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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 26, 2007

Town enforcement questioned as neighbors fight over cars and dogs

By Jarrett Carroll

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Carr says there are now only three dogs on the property and that he has withdrawn his application from the town.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."

Seeking permit
Reed wants to keep on breeding and selling dogs

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — A woman who raises dogs for both love and money says she hadn’t known she was in violation of town codes.

A special-use permit to breed and house Great Danes at a private residence was tabled by the zoning board last Wednesday night after legal questions arose during the meeting.

Rabecca Reed’s application to run a kennel at her 200 Foster Ln. home in Guilderland Center will return to the zoning board on Sept. 5.

The zoning board’s chairman, Peter Barber, said he wanted to clear up "some legal issues" with the board’s attorney, Janet Thayer, before moving forward on the application.

Because Reed wants to breed dogs to sell and give away as well as keep her own Great Danes as pets on the same property, the chief building inspector and zoning administrator, Donald Cropsey, said, "This is a new category" because it combines "both worlds."

Barber told The Enterprise this week that it has to be determined whether or not Reed will need an area variance or a use variance to begin breeding dogs on her property. Barber said that the use variance requires a much higher standard; an applicant must show financial hardship if it isn’t granted and that the land isn’t suitable for other uses.

Barber indicated that if the board decides a use variance is required, it is doubtful Reed will get one. Barber also said the types of runs that Reed installs for her kennel may become an issue in the application process.

Area variances are much more common and mainly deal with specific dimensions, Barber said.

Reed said that she has the land and the love to start breeding Great Danes.

"Basically I have a love of Great Danes that I share with my children," Reed told the board Wednesday night.

That love began many years ago, she said, when the family’s long-time pet was a Great Dane and it suddenly became ill, leaving the family with no other choice but euthanasia. Reed said it was "very painful for the family," and that they got another female Great Dane and began having litters of dogs.

Reed currently has nine dogs living on her property, a number that at least one zoning board member appeared uncomfortable with. Reed said she had not known a permit is required for having more than three dogs because her home is zoned for agriculture.

Reed’s violation was discovered when town officials were at her home, looking at a car left on the property by her son, which a neighbor had reported as a violation.

Two neighbors wrote letters to the zoning board opposing Reed’s application for the dogs and Sue Green, a Guilderhaven member and former animal control officer, also opposed Reed’s application.

When told of Green’s letter, Reed denied knowing Green. However, Green told The Enterprise she met Reed "years ago" when Green was an animal control officer for the town.

Green said that one of Reed’s dogs attacked a dog she was walking, and doesn’t believe that the town should grant Reed’s application, after what she calls "years of being in violation of the town code."

Cropsey told The Enterprise last week that some neighbors have complained that Reed’s dogs get loose and cause disturbances around the neighborhood. Reed’s house is near busy Route 146, the town’s animal shelter, the town’s dog park, the town’s garage, and two neighbors’ houses.

Reed said at the meeting that her dogs have gotten out only "a couple times" and that she doesn’t let her dogs run wild, especially, she added, with such a busy road nearby.

"The definition of a kennel says it may not be operated within a residence," Barber told Reed about her plans to breed and shelter dogs commercially on her property as well as keep some of the Great Danes as pets. Therefore, a special-use permit and a variance are needed.

Barber asked Thayer whether Reed’s application should technically be for a special-use permit or for an area variance.

"When you peel back the onion, I really think it’s a use issue," Thayer responded and added that she would investigate the matter.

Barber then asked Reed, "Are you going to be at least 300 feet from a residence" That’s the question."

Reed said that, with her seven-acre property, there was "more than enough" land if she had to move the proposed location of the dog runs.

Reed said she typically gets between four and seven puppies per litter.

"I don’t breed a female more than once in two years; I don’t think it’s best for the dog," Reed said. "We’re not talking about a booming business here."

Other business

In other business, the zoning board unanimously:

— Approved an area variance for Melinda Waldron of 2 Country Rd. for the installation of a six-foot privacy fence on her property. Waldron told the board that she was concerned for the safety of her children being so close to both Schoolhouse Road and the New York State Thruway;

— Approved a 17-foot area variance for Alan Gordon of 2014 Dobie Ln. for the construction of a combined pool house and storage shed on his corner lot property. Gorden told the board that he is installing an in-ground pool and that "There is no other location to put it."

Zoning board member James Sumner asked that there be no exterior access to the pool house and pool, allowing access only through Gorden’s home; and

— Approved the addition of a free standing 11.2-square-foot sign for Adirondack Tire Center at 1610 Western Ave. The sign will bring the total amount of signage for the company to a total of 50-square-feet which is the maximum allotted by town code.

Guilderland library celebrates 50: Lennon plays the garden

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Put a flower in your hair and head over to the Guilderland Public Library, because, 40 years later, it’s the summer of love all over again.

As part of its golden anniversary celebration, the Guilderland Public Library is honoring each decade every month this summer and fall. Tonight, Beatles Tribute band, "Imagining Lennon Live," will play a free concert from 7 to 8 p.m. in the library’s Literary Garden.

This month takes a look at the library’s 10-year anniversary in 1967, remembered by many as a time of social turbulence as America’s youth opposed the Vietnam War, and the civil rights movement was changing the status quo.

For some, however, it was the music from that summer that can never be forgotten. British bands invaded American airwaves in the sixties with the introduction of bands like The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Who, and The Kinks.

But it was four lads from Liverpool who took the world by storm. On June 1, 1967, The Beatles released an album which would change the landscape of Western music — Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Tonight’s show will commemorate both the band that created the soundtrack of a generation and the Guilderland Public Library in 1967. Imagining Lennon Live will recall the music and nostalgic nuances of the Sgt. Pepper’s album.

Tom "Lennon" Raider creates an uncanny portrayal of the life and sounds of music legend John Lennon as a solo performer. When his mates join him, they become Imagining Lennon Live and deliver a powerful replica of electronic melodies ranging from "Norwegian Wood" to "Come Together."

Raider impersonates Lennon and plays guitar, while Don "Diego" Ackerman plays guitar, Jeff Sohn plays bass, and David Twarog plays drums.

However, Imagining Lennon is actually the fab five, since keyboardist Rich Coogan backs up the band.

After performing, the band will mingle with the audience. Audience members are encouraged to take photographs, Raider said, and get some snaps with John Lennon.

Although he was born in Chicago and raised in upstate New York, Raider sounds like Lennon when he adopts his Liverpool accent. He currently lives in Delmar.

He’s grown his hair to look like Lennon, and dons the signature wire-rimmed glasses.

Raider told The Enterprise he likes bringing fans back to their own fond memories.

"This band made the soundtrack to people’s lives. To bring that entertainment back into their lives"it’s amazing," Raider said. "I’m sharing my interests through music to others."

Art imitating art

Raider credits his older sisters with turning him on to The Beatles at a very young age, saying "I grew up on it." He describes himself as being "comfortably over 40."

"I do a very precise job of impersonating him: The way he walks and talks, the way he stands and plays"I’ve done a lot of researching and studying of Lennon’s life," Raider said. "It’s like an acting role that I really care about."

But in this act, according to Raider, playing the part also means playing the music, which can be a daunt-ing task when emulating one of the most recognizable bands in the world.

"I had a group called The Brits"and I started doing the John Lennon thing on the side"but then I at-tracted some fine musicians," said Raider. "I was interested in playing the whole era."

When it comes to the younger generation familiar with the works of the Beatles, Raider said, "They sort of expect the whole thing," because of the November 2000 release of The Beatles 1.

"The Beatles 1 CD collected hits from different eras over their entire career. Everything from ‘Love Me Do,’ to ‘Day Tripper,’ to ‘Lady Madonna.’ That’s what they expect you to do," Raider said of his younger fans.

Raider’s solo performance is more of a "storytelling act" and is acoustic, he said, as opposed to when he’s playing with Imagining Lennon Live, which is electric and designed for a concert setting.

"If you’ve got all those costumes and all those instruments, you might as well use them, right"" Raider asked.

And instruments he has.

Raider uses over a dozen authentic and replica trademark instruments that were used by Lennon during his career, including Gibson acoustic guitars with sunburst and natural finishes. Raider also has an Epiphone 1965 Casino recreated to the exact specifications of Lennon’s original; a Rickenbacker Black 325 V 59 Jetglo; a Martin D-28; a Honer Chromatic Harmonica; and a Vox AC 30 guitar amp.

When it comes to clothing, Raider isn’t lacking there either.

For "The Early Years," Raider has collar-less gray Edwardian-style suits and Ed Sullivan Show suits con-sisting of a black jacket, pants, and a tie with a white shirt, or a black turtleneck top with black pants.

For "The Psychedelic Years," Raider wears the "very colorful Sgt. Pepper suit complete with accurate patches and medals."

For "The Later Years," Raider uses costumes that include: the denim jacket and beige T-shirt worn on the photos for The White Album; the "crosswalk" suit worn for the Abbey Road cover; the famous New York City shirt and blue jeans; and the purple T-shirt, black jeans, and black vest in the Let it Be film.

Any time you see Raider in his Lennon getup with shorter hair, it’s not the real thing. Raider’s long strands of hair, which he uses for the later-years gigs are actually the real thing. But the glasses are 100-percent genuine antique Windsor model prescription glasses.

Some people know exactly where they were and what they were doing when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated — for Raider, the Dec. 8, 1980 killing of Lennon was no different.

"I was in shock"I woke up that morning with an inkling that something was wrong and, as I got up for work, I heard it on the news," Raider said. "I was in total shock; in complete disarray for some time"It was the first time we knew the world without a Beatle," he said of the first death of a Beatle.

But Lennon is safe in the 1967 recordings and in the hearts and minds of his fans, Raider said, and, he added, he is looking forward to playing at the Guilderland Public Library tonight.

"Me and the mates are look’n’ forward to it," Raider concluded in a Lennon accent. "Guilderland is a great place to play."


Upcoming Guilderland Public Library events include:

— Friday, July 27, at 7 p.m., a presentation on the events of 1967 and ’60s Jeopardy, including trivia on songs, movies, sports, politics, TV shows, and other facts from 1967;

— Saturday, July 28, at 2 p.m., a movie matinee of 1967’s "The Jungle Book," which will be shown in the Helderberg Room;

— August 24 and 25, celebrating 1977;

— September 28 and 29, celebrating 1987;

— October 26 and 27, celebrating 1997; and

— November 16 and 17 will take a look at where the library will be in 2057.

Ties that bind
Kids sew quilts for other kids — unknown and in need

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

ALTAMONT — Nine-year-old Mark Sagar is making his third quilt.

He proudly displays his first — a rich autumnal pattern broken by vivid red lines into squares. His second features patches of playful teddy bears, with a bright yellow border. His third is still just pieces of fabric — bits of blue water scattered with colorful sailboats.

How did he learn to quilt"

"My Nana," Sagar answers with pride as he carefully pins the pieces of ocean together. "She sews and came to the class and taught me."

Sagar was one of a dozen kids working in the Community Caregivers’ building Thursday afternoon, creating quilts for other kids under the watchful guidance of expert quilters.

Sagar’s quilting partner is a woman in her seventies, said Ruth Dickinson, who is in charge of the project. "She loves working with him.," Dickinson said. "I love the way this project spans generations and brings them together."

Dickinson came up with the idea because she wanted to involve kids in a meaningful way in the Community Caregivers’ quilt show, which will be held in Orsini Park at the center of the village on Sept. 8. (The show raises funds for the not-for-profit organization that harnesses the energy and good will of volunteers to provide free services, particularly for the elderly, so they can continue to live in their homes.)

The quilts made by the Altamont kids will go to foster children who have been taken from their homes because of abuse or neglect, said Dickinson. "I wanted a direct connection," she said.

Michael Breslin, Albany County’s executive, will accept the quilts from the kids at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 8 in the midst of the quilt show.

The thirteen quilters range in age from 4 to 14, said Dickinson. The youngest, at 4, is her granddaughter. An older granddaughter, Marissa Testa, at 13, is acting as Dickinson’s assistant. Dickinson reports, "She told me, ‘I won’t work on my quilt, Grandma; I’ll help other kids.’"

Children, unlike some grown-ups she’s taught, aren’t afraid of quilting; they plunge right in, said Dickinson. "I say, ‘Do you want to make a quilt for a baby or an older child" Do you want to make a quilt for a boy or a girl"’" Once they decide on the age and the gender, the kids immediately know what kind of fabric they want.

All of the materials for the project were donated. "I was going to write to different companies, asking for materials," said Dickinson. "But people — some of them I didn’t even know — just donated things when they heard about the project.."

Material to back the quilts was donated, batting to fill them was donated, and so was material to make the patchwork tops.

Social fabric

Dickinson is a practiced teacher, who circulates easily about the busy room Thursday, helping those who need it.

Tiara Conklin is using one of the sewing machines, stitching together a patchwork of pale pink and spring green.

Eight-year-old Elaina Brown has chosen animal faces to fill each of her squares. Her favorite animal, a monkey, wasn’t pictured in the material; her next-favorite, which is pictured, is a pig.

"I’m making a quilt for a little baby girl," says Jessica Peck, 13. She has chosen downy-soft fabric for the project, which she is carefully pinning as she sits cross-legged on the floor.

Her cousin, Jamie Peck, also 13, is stitching a quilt of pinks and purples.

The adult mentors are members of the Train Station Quilters, named for the station at the center of the village which is to be home to the Altamont Free Library. The group was formed when librarian Judith Wines called Dickinson after the Caregivers’ last quilt show and asked if she would teach a class.

"I expected it to last a couple of weeks. I started out with one person. Now we’re up to 25," she said. "It has become a group."

The group quilts Tuesday mornings at Village Hall.

"It’s an extraordinary group of women," said Dickinson. "They are very caring and kind to each other."

When Dickinson retired from work as a special-education teacher in 1996, she decided she wanted to learn to quilt.

"I might not be a great quilter, but I’m a great teacher," she said. She loves the craft and the social fabric that goes along with it.

"I’m addicted," said Dickinson. "My husband says I have quilt pox"If I don’t quilt every day, I’m uncomfortable. I even quilt in the car — not while I’m driving," she hastened to add.

She went on about quilting, "It’s very relaxing and creative"It’s like painting with material."

Besides the art of quilting, she likes the ethic of sharing. Dickinson belongs to a guild in Delmar that makes quilts for such groups as Head Start and Albany Medical Center Hospital.

"We hear stories back about how the kids with cancer who get a quilt always bring it with them when they come in for treatment," she said. "A quilt is a blanket with a heartbeat."

She concluded, "You should share and you should help, and that’s what Caregivers is all about. And now these kids know what it’s like; they feel what it’s like to volunteer."

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