Code enforcement officer concerned with Amish construction

N ew Whitehall Code Enforcement Officer John Ward overwhelmed members of the Whitehall Town Board recently with the stern line he took about Amish construction.
“I think we are all a bit shell-shocked,” Councilman Farrell Prefountain said.
“It did seem a little bit aggressive,” Councilwoman Stephanie Safka said.
Both members of the town board were referring to the 20-minute presentation by Ward, who also works for Washington County Code enforcement.
He presented the board with a laundry list of what he perceives as possible violations of the town building code.
“I could go to those farms and put stop work orders on all of their buildings,” Ward said.
“But I didn’t come here to trash the Amish people. No firm decisions have been made, except possibly those in the building code.”
Ward questioned the Amish custom of building a structure that is half residence and half “machinery shed.”
By this and other practices, Ward maintained the Amish were getting around building permit requirements. His predecessor, Jamie Huntington, earlier this year reported to the board that Amish “pole barns,” with sod floors, did not require building permits.
Both Supervisor George Armstrong and Highway Superintendent Louis Pratt reported that they had been getting complaints from town residents that the Amish were not paying their fair share.
“And it is difficult to tell others the Amish don’t need a building permit when it is only $50 bucks,” Armstrong said.
Councilman John Rozell said the practice of half-residence and half-equipment shed was temporary.
Speaking after Ward had left the meeting, Rozell said he had personally talked with one of the leaders of the Amish community. He said all of the Amish plan on building regular houses that will require the standard $50 building permit.
In the meantime, an Amish spokesman had suggested paying a “temporary living tax.” “And this is a quote from one of their leaders,” Rozell said.
Attorney Erica Sellar Ryan disagreed with Ward’s contention that the Amish were not farmers, as defined by the state’s Agriculture and Markets Law.
Councilman Rozell agreed with Ryan that the Amish met the state standard to qualify as farmers.
“They are Ag-exempt, and they should get it,” Rozell said.
“The cultural difference between us and the Amish is huge,” Councilman Stephanie Safka said. She suggested forming an emissary committee to work with the farming community.
Ryan offered to call Ward’s other employer, Washington County Attorney Roger Wickes, to double check what requirements the Amish must meet.
She also volunteered to supply Ward with a “cheat sheet” of “do’s and don’ts” in dealing with the religious-based community.”
Supervisor Armstrong agreed with Ryan that before Ward took further action, his opinions and positions should be confirmed by Wickes. He also said that “John needs to see that” cheat sheet of Amish customs.
Although willing to have his work double-checked, Ward continue to maintain that he had a job, albeit, an unpopular one, to do. “In Fulton County,” Ward said, “they refused to put in smoke detectors. The fire company had to do it for them.” Locally, Ward expressed concern that run-off from Amish properties –– agricultural, “bath water, culinary,” –– is “draining into the Champlain and Mettowee.”
“It will take time,” Ward said. He then repeated, “This has nothing to do with the Amish. I feel that they’ve created a split subdivision. But I didn’t come here to trash the Amish people. Everybody thinks that I’m clashing with these Amish people. And I’m not.”

 

Comments

comments

Read more in this week's Times in newsstands now or click here to read right now with our e-edition.

Siemen obit photo brighter

Wells, VT – Arthur Peter Siemen passed away on Sunday, December 16, 2018. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio on March […]

susan garner obit

Susan Jane Garner, age 54, of  Warrensburg, New York, formerly of Whitehall New York, passed away unexpectedly on December 7, […]

Lakes Region Freepress – 12/14/18

Lakes_12_13_18.pdf-web.pdf

518 Wheels – 12/13/18

518 Wheels 12_14_18.pdf-web.pdf

Residents defend Dresden supervisor; Stipins-Gang demands apology

Dresden Memorial

By Matthew Saari The Dresden Town Board meeting was proving to be uneventful Monday night, with board members tracking to […]

Fatal fire inspires safety float

20181205_203551

By Krystle S. Morey The fire that claimed the life of a North Granville woman this fall has inspired a […]

Only 122 votes cast for $18.5 million project

Whitehall High School

By Matthew Saari The largest building project since Whitehall Central School relocated to Buckley Road garnered little interest from district […]

Horde opens with two road wins

granville basketball

By Keith Harrington Granville opened the basketball season in good fashion last week, winning a pair of Adirondack League games […]

Santa visits Whitehall

DSC_2676

By Krystle S. Morey “It’s coming!” Children and adults alike cheered and waved as Amtrak train #69 rolled into Whitehall […]

Obituary: Barbara Jane Flack

Flack obit

Granville, NY – Barbara Jane Flack, age 87, passed away Saturday, December 8, 2018 at Slate Valley Center in Granville. […]

Obituary: Michael Augustus Tuttle

Michael Tuttle obit photo

Whitehall/Colorado Springs- Michael Augustus Tuttle, 31 of Colorado Springs, Colorado, passed away on November 30, 2018 at his home.  Michael […]

North Country Freepress – 12/07/18

FreePress_12_7_18.pdf-web.pdf