Residents lodge complaint against Montgomery horse farm
“We can’t live like this. Something has to be done,” said Glenn Tambone at the Montgomery Town Board meeting last week.
Tambone and many of his neighbors came to the board for help with an issue that has set them at odds with the neighboring horse farm, My Saddle Brook Farm on Berea Road.
The farm maintains a burn pile on the property for disposal of manure near a pond on the property. According to Tambone, the neighbors are being “smoked out” as the smoke from the burn pile heads directly to the subdivision, forcing them into their homes where they must keep their windows closed.
“I’m a prisoner in my own home,” said Kevin O’Brien, another neighbor, who explained that both he and his daughter suffer from asthma and are unable to go outside due to the smoke.
Another neighbor, Kathy Jurman, stated that she has been sick with a constant sore throat ever since she moved in several months ago.
The neighbors asked the Town Board to take action against the farm owner, however Supervisor Mike Hayes explained that there was nothing the board could do.
While burning is not allowed in the town, the farm is protected by the NYS Agricultural and Market Department, and is allowed to burn under the monitoring of the DEC.
Hayes stated the DEC had been to the property recently to inspect the pile and stated it was fine and she could continue. As a result, the dispute becomes a private issue between the neighbors that has to be worked out between them as there is no violation of town ordinance or DEC guidelines.
Tambone questioned the location of the pile, which he stated was positioned right by the property line with the subdivision, while the farm contains more than 20 acres. He asserted that the owner of the farm was acting on a “vendetta” because she did not like the fact their homes had been built nearby.
Chip Watson, who stated that she is on the Orange County Horse Council, spoke in defense of the farm stating that it had been in existence long before the development went in and the residents knew what they were getting into when they chose to purchase a home located next door to a working horse farm.
The residents at the meeting objected, stating that not one of them had been told about the farm when they purchased their properties.
Hayes explained that in New York, if a property is partially or wholly in the agricultural district, a form has to be signed during the purchasing process advising the new homeowner. However, if the property is adjoining – as is the case in this situation – there is no form to sign. If the former owner doesn’t disclose it, the purchaser is left in the dark.
Hayes stated there is an effort currently to change the requirement to include adjoining properties, which would have included the upset homeowners at the meeting.
Helen King, the owner of the farm, explained to her neighbors that the farm has been a working farm “for as long as you can go back in the deeds.” In 1971 it shifted from a dairy farm to a horse farm, at which time the burn pile was created. The neighboring development started to materialize about six years ago.
King also pointed out after the meeting that the smoke in the neighborhood is not solely from her farm as two neighboring properties also have burn piles.
King’s neighbors also complained about loose animals, which she stated does happen from time to time, at which point everything stops as she recovers the animals and repairs broken sections of fence.
The town attorney, Charles Bazydlo, advised the group that the farm was operating legally and if they could not work out a solution, their other option was to consult an attorney about filing a civil suit.
“You folks need to sit down and work things out,” said Hayes.
King said that she has followed any and all suggestions from the DEC, police and fire departments. The problem is there are no other sites on the property that afford the water for emergency use and she cannot build another pond because there are no other water sources.
“The fact is, I’m trying to be a good neighbor,” said King, adding that the developer of the subdivision, Frank Nutt, has spoken with her about possibly taking the manure for fertilizer.
King said one of her other options is composting, but her fear is the disease that will come from the rats which always follow.
“I am willing to try the composting, but it is going to attract rats. I will not tolerate them. I am all for working towards harmony, but rats do not promote harmony,” said King.
As of Tuesday, King was still awaiting a call from Nutt on the other alternative.
In other business, the town audit has been completed and was presented to the Town Board.
William Trainor, of Nugent and Hoessler, advised the board that the town received “basically the highest grade you can get” as they did not find anything in the accounting system or records that was substantially inaccurate. While they did not look at every transaction, Trainor stated that the town was in good shape and took some time to explain some new rules and terms.
Trainor cautioned the board regarding expected increases in costs like health insurance and retirement obligations, warning the board against using remaining fund balances as it would only create a larger problem down the road.
Resident Richard Phelps questioned how a recent court decision—which determined that the town had paid fees resulting from a prior lawsuit from the wrong fund—would affect the audit.
Trainor explained that the outcome of the lawsuit “does not change the numbers.”
“Just because the court determined that the money shouldn’t have come from that fund, it doesn’t change the fact that it did,” said Trainor. “It will affect us, but I can’t tell you when or how until a resolution is made.”
Hayes stated that it would be determined during the upcoming budget process.
By Rachel Coleman