Guilderland Planning Board OKs site plan for contentious tree operation

— Photo Dwight Sickler submitted to Guilderland’s town planner

Dwight Sickler and Richard Gifford say the built-up mounds of wood chips at 7160 Route 158, which is adjacent to their properties, is causing both surface and groundwater back-ups. 

GUILDERLAND — A business operating without the proper permit recently received an after-the-fact approval for its site layout, the first sign-off needed toward bringing the business into compliance.

The planning board approved the site plan with conditions it would like to see the zoning board, the lead agency, impose on the applicant, Kyle Trestick

— Chairman Stephen Feeney said the town needs a jurisdictional letter from the Army Corps of Engineers verifying the property’s wetland boundaries;

— Trestick needs to obtain any wetland permits that may be required;  

— The limits of the log-processing area need to be identified and marked with something like berming, stone fencing, or posts to protect the adjoining wetlands from encroachment of the log operation; and  

— There is to be no storage of logs within 20 feet of the side or rear property boundary line. 

Trestick’s application for a special-use permit from the zoning board is  currently scheduled for an Oct. 19 public hearing. 

Trestick began operating his KT Tree Services from 7160 Route 158 prior to obtaining a special-use permit from the zoning board.

The town contacted the owners of the property, Diane and Donald Knightes, in May, advising them that the tree-service business had been operating on their land without a permit since last December. The Knightes were told that, if a complete special-use application weren’t submitted by June 2, the town would begin enforcement proceedings, which it did. 

The issue was due to end up in town court on Aug. 8, but Trestick submitted his application to the town on Aug. 2. 

Trestick, who did not return messages seeking comment, 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 during weather-related emergencies.

According to Town Planner Kenneth Kovalchik’s Sept. 8 memo to the planning board about the application, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has been involved with the property since February about the depositing of wood-chip materials on the site, but has determined no violations have occurred.

During a May site inspection, a town building inspector “observed wood chips near the rear of the property that appeared to be creating a dam, obstructing the natural flow of water,” Kovalchik’s memo states. The inspector’s visit was then followed-up on by Guilderland’s stormwater coordinator, who suggested to Trestick that the wood chips be removed to “allow an unobstructed flow of water.” 

In late August, Kovalchik sent an email to the DEC seeking clarification as to whether the department considers compacted wood chips to be an  impervious surface. “This is an important piece of information, for stormwater purposes, considering there appears to be close to an acre of wood chips deposited and compacted,” Kovalchik’s memo states; as of Sept. 8, he hadn’t received a response from the DEC. 

Also in late August, Kovalchik confirmed that the Army Corps of Engineers was investigating allegations of “violations of the Clean Water Act due to wood chips being deposited on the property in proximity to delineated federal wetlands,” his memo states; as of Sept. 8, he hadn’t received any update on the matter. 

The property’s wetlands were a major discussion point throughout the Sept. 14 planning board meeting. Albany County and the town of Guilderland’s Interactive mapping both show federal wetlands are present on the site.  

Trestick told board members he met with the Army Corps of Engineers and was told the property wasn’t in any wetlands. Feeney told him it was up to him to request the jurisdictional letter proving it, which Trestick hadn’t done and said he would have his engineer do.

Trestick said the DEC has been on site multiple times and that the agency “doesn’t believe me to be in any wetlands.” Feeney said the DEC paperwork will verify what Trestick said.

Trestick then sought to “clear something up.”

He said of the part of the property that’s designated on the site plan as a log-processing area, “There’s not any debris being dumped — there’s logs being dumped there, on top of the wood chips; the wood chips are there so they don’t get in the dirt and make a muddy mess. And then the logs are processed and trucked out in different loads.”

Addressing a criticism of the site, Trestick said, “There’s not really anything being dumped and left, per se.”

The log-processing area won’t expand beyond what’s already shown on the site plan, Trestick said in response to a question from Kovalchik. The log-processing area is three-quarters of an acre, Trestick said; he’s keeping it under an acre to avoid having to put together a stormwater protection plan. 

Dwight Sickler, one of the neighbors who brought Trestick’s violations to the attention of the town, said KT Tree Services has placed 5,000 cubic yards of wood chips and “other waste material” on the leased property, including a four-foot berm/dam.

Sickler said the northern portion of his property abuts the Knightes property for 90 feet; the property of his neighbor, Richard Gifford, for 270 feet. 

Sickler said the entire length of his northern property line has issues with surface and groundwater back-ups. The request from Sickler was that the wood chips be removed so that the water can naturally flow to the wetlands and other outlets that feed into the Watervliet Reservoir. 

Gifford then laid out what he said was a pattern of the applicant repeatedly saying one thing and doing another. Gifford said the site plan, even though updated, “does not reflect reality.” The area being used as the “wood-chip depository” and log-storage area is approximately an acre — while the updated plan depicts three-quarters of an acre — Gifford said. 

There was much back-and-forth  between Feeney and Gifford over issues related to the wetlands on the site and their impact on his and his neighbor’s property including devaluing properties. After hearing more from Gifford, Feeney noted he was asking questions and making comments that were more appropriate for the lead agency, the zoning board. 

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