Special Use Permit BUT it is also possible that he is operating under the Zoning Code as a use permitted by RIGHT in an agricultural zone …. It is also not the Town’s responsibility to engage between private landowners and other entities utilizing their property.”

Coons concluded her email by saying that all future correspondence should be handled through the town attorney, James Melita.

By February, the paperwork from the FOIL request shows, Gifford had hired attorney Paul Pastore, a former Guilderland Town Board member.

Pastore wrote to Melita in a Feb. 14, 2022 email, to find out about several matters including the status “of the Town’s request to KT Tree Services to address the drainage disruption and resulting ponding” and “of the Special Use Permit (SUP) Application and the schedule for public notice and and inspection, written comments, and public comments for the property of KT Tree Services.”

In March, Guilderland Supervisor Peter Barber wrote a three-sentence email to Coons, forwarding Pastore’s email and stating, “It looks like it’s more than a noise complaint, and raises complaints about illegal dumping and operating without Town permission. Any ideas on how to address these complaints?”

In April, Sickler and Gifford wrote an email to Melita citing specific sections of town code that “prohibit the dumping of waste material as done by KT,” citing fines of $250 per violation to continue each day the violation is permitted to exist as a separate violation.

The pair continued to submit pictures, some from a trail camera, of dumping incidents. In July, for example, Gifford submitted photos he took when he “heard a dump box crash down this morning,” explaining that, since the leaves on the dumped trees were green, it must be current waste “unless this is refrigerated waste material from the alleged land clearing that was supposed to have been done long ago.”

On July 29, 2022, the log notes an appearance ticket had been issued for Trestick with a court appearance scheduled for Aug. 8.

“This is a head-scratcher,” Gifford wrote in an email to Vitelli on hearing that Trestick’s case was adjourned. “Does this mean that even though the Town cited KT for operating without a permit, i.e., operating illegally, it is permitting KT to operate illegally during the pendency of the SUP application process?”

In an Aug. 9 email to Melita, Gifford notes it is his third follow-up asking about the status of the town attorney’s recommendation to the town that it send a letter warning KT tree Services “against the transporting and dumping of materials from off-site locations.”

Gifford notes that “the Town has not disputed that the prohibition against dumping applies to all residents and is therefore actionable and not dependent on the SUP review.”

Responding to Coons’s concerns about his questions overtaxing town staff, Gifford wrote, “I continue to be mindful of taxing the resources of the Town’s limited staff. To minimize your time in responding about the status of the warning letter,” Gifford then repeated the same multiple-choice quiz he had submitted in July, so that Melita could respond by choosing one of these letters:

— “a) I made no such recommendation.

— “b) My recommendation is under review.

—  “c) My recommendation has been approved, and a letter has been, or will be, sent.

— “d) My recommendation has been rejected.”

Within the week, Gifford took his concerns to the town board, airing them during the public-comment session and leaving board members with added materials.

The town didn’t dispute it was a code violation, Gifford told the board on Aug. 16, but reported that the operator claimed the material was from clearing trees on the site. Gifford reiterated that it was an open pasture with no trees.

“The operator recently submitted an application for a special-use permit,” Gifford told the board. “This comes nine months after first being told to do so by the town and after being cited recently for operating without a permit back to Dec. 1, 2021. The town has allowed operation nonetheless.”

On Aug. 29, Sickler and Gifford wrote to the zoning and planning board chairmen reiterating their concerns and adding new ones, citing a “critical error of fact” in the application’s environmental assessment form. The form says that zero acres will be disturbed.

“This is false and misleading, a fiction,” the pair write, citing Google Earth photos and the town’s May 4 site visit, showing about an acre of disturbed land.

Sickler and Gifford also assert, “KT is currently under investigation by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for potential violation of the Clean Water Act.”

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