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The Saga Continues....(Wall-O-Text Warning)


F_in Ray Of Sunshine
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For those who came in late: (<--Indigestible Bulk should get this)  There is a 3,5 acre empty lot across the street. Next to that, to the south are Mr and Mrs; High-strung. (They're very nice, but she tends to get hysterical quite easily). About ten years ago, a guy I know from school started clearing the lot - he was going to build a house on it, or so he said. His father had left the land to him - or so he said. The project never got further than clearing small trees, putting in a culvert for a driveway, mowing and digging two footers - one for a house, and one for a garage. In a matter of days, we could hear bullfrogs in said footer excavations and a few days after that a heron was eyeballing them...  Said Guy-From-School kept telling me he wanted to build the garage first to store his stuff in, but the town was giving him a hard time because they didn't want him building a garage and then living in it, etc. (They've had this problem before).Then supposedly, his wife said she didn't want to live out in the sticks and the place went up for sale. Three or four realtors had a go at selling it and they had a few bites...but oddly enough, between the fact that GFS was asking way too much, and the prospective buyers got wind of the need for an expensive raised bed septic, the offers evaporated immediately. GFS decides to go the "For Sale By Owner" route. Shortly after that, this guy from about a mile up the road - we'll call him Woodchuck - has apparently entered into a deal to buy said lot. He puts up (stacked) brick driveway markers, and mows a bit. He has some POS lawn tractor with a blade on the front that he keeps trying to push the dirt back into the footer excavations with, but that's about the extent of the work he's done. Woodchuck tells Mrs. High-strung that he's going to move the camper he, his baby-mama, two kids and two dogs have been living in for the last four years, onto that lot. Mrs High-strung goes unhinged, gets a lawyer, calls the town supervisor. Town supervisor already has this guy on his radar because he lives just up the road from where said camper is set up in the driveway of a rental house and has told him he can't do that. CPS has also been called in because of the living conditions. It also turns out GFS doesn't really own the lot - his father died intestate and his 90 y/o mother is taking twice monthly rent-to-own payments from Woodchuck. Payments made on the first and fifteenth. Yeah, he's a convicted felon, on welfare and baby-mama works at Walmart. Property was going up for taxes, back in April, but as soon as Woodchuck started making payments, apparently they paid the back taxes.

Ok, that's the background story. Here's the latest installments:

About two weeks ago, I was awakened by shouting from across the street, I woke up and looked out the window and there were Mrs High-strung and Woodchuck yelling at each other, about 20' apart. She was standing in her yard, near the line of Posted signs that Woodchuck had put up, along the line between him and the High-strungs. (Just that side of the property, not any of the others). He leaves, roaring off the property in his POS truck. A little while later, he comes back, backs in to the property and sits there, lights on, engine running. A few minutes later the Sheriff shows up. They go next door. I find out the next day that he accused her of trespassing, when what actually happened was he went over there and started bitching at her, asking why she called CPS...and accusing her of sabotaging his tractor. What I saw was the aftermath. Sheriff decides it's nothing worth his time and leaves.

Then a tent shows up on the property and he and his brood take up camping there, several nights a week - campfire in 80 degree weather and all. Part of his nightly entertainment includes running his riding mower at 9:30 at night and revving his POS truck, right next to the HS house. (Trying to push her buttons).

He -or GFS- is having the town dump loads of dirt fill and mulch - pretty much all of it is still sitting where it's been dumped. He has made token efforts to move some around, trying to push it with the blade on his POS lawnmower. 

About a week ago, SO was walking by when GFS's mom showed up to collect her money and heard him say: "Well I don't see what the problem is, as long as I paid something...I had unexpected expenses come up...I had to fix my tractor and stuff...."

Yesterday they were over there all day "mowing" and he sat and watched as baby-mama and the brood moved about two loads of mulch. I saw him mowing the ditch, drinking what looked like a beer. I said something about it and SO says "Yeah, that's why he did that...." and points to one of his driveway markers, which now looks like a Jenga game about to go bad. About 8:30, we hear his truck revving over and over, in the woods. Long about 9:30 or so, a Sheriff car goes by, search-lighting and I get the impression they've been called about you-know-who. Sure enough he pulls in, gets out with his flashlight. He calls out and looks around and as he's headed back to his car, I decide to go out and put in my two cents, in case Woodchuck has been lying about Mrs. HS again. Sheriff says "Are you the owner of this property?" "Oh hell no!" "Are you the one who called 911?" "No, it was probably them (pointed next door)" He says "Nope, wasn't them..." I explain the situation and he says "As long as he has the owner's permission, there's really nothing I can do. I don't think this town has a noise ordinance". He asked where he went and I explained where he lived. He said he'd go talk to him and asked "Do you know if he's armed?" "Well, he's a convicted felon, he's not supposed to be...." "Yeah.....probably is, then...." He left and went to talk to him.

Best we can piece together is he and baby-mama had a fight, she took the kids and went home, so he did the drunken, angry asshole thing and got his truck stuck in the woods...then she came back and got him.

 

....stay tuned, the freak show is sure to continue.

 

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Considering getting together with the high-strungs and proposing a noise ordinance next council meeting? :D

 

Everything I read makes me think I'd be a little high strung too.  I love my property values/peace and quiet being lowered by the Clampetts.

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I would suggest getting together with the High Strungs, give them the following information, and let them run with it.

The instant he shows up with the kids to 'camp', call Child Protective Services and report them for housing children without running water or a bathroom.

The Town of Lenox does not have a noise ordinance, per se, but it does have several others.

Throughout the Town zoning code, private garages are permitted as 'accessory' buildings.  I could not find in the code the Town's definition of 'accessory'.  However throughout the zoning code it seemed that a private garage was only allowed provided a building of the permitted use was existing as the primary building.  It's worth a check to see if someone can just put up a garage in a zone where it's only permitted as accessory use without the primary building, for then the garage would not be an 'accessory' building and would violate the zoning code.

47-4  Building permits - Building permits are required for any work covered by the Uniform Code " including, but not limited to, the construction, enlargement, alteration, improvement, removal, relocation or demolition of any building or structure or any portion thereof, ".  If he's backfilling the footings, that's an alteration or improvement of a portion of a structure.  Every time he moves dirt to backfill without a building permit, he should be cited by the building inspector.

If the original owner didn't have permit for the original footings, then that is a violation as well.  The town may have the authority to make the owner remove them, which would be expensive.  Enough 'expensive' attention from the town and the owners will kick Woodchuck off the property if only to get peace from the building inspector.

134-19 (C) Conservation/Outdoor Recreation District

Placing a camper on a piece of property as a 'seasonal structure' is only permitted in a Conservation/Outdoor Recreation District and only them by special permit from the Planning Board.  If he parks a camper there and starts living in it and (a) it's not a Conservation/Outdoor Recreation District or (b) he didn't get a special permit, then he's in violation of the zoning ordinances and can be fined.

I could not find any other sections of the zoning code that spoke about campers, except a paragraph about campgrounds.  That said that campgrounds had to be located where municipal sewers were available, which I don't think applies to your road.

The town definition of 'camp' is two or more recreational cabins, trailers, tents, shelters etc.  If he has only one trailer, he doesn't meet the definition of a 'camp' and can't claim that's the intended use.  However, if he adds a tent to the trailer and claims a 'camp', then he would have had to get a special use permit from the Planning Board.  Which I suspect Woodchuck is too lazy to do, assuming the Board would be willing to grant one.

137-37 Sanitary Facilities

A.  All residential, commercial and industrial structures shall have and maintain adequate and sanitary sewage disposal systems in accordance with state and local regulations, to include indoor plumbing and adequate and approved septic system or connection to public sewer.

Note the zoning code includes 'seasonal structures'.  Note the paragraph above does not make exception for seasonal structures.  The High Strungs may be able to make the case that if they park a camper as a seasonal structure it has to have a septic system.  Chemical toilet does not meet state regulations.

134-38 Zoning Performance Standards

In all districts, uses are not permitted which exceed the following standards measured at the individual property line. The Planning Board under its powers of site plan review and approval shall decide whether uses meet the standards. All uses shall meet New York State air and water pollution standards and shall not:

A.  Emit noise in excess of 70 decibels (dbA).

B. C. D....

I.  Cause harmful wastes to be discharged into the sewer system, streams or other bodies of water. Effluent disposal shall comply with applicable sanitary ordinances.

If they have a camper set up there with no way to take care of the 'effluent' then more than likely they are using 'the-toilet-in-the-woods' which violates the above zoning regulation.

 

If the Town doesn't have a noise ordinance that suits this situation, use the ordinances you have.  Woodchuck won't know about them, and will make mistakes.  Then the Town has the lever to take action.

If the High Strungs get the town building inspector to frequently stop by to check that Woodchuck is complying strictly with the zoning regs, then Woodchuck will give up and go back to where he came from.  Or he'll start piling up fines and then won't have the money to pay the rent.  Then the owner's will kick him out.

The other option open to you and the High Strungs is to buy off the property owners.  See if you can find out how much Woodchuck pays in rent each month.  It can't be that much, because he has virtually no money, and I doubt they have a written lease agreement.  Then offer the owner $25/month more.    I bet the owners take it.  But I would get it in writing that you're renting the property so Woodchuck can't come back and pull the rug out from under you.

Of course, the noise thing works both ways.  If Woodchuck is going to rev his truck engine late at night, then I would suspect he's not a particularly early riser.  I would not suggest that the High Strungs could just happen to like the classic '1812 Overture' so much they would like to start playing it a 7am.  Or I would not suggest that they could take the muffler off their lawn tractor and mow their lawn along the property line - repeatedly. 

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The instant he shows up with the kids to 'camp', call Child Protective Services and report them for housing children without running water or a bathroom.

Since they only live a mile or so up the road, they'll just claim they go home.

  It's worth a check to see if someone can just put up a garage in a zone where it's only permitted as accessory use without the primary building,

It depends on who you are. GFS wanted to and they said "no". Less than a mile and a half from here someone built a "garage" without even the formality of a building permit and proceeded to move in and yet not a peep was uttered. Why? Because said persons are kinfolk of the Highway Superintendent. (But I got scolded for not having a permit when I replaced windows....)

47-4  Building permits - Building permits are required for any work covered by the Uniform Code " including, but not limited to, the construction, enlargement, alteration, improvement, removal, relocation or demolition of any building or structure or any portion thereof,

.....but there is no "structure" and never was. I was told you can dig all the holes you want, as long as you don't build anything.

137-37 Sanitary Facilities

A.  All residential, commercial and industrial structures shall have and maintain adequate and sanitary sewage disposal systems in accordance with state and local regulations, to include indoor plumbing and adequate and approved septic system or connection to public sewer.

That's what they're getting after him for where he is now. The camper line runs into the septic tank of the house. They're after the property owner where he is now, but that person lives out of state. Someone's renting the house, and they're squatting in the camper.

I'm going to talk to the Supervisor and get the story unfiltered by Mrs. High-Strung. Around here, you have to work through the Good Ol Boy network and these things take time. I also don't want to antagonize Woodchuck any more than I have to - never know what he might do when I'm not home or whatever. I contemplated just buying it out from under him, but they want way too much. If I'm patient enough, he's going to screw up and I see the property going for taxes at some point and then I can buy it for what it's actually worth.

Also, I realized that when they put the water district through, you "didn't have to hook in, if you didn't want to"....but the catch was, if when you want to sell you do...and it will be much more expensive. GFS never got the curb box put in, so if he thinks he's going to sell it* either the buyer or the seller is going to have to pony up.

 

*I doubt the estate has ever been properly settled, because his father's name is still on the deed. When I last spoke with him he said "well I'm the only son, so I get the property...." Ummm, that's not how that works....

 

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