Landowner Letter to Town of Caroline Board, April 12, 2017

To the Caroline Town Board 4/12/2017

As you probably know, Crystal and I recently sued the County over failure to follow the FOIL law in our attempt to find out what is going on with the County’s plans for our farm. The Judge ruled in our favor, and compelled the County to provide us with the drafts of the license agreement Planning Commissioner Ed Marx had negotiated with NYSEG and with his emails during the 6 month gap in emails provided during the period of negotiations in 2016. They did provide us with some drafts of license agreements, although they are incomplete, and they appear to still be refusing to acknowledge any communication took place during this period when so many decisions were made.

From the beginning, Mr Marx acted towards us as if he is above the law, so I am not really surprised. I assume he has unsavory activity to hide by concealing the emails, I can see no other reason for a public servant to treat the public and the Court with such contempt. We are in dialog with NYSEG ourselves at this point.

What we can see from the various drafts of the agreement is:

  • NYSEG grants without warranty of any kind to Licensee a revokable, non-exclusive license….subject to the rights granted to others for use of the right-of-way and subject to any prior fee conveyances as shown on the sketch attached hereto and made a part hereof”The sketch was NOT provided, of course. This clause calls the ownership a “right-of-way,” it is conditional on all of the existing landowner uses, and it is non exclusive, meaning those existing uses cannot be infringed on by the licensee.
  • Reviewing the various drafts, it appears the County tried to water down paragraph 24:“Licensee recognizes that NYSEG may have previously granted rights to other parties above, on or below the premises…Should any conflict arise with existing licenses, Licensee shall use their best efforts to resolve the same, If questions remain unresolved, NYSEG shall be the sole arbiter.” but NYSEG would not remove this clause. The Hilkers have a longstanding license agreement with NYSEG for their driveway, and the County has done nothing to resolve this conflict. This alone would void the License Agreement.
  • Paragraph 8: “Licensee shall not cause…a nuisance to persons adjacent to premises, to other licensees…” Clearly, the persons adjacent to the right-of-way would experience a nuisance.
  • The final clause added by NYSEG is telling. “Licensee shall not record this License in the County Clerk’s Office or any other place designated for recording or filing without the express written approval of NYSEG.” The boldface is NYSEG’s. Clearly they do not trust Mr Marx any more than we do.

Every one of these clauses points to an understanding that the County has and will continue to work this out with the landowners on a case by case basis, respecting all existing uses and developing a recreation way in a way that neighbors to not find a nuisance. From our point of view, this is laughable to ever expect given the outright hostility of Mr. Marx, Mr Witmer, and others towards each and every landowner over the years. But we do not know how Mr Marx characterized landowner negotiations to NYSEG in the missing emails, perhaps NYSEG was led to believe we all liked the idea.

I think anyone reading the license agreement can see how the Recreation Way as planned would never meet NYSEG’s terms.

On Monday, at the Danby Town Board meeting, Supervisor Deitrich wanted the Board to approve the MOU with the County (they did not) to force landowners to sue the Town and resolve the issue that way (he actually said that). We think this is absurd, we do not want litigation, we want our lives back, we want this nightmare to end, we want unity and a sense of community in the Town, we want the dialog we are engaged in with NYSEG to lead to clarity on ownership without the damage of yet another lawsuit. We think the best next step is for the Town to reject the MOU, to stop following Mr. Marx’s plan, and take time to consider what is best for the people of Caroline.

Sincerely,

Scott Van Gaasbeck

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