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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 19, 2007

Zwack and his three mules’ work is set in stone

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – David Zwack enjoys being his own boss. "I agree with myself at least half the time, anyway," Zwack said with a smile.

Zwack operates a decorative stone business from his Zwack Lane property at the foot of the Helderbergs in New Scotland. His only employees are Slate, Shale, and Limestone – his three "rugged" mules.

Mules are "much stronger than horses," Zwack said. They are "four-legged Cadillacs," he joked.

On a sweltering July afternoon, Zwack stepped out of his office – a quaint cabin with a stuffed black bear from Alberta poised at the entrance – to show The Enterprise around his stone yard.

Stonework, a variety of plants, and tables for customers to take in the beauty of the landscape surround the entrance to the yard.

The yard itself sits on a floor of limestone. Pallets of rocks of all shapes and sizes fill its surface. Zwack extracts limestone from his Indian Ledge Road property, located up the hill from the yard.

Zwack doesn’t consider his a mining operation and successfully argued that point with the town’s zoning board to get a use variance. (See related story.)

He also sells colonial-blue wall stone, tumbled bluestone, bluestone, fieldstone, granites, quartzite, and fossil stone from around New York State. "If I don’t have it, I can get it," Zwack said.

"Anything unusual I usually pick," he said of his taste for stone.

Like a shoe store

His business "is like a shoe store, he said. "If you only have one type of shoe, no one’s going to buy anything."

Customers often call him and request a certain kind of stone, he said. If he were to tell them he didn’t have what they were looking for, that would be the end of the conversation, he said. He instead tells prospective customers to "come on up." Most of the time, he said, they end up going for the limestone, regardless of what type of stone they may have originally inquired about.

Zwack spends most weekdays removing and delivering stone, and spends Saturdays around the yard to show his products and answer questions for customers.

He sells mostly limestone, he said. "I try to push my own stone," he admitted.

Zwack has been selling stone from the property since the 1970s, but it has been his full-time job since the early 1990s, he said.

When Zwack began the operation, he had an agreement with Howard Luscomb, the Indian Ledge Road property’s previous owner. He started selling stone for extra money while working other jobs, he said.

He was hauling stone off his Zwack Lane property when he approached Luscomb and made a deal with him to remove stone from his property, as it was easier to extract there, he said.

Zwack purchased the property after Luscomb died, and began his business.

"When I first started, I had no equipment," Zwack said. "I’d hook a mule onto the rock and get it where I could get it out," he said.

Limestone weighs 185 pounds per cubic foot, but that is no problem for the mule that bears its name, Zwack said.

Limestone, who is nearly 30 years old and has only one eye, is "as strong as an ox," said Zwack. "Actually, he’s probably stronger," he added.

"They’ve got incredible power," he said of his mules. Because of their hard teeth, mules tend to live longer than horses, Zwack said. A horse’s teeth will fall out, and cause the animal to starve to death, he said.

Zwack doesn’t work his mules too hard these days, as he now has a skid steer to easily move the stones.

"It’s a series of steps," Zwack said of transitioning from using mules to operating heavy equipment.

During the off-season, Zwack enjoys taking rides on one of his "four-legged Cadillacs" through the New Scotland countryside, he said.

Natural stone

Zwack sells only natural stone; "Anything man-made I don’t sell," he said.

"All this limestone sits on the ground," Zwack explained. "I don’t have to blast, I just pick pieces off the ground," he said.

The majority of his customers are landscapers. When residents come in looking for stone, and for someone to do the work at their homes, he said, he suggests the landscapers that do business with him. He keeps business cards of the various landscapers to distribute to customers, he said.

"I try to get business for the guys that buy from me," said Zwack.

The stone that Zwack removes from his property varies in size, he said. From the smallest piece needed for a stonewall to a rock that is two feet high by 20 feet wide – it can be found in Zwack’s stone yard.

Zwack takes extra care when handling the stones so as not to mark them, he said, or "do anything to make them look like they were moved."

All the stone "comes out naturally," he said. He also takes pride in installing the rocks "in the same way it looked when I took them out," he said.

If a stone is "real big," Zwack said, he drills into it, inserts a tapered wedge, and hits it with a sledgehammer to split it.

"Nothing hurts ever," 52-year-old Zwack said, adding that he should probably "knock on wood." Though he does extensive manual labor daily, he has no aches, pains, or gripes about it.

In addition to his decorative stone business, Zwack also operates a nuisance wildlife removal business.

"I’ve been doing that for a long time," he said of the wildlife aspect of his business.

He is most commonly called upon to deal with skunks, he said. Raccoons are also a familiar complaint, he added.

As numerous chipmunks scurried around the yard just outside his office, Zwack again used the shoe-store analogy.

It’s like a shoe-store salesman who doesn’t have shoes for his children, he said. "I’m the nuisance wildlife guy who can’t get the chipmunks out of his office."

Neighbors lend support
Zwack granted use variance

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – With the support of his neighbors, David Zwack was able to get a use variance from the town’s zoning board to continue his decades-old business hauling limestone off Indian Ledge Road.

A few months ago, the town’s building department informed him that his operation was not a permitted use in his zone.

The business "is something I was trying to promote, not hide," Zwack told The Enterprise.

Zwack and his attorney, Mike Naughton, appeared before the town’s zoning board numerous times before the decision at the June 26 meeting that granted him a use variance.

The board stipulated in the variance that the business operate only during daylight hours; the ground surface can be altered no more than five feet; no crushing or blasting is permitted; and Zwack must maintain a 50-foot buffer around the back and side property lines, and a 100-foot buffer in the front, or existing conditions in the storage area if it does not meet the setback.

Zwack originally submitted an application of appeal to the building inspector’s decision that denied him a special-use permit for the "removal of fill, gravel or loam."

The building inspector determined that limestone does not qualify as fill, gravel, or loam.

Zwack later submitted an application for a use variance, continuing the appeal application in case that the variance was denied.

Many of Zwack’s neighbors submitted letters to the town in favor of his operation, and some voiced their support at a public hearing on the application at the May zoning-board meeting.

"Dave conducts his business in a very friendly manner" I have never, ever been bothered by his operation," said Doug Rivenburg, a nearby property owner.

"He’s been an integral part to a lot of lawns in the community," said Voorheesville resident Frank Papa of Zwack. "He’s found his niche in life. I’m for Dave to continue on his service," he said.

Steve Lysenko added, "I’ve always known him to be a fair and honest businessman. He runs a good operation."

Use variance approval requires that the applicant prove financial hardship. Naughton informed the board that Zwack had invested more than $250,000 in the business, in addition to the costs associated with the property.

"All this limestone sits on the ground," Zwack told The Enterprise. Because of the vast amount of stone and the topography of the land, the board determined that the property could not be used for any other purpose.

Zwack hauls the stone off Indian Ledge Road by hand, and stores it at his yard on Zwack Lane. Zwack picks stones of various sizes off the surface of the ground, and therefore does not consider his operation a mine.

His equipment includes two skid steer loaders, a sledge hammer, an air compressor, a Mac truck for transporting stones to customers, and three mules.

Zwack was able to continue his business while his application with the town was pending. "I was surprised to have to go through the town, but it all worked out good," Zwack told The Enterprise. "I’m just glad its over with."

Repairs needed
Will town swap Krumkill Road"

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Krumkill Road is a gateway from rural New Scotland into the city of Albany. As such, traffic gets heavy.

The town is responsible for maintaining the section of Krumkill Road that passes through New Scotland, in the town’s northeast corner.

At its July 11 meeting, the town board discussed the possibility of a road swap with Albany County that would make Krumkill a county road, and Font Grove Road – which is now a county road – a town road.

On Wednesday, the town board will hold a special meeting, and Supervisor Ed Clark anticipates that the board will pass a resolution authorizing him to submit a proposal to the county.

"In the long run, its going to be a very difficult and expensive road to maintain," Clark told The Enterprise of Krumkill, which, he said, has "very, very heavy commuter traffic" that will only increase if the Kensington Woods development is approved. (See related story.)

The town’s engineering firm, Stantec, is currently investigating a section of Krumkill Road that was heavily damaged during the April nor’easter. R. Mark Dempf, an engineer with the firm, estimates repairs will cost $500,000.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials have observed the damage, and have requested reports detailing damages sustained over the past five years, before making a determination as to funding the repairs, Dempf said.

"We feel it’s getting worse, and it’s a matter of time before we have to do something else, with or without FEMA," Dempf advised the board at its meeting last Wednesday.

The town is awaiting core samples from Geotech, said highway superintendent Darrell Duncan this week. At this point, he said, the town has installed a sign marking the area, but is waiting on Stantec’s recommendations on how to proceed.

Dempf said that a temporary patch is not feasible. "Adding more weight to the area is not what I would consider a good idea," he said.

The roads damage "hasn’t reached the point where it is threatening," said Clark. "We want to do something before it becomes really dangerous."

"We can’t afford to continue to maintain it," said Dempf at last week’s meeting.

"It is, as far as we’re concerned, a county road, as it connects three municipalities," Clark said, referring to Albany, Bethlehem, and New Scotland. Font Grove Road is a county road that "exists solely in the town of New Scotland," he said, adding that it would be reasonable to make it a town road.

Councilman Richard Reilly, whose father, Herbert Reilly, is a county legislator, told the board last week that the idea seemed like one the county "was open to."

Michael Franchini, the Albany County Commissioner of Public Works, was not available for comment on Wednesday.

The change in ownership of the road, Councilman Reilly said, "is a more long-term solution."

Clark is waiting to hear from the Northeast Neighborhood Association to get a sense of how residents feel about the change. "I presume there is some attraction to the idea," Clark said.

At this stage, he said, it would be "premature" to hold public meetings on the subject, "because we have no idea how it will be received."

He is unclear of how the transition process works, he said. "I’ve never traded roads before" We’ll have to investigate that somewhat."

Other business

In other business at its July 11 meeting, the town board:

– Heard from Dempf that the town is looking at potential re-alignment of the intersection of New Salem South Road and Glenwood Terrace. New Salem Properties, which has filed an application with the town for a nine-lot subdivision on 40 acres off of Meadowbrook Place, agreed to fund $5,000 for a survey to determine the overall project cost.

"It’s going to benefit the town, even if the project does not go through," said planning-board Chairman Robert Stapf.

This is of "significant importance" to the applicant, as it is the sole roadway in and out of the property, said Dempf.

The board authorized Supervisor Clark to authorize Stantec to prepare a design to propose to the applicant on the intersection;

– Heard from Paul McDonald, of the Capital Bicycle Racing Club, on the group’s second annual bike race on Aug. 11, which will briefly travel on Route 301 in the town of New Scotland.

McDonald said that the group participates only in sanctioned events, with insurance. The Aug. 11 race, he said, will have about 350 racers and 60 volunteers on a 20-mile long race loop. Albany County will provide emergency medical services and police, he said. All intersections of the course where the participants do not have the right-of-way, will have police, McDonald said.

The group was seeking town-board approval, though it was not required for them to travel through the town. The board took no action on the issue;

– Approved a bid opening for Aug. 3 at 10 a.m. for trash collection in the town;

– Authorized Clark to send a letter to the county regarding posting speed limit signs on Martin Road, Rowe Road, and Onesquethaw Creek Road.

Miriam Williams addressed the board regarding Rowe Road and Onesquethaw Creek Road. Williams recalled events that she and her husband had observed on Saturday, July 7. "We witnessed a speeding truck hit our elderly neighbor’s cat," she said. The vehicle never slowed down, and luckily, she said, the elderly woman had just finished crossing the street from getting her mail.

Clark thanked her, and informed her that the town needs to get permission or a recommendation from the county for speed limit signs;

– Granted the request of town Assessor Julie Nooney that the town set the amount for mileage reimbursement at the rate established by the federal government. The town will now reimburse at the rate of the Internal Revenue Service – $.485 per mile. The town was previously reimbursing at $.445 per mile, Nooney said;

– Discussed the draft of a senior zoning law. It would be a "floating incentive zone," said Reilly, who drafted it with the help of other town officials. The town’s planning board had reviewed the document and its recommendation was to move forward with it, said Stapf. "We’ve put everything we’ve gathered into a document that seems realistic," Stapf said.

The document will now go to the county’s planning board for review. The town board scheduled a public hearing for the Aug. 8 meeting at 6:30 p.m., but will have to wait to hear from the Albany planning board to vote.

Town resident Edie Abrams suggested that the town print letters to the editor in the local newspapers urging New Scotland residents to attend the public hearing. "People do read them," Abrams said of letters to the editor. "This is a big deal, I think," she added;

– Heard from Reilly that the town’s recreation committee has enough money in its budget to book the band, Mayan’s End, to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the town.

Reilly also informed the board of a $30,000 youth and recreation grant, that might be a possible grant for a municipal skate park for the town and the village of Voorheesville. "The project would fit within the parameters of the grant," Reilly said. Community members would raise the funds for the equipment for the park, he said.

"I feel that a community pool would benefit more people than a skate park," said former councilwoman Andrea Gleason; and

– Heard from town clerk Diane Deschenes that the town received a $30,918 grant for the installation of read-by meters in the town’s water districts. The town asked for $74,918, she said, so it will have to consider how to scale back the project.

Plans great and small
Michaels plans 5 clusters

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Recently, the town’s zoning and planning boards have heard proposals ranging from a development with five clustered neighborhoods to the need for a fence where a new house was built 5 feet over the required setback.

Dave Michaels, of The Michaels Group, said he is "keenly aware" of the community.

Michaels appeared before the town’s planning board on July 10, to ask that the board consider the Kensington Woods application as a cluster development, rather than a planned unit development (PUD). His company will be working with Masullo Brother Builders on the project.

The development will be a clustering of five different neighborhoods around Hilton Road in the northeast corner of town, Michaels said, adding that 80 percent of the homes will have full maintenance.

"Our specialty is the active-adult market," he said.

The Kensington Woods development, he said, will have a similar design to one in Halfmoon. He said that he would arrange for a tour of the Halfmoon neighborhood for anyone interested.

Mary Beth Slevin, the attorney for the project, told the board that the issues within the scoping document already accepted by the town board, are essentially the same for the amended project.

The planning board reaffirmed the scoping document, and affirmed its status as lead agency.

Fence required

In a last-minute decision, Stefan and Shannon Schechter decided to angle their Krumkill Road home, and in doing so, infringed on their front-yard setback by 5 feet, 4 inches.

"We tried to beat the cold weather," Mr. Schechter told the town’s zoning board of appeals.

The Schechters were granted an area variance at the June 26 zoning-board meeting, allowing their house, which is nearing completion, to come within 44 feet, 8 inches of the neighboring property line. The town is also requiring that the Schechters install a 100-foot section of fence along the line between their parcel and that of Mark Eggers, who owns the adjoining property and requested the fence.

The front of the Schechter property abuts the rear portion of the Eggers property. Both parcels are about three acres in size. Eggers installed trees worth $1,800 to provide a buffer between the two properties, he told the board.

"He had ample opportunity to put it in the right spot," Eggers said of Mr. Schechter’s house. "I indicated that I thought it was too close," he added, saying that he sent a letter to the town, stating his concerns, and also relayed them to Mr. Schechter.

Eggers said he and Mr. Schechter had discussed his desire that the Schechters install a fence and maintain it, but they had not reached an agreement at the time of the meeting.

Eggers said he felt the construction of a fence, as well as the maintenance of it, at the Schechters’ expense, was a reasonable solution to the issue.

"I just don’t know if, at this point, we could spend $5,000 on a fence system," Mr. Schechter said. "My wife and I maybe would like to put up a fence, but, with building the house, we’re running out of funds.

"There’s quite a bit of a buffer zone that Mr. Eggers created," he added.

Because of the land’s topography, the septic field on the Schechter property had to be installed in the backyard, which shifted the house toward the front of the parcel, Mr. Schechter explained. "It was my fault, obviously, when we moved it a few degrees," he said.

Eggers informed the board that he wants to ensure that his property rights are protected. "I don’t think it’s right for me to suffer the consequences of poor planning," he said.

Other business

In other business at recent planning- and zoning-board meetings:

– The zoning board granted an area variance to Wayne and Sherlynn LaChappelle to allow a proposed two-lot subdivision for a property owned by them on Western Avenue in Feura Bush. The land-locked parcel was created when the power company first came through in the 1920s. The LaChappelles are awaiting a right-of-way from National Grid. Each of the created two lots will be larger than the other lots in the area. Board member Wayne LaChappelle abstained from the vote on the application;

– The zoning board approved an area variance for Russell Seely and Heather Conant allowing a boundary-line change to their property at 2000 New Scotland Road, removing .055 acres from their parcel and adding it to the adjoining parcel to the east, owned by Howard Amsler. Seely and Conant’s lot – which was slightly undersized to start with – changes from .935 acres to .88 acres. The boundary-line adjustment allows Amsler to control the drainage area there. "I think it improves the neighborhood by improving the drainage," said board member Adam Greenberg;

– Both boards heard an application for an area variance from Nancy Deschenes for 14 feet of relief for a swimming pool to be installed within 13 feet of the side-yard line. Deschenes’s property is located at 38 Maple Road. When the building permit for the pool was filed, it was approved, and construction has begun, said Deschenes’s daughter, Tracy McMann. "You slipped through the cracks," said planning-board Chairman Robert Stapf. The planning board passed along a favorable response to the zoning board, where a public hearing will be held on July 24;

– Both boards heard from Shawn LaSalle on an application for an area variance to allow the erection of a covered entry and attached garage to a single-family home on Tarrytown Road. The residential-agriculture district that the property falls within requires a front setback of 40 feet; LaSalle is requesting 19 feet, 6 inches of relief for the covered entry, and 8 feet, 6 inches of relief for the garage. The planning board passed along a favorable response to the zoning board, which will hold a public hearing on July 24;

– The zoning board heard from Michael Biernacki on an application for an area variance to allow the construction of a dwelling on his property on North Main Street. The medium-density residential district requires a side-yard setback of 25 feet, and a front-yard setback of 40 feet; Biernacki was requesting 25 feet of relief from the side-yard setback, and 35 feet of relief from the front-yard setback. Biernacki withdrew his application prior to the planning-board meeting;

– Both boards heard from Robert Denman on his application for an area variance to allow the installation of a swimming pool at his 162 Maple Road home. The house falls within the residential-agriculture district and requires a side-yard setback of 25 feet; Denman is requesting six feet of relief. The planning board passed along a favorable response to the zoning board, which will hold a public hearing at its July 24 meeting;

– The planning board approved an application submitted by Wayne Flach on behalf of Flach Industries for a special-use permit, allowing him to expand his existing trucking terminal on Indian Fields Road. The current terminal is 220 by 200 feet, and will be expanded to 440 by 200 feet. The site flows gently to the south, and will be regraded to flow north. Stapf complimented the applicant on the storm-water management plan;

– The planning board approved a one-year extension for a special-use permit for Mary Ferentino for a boarding kennel and training facility on Fielding Way. A law suit regarding the legal status of Fielding Way is pending;

– The planning board heard an application for a special-use permit, submitted by B.A.R.D. Brothers to allow the company to expand an existing non-conforming structure by less than 25 percent. The building, in the residential agriculture district on North Road in Clarksville, is used for storing foam used under siding, explained Alan Darmurmuth. The board scheduled a public hearing on the application for its Aug. 7 meeting;

– The planning board heard an application for a special-use permit submitted by Cellco Partnership and Verizon Wireless on behalf of Crown Atlantic Company to allow 12 panel antennas to be removed and replaced, and for a microwave dish antenna to be removed. The site is owned by Crown Atlantic Company and is located at 106 Tower #3 Lane, off of Pinnacle Road. The board scheduled a public hearing for its Aug. 7 meeting;

– The planning board heard an application for a special-use permit submitted by Media Flo USA, Incorporated on behalf of Capital Region Broadcasters, to allow for one 24-foot antenna to be installed on an existing tower at a height of 262 feet, two satellite dishes, and two GPS (Global Positioning System) antennas side-mounted to an existing equipment building. The site is owned by Capital Region Broadcasters, and located at 73 Tower 3 Lane. The board scheduled a public hearing for its Aug. 7 meeting; and

– The planning board heard an update from John DeMis on the New Salem Properties application for a subdivision of 40.9 acres off of Meadowbrook Place. The project is proposing eight new building lots, and will eventually have 11 new houses. The applicant needs to formulate a storm-water management plan, and the town needs to know the exact location, depth, and yield of the wells on the site. "This is an incomplete application at this point," said Chairman Stapf.

The intersection of New Salem South Road and Glenwood Terrace that residents voiced numerous concerns about at the May zoning-board meeting is being looked at by the town and the applicant, who has agreed to invest $5,000 into alterations to the road to increase safety. At this point, said Keith Menia, of the town’s engineering firm Stantec, the town is considering implementing an all-way stop at the intersection.

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