Montgomery residents fight auto facility

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John Brown and Leonard Brown, of the Historic Brown Family Farm, LLC, filed an appeal to overturn the use determination for BHT-Montgomery, which could lead to the project being rejected by the Town of Montgomery planning board.

Town of Montgomery Building Inspector Walter Schmidt ruled the property to be an auto sales lot and automobile recycling facility because it fit the dictionary definition—despite the town code not containing a definition for that use—and granted the special exception use permit.

The 118-acre project will contain about 4,115 parking spaces for storage of used inoperable insurance salvage/resale vehicles, according to the draft scoping document for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). It also includes a 9,900 square foot motor vehicle sales building and a 70,000-square-foot drop off and pick up area. Cars will be sold through an online auction.

John Brown, Leonard Brown and the Historic Brown Family Farm, LLC requested that the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) reverse Schmidt’s determination and determine that the use is a junkyard, which is prohibited under town zoning law.

“We have a ruling from the zoning enforcement officer that we think is wrong, and we don’t want it to stay on the books,” Attorney with Rodenhausen Chal& Polidoro, LLP, George Rodenhausen, who represents the Browns, said.

In a letter to the ZBA, Rodenhausen stated the proposed action is a junkyard, which is prohibited in the I-3 zone. Rodenhausen references BHT project engineer Ross Winglovitsz’s Oct. 16 letter to Schmidt, which requests confirmation that the use is a permitted special exception use.

Winglovitz states in the letter the vehicles brought to the site will be inoperable because of accident or flood. Rodenhausen references the town’s zoning code, which defines a junkyard as “Any land or structure or part thereof exceeding 300 square feet in area, used for the collecting . . . [or] storage . . . of . . . vehicles not in running condition.”

Rodenhausen stated the project does not fit the definitions of auto sales because auto sales usually means cars can be driven off the lot, the opposite of the proposed project outlined in planning board documents. The project does not fit automobile recycling facility because that requires the dismantling of vehicles, which will not be taking place on site.

Winglovitz said the property is not a salvage or junkyard because there will be no dismantling of vehicles on site.

Rodenhausen stated the proposed action would threaten the survival of the Brown’s livelihood. Under the law, an appeal may be taken by any person aggrieved by the determination.

Rodenhausen referenced the Orange County Department of Planning’s letter to the planning board, which stated the project could have negative impacts to water quality. The Tin Brook adjoins the site, and it lies in a floodplain district which contains about 53 acres of wetlands.

Rodenhausen also referenced the Orange County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board, which states the project would have a negative impact to farming by taking viable agricultural land and potentially polluting groundwater which livestock would drink.

BHT project attorney John Cappello could not be reached for comment.

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