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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 25, 2011

Pine Bush native habitat distresses neighbor who manicured suburban lawn

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — John Marcella chose his home in Guilderland 22 years ago because he thought a park was going to be developed behind it.

He has been maintaining an empty lot next to his house, on East Lydius Street, that was supposed to become an access road to the park. He has mowed the lawn and planted bushes and flowers; it looks like part of his adjoining suburban yard.

The park never materialized, and the empty lot, which belongs to the town, was turned over to the Pine Bush Commission for management in 2010. 

Marcella has been ordered to stop maintaining the lot; a letter from the commission, dated Aug. 10, told him he had 30 days to do so, otherwise other enforcement action would be taken.

“We work with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and it is looking at all properties dedicated to the Pine Bush and notifying people of encroachment,” said Christopher Hawver, director of the commission.

In a letter to the Enterprise editor this week, Marcella wrote, “So as you watch the grass grow taller and taller and get taken over by weeds, a new eyesore will be created by the Pine Bush Commission.”

Hawver said the commission will probably just let the lot grow wild.

“If that is the native habitat, it is our mission to maintain that; we have an obligation,” said Hawver. “The native Pine Bush habitat is not your typical landscaping plants.”

“I understand their rules, and that they are trying to save the butterfly, but I think that they go to the utmost degree,” said Marcella. He is referring to the Karner blue butterfly, which is on the federal list of endangered species and needs the wild lupine of the Pine Bush to survive.

“I’ve been maintaining it since 1990, and the town never cared; I made it look beautiful,” said Marcella.

“It’s a very common response from a homeowner, to say, ‘Well, I’ve been doing it for a long time,’” said Hawver. “Well, that doesn’t make it right.”

Guilderland’s Supervisor, Kenneth Runion, echoed Hawver’s sentiments.

“Landscaping town land as if it is your own is not permitted,” said Runion. The town never notified Marcella of any wrongdoing because the lot is an isolated piece of land that was not checked often by the town’s parks and recreation department, he said.

The land behind East Lydius Street, which Marcella thought was going to be developed into a park, is a 34-acre parcel that the town had no specific plans for, according to Runion, but it is referred to as Fusco Park.

“It is still a park-like setting, even if there are no sports fields or playgrounds,” said Runion.

“The land is and always was owned by the town — I’m sure it probably looks very nice, but you wouldn’t want someone landscaping your property when it didn’t belong to them,” said Hawver.

“I hope others are as unhappy as me when they drive by the new weed field,” Marcella concluded in his letter.

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