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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 9, 2006

Family pleads case
ZBA throws flag at house construction

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — As one local family pleads to finish construction on its home before the snow flies, the zoning board of appeals has tabled its application until next week.

Their building permit was "red-flagged" and revoked by the town’s chief building inspector in the midst of construction.

David and Loretta Cox’s application to expand their 6332 Frenchs Hollow home will come to a "vote only" decision next Wednesday, Nov. 15. The public hearing has been closed.

The family pleaded its case to the zoning board last Wednesday through its attorney, Edward Sossner.

"My clients came numerous times to the town with plans"were given a permit and then told to stop," Sossner told the board, describing the house expansion as a "substantial project."

Donald Cropsey, the town’s chief building inspector, revoked the Coxes’ permit after the family had begun construction because the duplex is a non-conforming use in an agriculturally-zoned area.

When Sossner asked the board why Cropsey issued a stop-work order on his clients’ building permit, the zoning-board chairman, Peter Barber, responded that a pre-existing non-conforming use would need zoning board approval before a building permit could be carried out.

"He found that the construction needed the zoning-board-of-appeals permission," Barber said about Cropsey on Tuesday.

Cropsey told The Enterprise he misunderstood the applicant’s original intentions.

"In this case, the permit came in and Mr. Cox made an application to expand," Cropsey said yesterday. "I thought the expansion was only for an in-law apartment."

Actually, the application was to expand the in-law apartment and the duplex.

According to Cropsey, building-permit applications are sent to the building department and are then reviewed by town inspectors to see that they meet all of the building codes and zoning requirements.

They are then stamped with a standard seal that bears the initials of the zoning board chairman. Cropsey said that Barber never saw the building permit because standard paperwork like that doesn’t usually cross his desk.

"It’s a red stamp that indicated there’s ZBA approval, so it lets us know that there has been some zoning board discussion, which usually has stipulations," said Cropsey. "That lets us know we have to look more closely to make sure everything’s in compliance."

Cropsey didn’t see the conformity conflict at first, he said.

"The job was stopped after it was discovered that it is a non-conforming use," Cropsey said. "I had issued the permit in error."

Cropsey said that the issue was originally brought to his attention by surrounding neighbors who were concerned about the project.

"‘Oops’ only works when it’s spilled milk, not with a pending financial disaster"The house is essentially open and half exposed to the elements," Sossner told the board. "I’ve got a stamped building permit"We don’t deserve ridicule and punishment."

The Coxes’ home is a duplex with an in-law apartment attached, but there was debate over whether the residence is one unit or two. Cropsey maintained that the residence is one structure.

"Oddity of the code"

In 1971, the zoning law was written to allow two-family housing in agricultural zones as long as certain provisions were met by the applicant, according to Cropsey. In 1988, that part of the law was taken out and two-family homes were no longer allowed, Cropsey said.

"This [house] was constructed at a time when it was in compliance with the code," Sossner said at the meeting. "There are sections of your code I believe to be ambiguous"I believe this code enables this board to help good people," he said, urging the board to allow construction to continue.

Barber agreed, but again said that the duplex was still a non-conforming use.

"It’s not illegal"I’ll grant you that 100 percent and more," Barber said. "It’s an oddity in the code we’re trying to work with here."

Sossner pleaded with the board to reinstate the building permit.

"Please, how can you help my clients as a board"" Sossner asked. "They can’t sleep at night; they have half a house."

"You’re basically enlarging the structure of your house to provide for your family," Barber said, reiterating what the Cox family told the board.

The Coxes have proposed expanding their home’s square footage by additional 16.25 percent.

Barber told The Enterprise that this is a very rare case and "the first time we had to look at this section of code." Most of the applications before the board deal with commercial and business development along Western Avenue, Barber said.

During the meeting, Barber admitted that it is actually easier for businesses to receive approval for this type of application than it is for residents.

Community concerns

Several neighbors came to Wednesday’s meeting to hear about the Coxes’ case and to talk with the zoning board during the public-discussion period.

The neighbors were concerned that, if a large duplex with a possible third apartment were allowed to go up in their rural neighborhood, and if the Coxes sold their house, it could lead to larger non-conformity issues, such as multiple families living there or the land being subdivided further for additional development.

Mr. and Mrs. Cox told the board that a portion of the building was going to be used to house Mrs. Cox’s sick and ailing father who lives in Florida for part of the year. In essence, they said, a section of the house was to be used as an in-law apartment, not a rental unit.

Mrs. Cox was very emotional and in tears when she spoke to the board.

"It’s a lot easier to go down the stairs to take care of my father than it is to go even across the yard," she said.

Some of the neighbors, including Lynn Wells who lives next door to the Coxes, said they were sympathetic to their cause, but were still concerned about the property’s future use, especially since the Coxes’ property had recently been subdivided.

"What if they sell" What’s going to happen to the neighborhood"" Wells asked the board. "This board has addressed this issue before and said it would never be subdivided or expanded."

Some other neighbors submitted letters to the board, expressing similar concerns.

"We want to give them as much of a chance to plead their case as possible," Barber said about this Friday’s deadline for the Coxes to file any additional paperwork or arguments to the board, even though the public discussion has been closed.

Barber also said at the meeting that no one was arguing that the Cox family did not fully comply during their building permit application and he said that the intensity of the property’s use has not increased.

Sossner argued that disallowing the building permit would create a significant financial hardship, if not ruin the Coxes financially.

"I want the board to recognize that the town made the mistake," said Sossner. "I also want to point out that each day that passes makes it worse for my client. We will be forced into winter construction."

At Eldeez Tobacco
Stogies are free for vets on their day

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — A salute and a cigar.

That’s what veterans can expect this Saturday when they go to Edleez Tobacco in Stuyvesant Plaza.

Edleez Tobacco, which sells a variety of tobacco products, is giving a free cigar to every veteran who walks through the door in honor of their service. Veterans can choose any cigar up to a seven-dollar value.

If the cigar they want is more than seven dollars, according to co-owner John Zyniecki, the store will knock seven bucks off the price.

"I wanted to start getting the word out this year," said Zyniecki about the store’s Veterans Appreciation Day. "Last year was the biggest. I probably gave away about 50 cigars."

The store can easily be found in the plaza because of the life-sized wooden Indian standing outside of it. Inside are large comfortable chairs and ashtrays for customers to sample their newly-bought goods and to talk with friends.

One grateful local vet looks forward to his free stogie every year — and the program all began with him.

Arthur Best, an 80-year-old veteran who served in both World War II and Korea, started the give-away five years ago.

"I offered him a cigar on Veterans Day and he was absolutely pleased," Zyniecki said. "He was just so happy."

Best was delighted when he got an extra cigar this year during an interview with The Enterprise at the store.

"Thank you, John. You are just too good to me," Best said to Zyniecki with a beaming smile.

Best came to Albany after his wife died in the mid-1980s. He was in the Navy for both of the wars. He also served in the Coast Guard, and has worked for the New York City Police Department, and the post office.

"I worked for the post office after the war, and my friends said, ‘What" Your going back"’ Then I went off to Korea," said Best.

Best showed The Enterprise a professional studio portrait of himself wearing his NYPD uniform in 1972. He smiled with pride as he showed the photograph and reminisced about his days on the force in New York City.

He remembers when the World Trade Center towers were built. He was one of 10 officers who rode up and down each tower on patrol.

"I kept the pin after I turned in my badge," Best said while looking at his photo. "We paid six-cents for them," he said of the frame on which the badge was mounted.

Selecting a cigar from Edleez Tobacco, Best did not hesitate. He went straight to one display case and quickly grabbed a large cigar out of its box.

He knew exactly which one to get.

"I’m a Monte Christos man," said Best with a smile.

Zyniecki said the turnout has been good, and, most importantly, veterans really like the cigars they get.

"Most of the customers are surprised when they expect to get a 75-cent cigar," said Zyniecki. "They really appreciate it,"

The store will be giving away cigars all day on Saturday to veterans either in uniform or who have military identification.

Once Best was finally able to light up his cigar, he smiled from ear to ear. He quickly began talking with another patron in the store who was also enjoying a cigar.

"Boy, this is one good cigar," said Best.

New eatery — hot-diggity-dog!

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Some like it hot. Some, not so much.

Jesse’s Texas Hot Wieners, which just opened in the Cosimo’s Plaza on Western Avenue, will cook to fit the customer.

However, vegetarians need not apply.

With a full menu that includes sausage and various chicken dishes, as well as other standby favorites, all-mighty beef takes center stage at Jesse’s. The eatery uses nothing but 100-percent certified angus beef in its newly remodeled kitchen.

Opening just a little more than two weeks ago, the restaurant is already attracting "regulars" who come in three or four times a week, say the father-daughter duo who run Jesse’s.

What’s their secret"

The secret’s in the sauce, say the Caprottis.

"The sauce is the big thing," said Jesse Caprotti. "There’s nothing like it in the area."

The family-owned recipe for the homemade hotdog sauce began with Jesse’s parents who owned Texas Hot Wieners in Kingston during the 1960s and ’70s. His parents’ business became very successful largely due to the same sauce Jesse’s is using today, Caprotti said.

"We have every topping imaginable for the hotdogs," said Colette Caprotti. "Not everyone likes really spicy food."

Those who do, though, will definitely be back for more, she said.

Jesse and Colette, his daughter, kept the secret recipe alive by serving it at family gatherings and various special occasions after Jesse’s parents died. But now, they say they want to make it available to the public.

"After my mother passed away we kept making the sauce," said Jesse Caprotti. "I’ve been waiting to do this for the past 10 years."

Caprotti, who has owned a construction business since 1972, spent several months remodeling the former pizza shop, which only lasted a couple of weeks. His daughter got all of the vendors and planning together.

"That was the easy part, right Dad," Colette Caprotti joked with her father about constructing the shop.

He agreed with a proud smile.

"My daughter was a big part of opening this up," he said. "I couldn’t have done it without her."

Hoping to make a similar splash in this area, Jesse Caprotti said hotdogs are king in Kingston.

"Hot dogs have a big following down there," he said, adding that there are already three wiener shops in Kingston. He decided to come to Guilderland because of the location and population density of the Capital District compared to Kingston. He still commutes back and forth to Kingston but plans to eventually move to the area.

Guilderland made sense, he said, because he has family here and his daughter Colette lives in Clifton Park while she’s pursuing her master’s degree in education at The College of Saint Rose after recently earning her bachelor’s degree in business at the University at Albany.

And, their eatery is only one of its kind in the area, Caprotti said.

First the dogs are boiled, then they are steamed.

"All of the food is delicious and its all very high quality," Colette Caprotti said, pointing to the angus beef and homemade sauce on the menu.

Down home

The wiener shop has a Western feel to it, with a wide wooden bar-like counter in the center of the room and large bull horns above the kitchen doors. Tables in the front of the restaurant along the walls are covered with Jesse James "Wanted" posters and various western-themed portraits and paintings.

"The guy who sold me the kitchen equipment gave me the horns," Jesse Caprotti said.

The prices range from $1.85 for the Classic Texas Hot Wiener — which includes the homemade sauce, onions, and mustard — to $5.75 for the Homemade Sausage and Peppers with the sauce.

The average meal runs you about five bucks, and the store is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Call-in and take-out meals are available for order at 456-3333, or via fax, at 456-3339.

Jesse’s Texas Hot Wieners is located on the right-hand side of Cosimo’s Plaza and a grand opening celebration is being planned, with a major radio station, sometime later this November.

"We’re doing much better than we first expected," Jesse Caprotti said. "All of our customers have been so great. You wouldn’t believe the reaction we’ve had so far."

One word of advice: Don’t forget the napkins.

Village water for Altamont couple a mirage

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — William Gizzi hoped to move into the house he is building on Gun Club Road by Christmas. It should be finished within the next few weeks, but "right now I’m planning minute to minute," he said yesterday. "It all depends on the water."

He and his wife, Andrea, bought property at 6396 Gun Club Road, just outside the village line, and began building their house in June. The Gizzis drilled a well in May and got the results from the first water test in June that showed the well was "total coliform," Gizzi said. The couple has had the well cleaned and tested four times since then, without results that meet county health-department requirements.

On Oct. 10 the Gizzis sent a letter to the village of Altamont asking for access to municipal water. Altamont has had a moratorium in place, denying water outside the village because the supply is limited. The village has drilled successfully for water on Brandle Road and purchased land there to develop an additional water source.

Mayor James Gaughan wrote a response to the Gizzis on Oct. 19 denying their request. "Until the supplemental water system is in place, which is not anticipated until mid-2007," wrote Gaughan, "the Village does not plan to consider adding new outside users to the system."

Asked in a phone interview yesterday when the new water source will be connected, Gaughan answered, "I believe that we say at every single meeting when we report on this that our projected schedule is early spring. That means February."

Under the previous village administration, developer Jeff Thomas had been promised village water for a senior housing complex on Brandle Road, just outside the village line. Following legal action from the owners of the well property, counter claims from the village, and a suit from Thomas, the matter was eventually settled out of court and Thomas will receive water for his housing complex once the new well is on-line.

"I’m in a situation now where I was told I would not be able to get the village water," Gizzi said in front of the village board at Tuesday night’s meeting. "I’m just looking for some help."

"I don’t mean to belabor the subject," Gaughan replied. "We basically refused your request." He said that, after the Brandle Road well is hooked up to the water system, the board would consider requests for access to the municipal water.

"It’s not like I’m asking for something because it’s convenient," Gizzi said yesterday. "I’m asking because I need it."

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Heard from Mayor Gaughan that the village received a $2,050 grant from Albany County for seniors’ recreation. Gaughan expects the money might be used to bring in speakers, "something to entertain and educate," he said;

— Heard from Gaughan that the village did not receive a grant that it applied for from the state’s Department of Transportation. The village had hoped to use the grant money to renovate the old train station for the library. Gaughan would like to re-apply for the grant, he said;

— Heard from Gaughan that the village’s police department got a $2,800 United States Department of Justice grant for bullet-proof vests;

— Heard from Dan Madison that the new truck for the fire department is expected to arrive soon. Madison’s term as the fire chief is up. He got a standing ovation from the board and village residents who were at the meeting;

— Voted unanimously to thank Madison formally for the work he has done for the village;

— Voted unanimously to approve Altamont Fire Department officers Paul Miller as chief, Mark Wertman as first assistant chief, and Robert White as second assistant chief. This slate was submitted by the firemen after they voted on Nov. 6;

— Voted unanimously to conduct a feasibility study of space use of the Crounse House’s primary structure. The village and the town of Guilderland recently purchased the run-down historic building on Route 146 at the outskirts of the village. "We just want to see how we can utilize the space," said Gaughan;

— Voted unanimously to have a board meeting on Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. in the village hall’s community room to discuss the draft comprehensive plan before the public hearing;

— Voted unanimously to have a public hearing for the draft comprehensive plan at the board meeting on Dec. 5 at 8 p.m.;

— Voted unanimously to buy a Kubota front-end mower from Randall Implement Company, which is located in Latham. The company had the lowest bid, $21,136. The mower will replace the village’s 1987 Toro and was recommended by Timothy McIntyre, the head of public works;

— Voted unanimously to accept Daniel Mosbey’s letter of resignation from the department of public works, effective Oct. 26, due to personal reasons; and

— Discussed the Altamont Police Department’s new standard operating procedures manual and criticized at length The Enterprise’s coverage of the matter.

Wines wins award
Accolades for Altamont’s librarian

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — Fish and chicks have brought acclaim to the Altamont library.

The New York Library Association presented Judith Wines, the library’s director, with the JanWay/NMRT Excellence Award at its annual conference last week. Each year, NYLA gives the award to a librarian who has developed new programs, sought grants, and generally improved library services. Among the things that Wines has brought to the library is a fish tank and an incubator that hatched chicks.

"The library’s role is shifting," said Wines. She wants to build a community around the library, breaking it out of its traditional research-oriented role. Of the fish tank, she said she was "trying to make it more of a learning experience."

In the year-and-a-half that Wines has been heading the free library, she has brought several new programs, including: a computer class for adults, new reading groups, story time for toddlers, and a read-to-a-dog program.

Kids sometimes feel like they’re being judged when they read to a grown-up, said Wines, so they can sign up to read to Teri Conroy’s Portuguese water dog instead. The dog does some tricks and makes reading fun for self-conscious kids, she said.

One of Wines’s favorite new programs is the children’s book clubs. She has one group for second- and third-graders and another for fifth- and sixth-graders. Introducing kids to books by classic children’s writers, like Judy Bloom and Roald Dahl, is rewarding, she said. "I just really like watching the kids make connections," said Wines.

Also near the top of her list of favorites is the book-discussion group for mentally-disabled adults, she said. The program began after she got a grant aimed at including that group. She picks books that are an appropriate reading level and largely picture driven that also have an accompanying movie so that everyone can be included, she said.

Wines also received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, called Becoming American, that deals with immigration issues and a Brownstone Foundation grant that will supply 100 new children’s books.

Wines writes a witty weekly column for The Enterprise, detailing the library’s many activities and concluding with a literary riddle.

"One of the advantages to working in a small place like this is it’s easy to effect programming," said Wines, noting that she doesn’t have to get approval from a large bureaucracy, just from the library board. Vice President of the board, Pat Spohr, nominated Wines for the award. "I can always rely on her," Wines said of Spohr. "She’s an invaluable resource."

The ties that bind
Kirk’s Quilters piece together eras of women’s work

By Rachel Dutil

ALTAMONT – When Dorothy Barker retired in 1971 after 20 years of teaching first grade at the Altamont Elementary School, she was looking for something to keep herself busy.

She thought that quilting would provide a good pastime, so she decided to teach herself how to embroider with candlewick.
Candlewicking started in England in the 17th Century. Traditionally, it is white-on-white embroidery, using stem-stitch, Colonial, and French knot stitching.

Barker made 23 white-on-white candlewick blocks.

When her husband retired, the couple began traveling, and enjoying their free time together. Barker never finished the 24th block of the quilt.

"I just tucked them away," Barker told The Enterprise.

The 23 completed blocks sat in a box in Barker’s house until she gave them to her friend Phyllis Schilling at the 2005 Altamont Quilts in the Park show.

Schilling took action. She asked the Altamont group, Kirk’s Quilters, if they wanted to finish the quilt. The women were eager to tackle the challenge.

Norma Holt embroidered the last block, and 11 members of Kirk’s Quilters assembled and hand-quilted the coverlet.

The Dorothy Barker -Phyllis Schilling Quilt has now been finished. Altamont Community Traditions will sell tickets for it to raise money for the Maple Avenue Playground Project. The pocket park that once held a tennis court will become a children’s playground.

"We wanted the quilt to be used to honor Phyllis," said Ruth Dickinson, a Kirk’s Quilters member. "Phyllis has done so much for the village of Altamont," she said. Among other things, the long time resident has been the village gardener and an Altamont trustee.

Barker said that she thinks the women did a beautiful job on the quilt. "These ladies deserve more credit than I should ever have," she said.

Without the help of Kirk’s Quilters, Barker said, "I wouldn’t have done anything with it."

The quilters

Local quilting legend, Doris Kirk, started the group that bears her name.

Some of the women who worked on the Dorothy Barker - Phyllis Schilling Quilt learned to quilt from Kirk.

"She was just a marvelous teacher," said Bobbie Scrafford, one of Kirk’s quilting apprentices. Scrafford made her first quilt in the early 1980s under the watchful eye of Kirk.

Scrafford said that Kirk "was particular, but would let you do your own thing."

"She was always an encourager," she said.

Kirk was a long-time resident of Altamont, and now lives in an assisted living community.

About 20 members belong to the quilting guild, 11 of whom worked on the candlewick quilt, Dickinson told The Enterprise.
Dorothy Barker and Phyllis Schilling are not official Kirk’s Quilters members.

The drawing for the quilt will be held on Dec. 3.

"I just hope someone wins it that really will enjoy it," Barker said.

Scrafford said, in some ways the quilt is a tribute to their "great teacher," Doris Kirk.

"It’s a continuation of her legacy to us," she said.

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