B y Jaime Thomas
In a heated exchange Tuesday night, Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff reprimanded Town Enforcement Officer Mark Miller and the planning board about a letter they had sent.
The letter had been sent to Hilary and Bob Oreschnick, owners of the Log Village and Gristmill, which has recently opened as a glamping (glamorous camping) business.
The planning board commissioned the town’s lawyer to write the note, which threatened to take action against the Oreschnicks for allegedly modifying the site plan without getting approval. They were referring to the couple tearing down an old structure and building a deck in its place.
Haff read the letter out loud before expressing his disapproval of it.
“This is a very low-impact business. But the tone of his letter—you might as well put up a sign that says there is no new business welcome in Hartford,” he said, going on to explain why he did not support it.
“The Oreschnicks provided me with a document, which I find very puzzling, because it shows they’re in complete compliance. You told them they needed a building permit in August; the very next day they went out and got one, which you signed, Mark,” Haff said to Miller.
Miller agreed that he had signed off on the plans, but said that didn’t mean they were not later in violation.
“You have said there are no requirements and signed off on it. The attorney said to me that’s the nail on the coffin. I will not move to enforce something that is not enforceable,” Haff said, adding that the deck is within the same footprint as the previous structure.
“The point about the deck is, yes it’s in the same footprint, but it’s not the same use. I’m just checking to see that it’s built sound enough to use,” Miller said, continuing to protest his case. He said he works for both the town board and the planning board and was following planning board orders.
“Mark, you work for the town board, not the planning board. Let’s move on before you build yourself a deeper grave. You were 110 percent unfriendly to them,” Haff responded.
“This is outrageous. They attorney apologized to me for writing it once I showed him their documentation. We just paid the bills, and we have to pay $135 for this letter,” he said.
He then apologized to the Oreschnicks, who were present, for giving the impression that the town is “business unfriendly.”
“We should be doing everything we can to try to have businesses come in,” he said.
“In general, we found the town to be very supportive. More phases are intended to bring in money and jobs,” Bob Oreschnick said.
Haff suggested the couple go before the planning board once more with a large site plan overview, so they don’t need to seek approval with every small expansion in the future.
Zero percent increase
Following a public hearing during which no one spoke, the town board approved a preliminary budget, which will have a zero percent increase for the tax levy.
“The town is very frugal in spending the money allocated in the budget. We don’t spend money allocated unless we really have to, and any savings from one year rolls over into the next which helps to offset the next year’s tax levy,” Haff said in an email.
He cited the recently built salt storage barn behind the town hall, which holds 300 tons of highway salt, as an example of this frugality. The project had a $28,000 budget, but it was able to be completed for half that price because of volunteer work on weekends.
The board also approved 5-year agreements with both the Argyle EMS and the Hartford Volunteer Fire Company following public hearings.
Eldridge Lane, appointment
During the meeting, Haff mentioned the name of the bidder who won the Washington County Eldridge Lane land sale, for a price of $400,300. Gary Fullerton, a dairy farmer who owns large farms in Argyle, purchased the three parcels.
Haff believes the county will approve the sale this time around when the board of supervisors votes on it.
“I fully expect the 22-year albatross around the county’s neck will be gone,” he said.
The board also appointed Adam Fish to the unexpired term of youth commission alternate, expiring on Dec. 31 of this year.
The next board meeting will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.