Police called to contentious Shawangunk board meeting
For months a proposed subdivision off a dead-end road in the Town of Shawangunk has been the subject of an intense debate, which culminated in a 911 call last Tuesday.
“It’s my money, my land you’re trying to take from me,” Benny Quatarone said loudly, ignoring repeated requests from the Planning Board to be quiet as he approached their table and berated them — Kris Pedersen, Planning Board chairperson in particular. “You’re the one that messed up. You’re the one that’s been acting with unclean hands the whole time.”
The disagreement was over the proposed Martinelli subdivision, which sought five lots at Sinsabaugh Road and Brimstone Hill Road. At the heart of the matter is that if approved, a 277-acre lot will be created at the end of Sinsabaugh Road, paving the way for a more substantial subdivision in the future on the former dead end road.
Residents of Sinsabaugh Road, most notably Quatarone, are against any further development on the road and have argued throughout the process that the access was not possible because the Martinelli property had been landlocked more than 20 years ago by an intentional 10-foot gap left between the road and the property.
Quatarone submitted various documents to the board and brought in a surveyor who also argued his case during the public hearing last month. The board decided however, in favor of the applicant as they were advised by Town Attorney Richard Hoyt that Sinsabaugh Road was a road by use and the intent of the deed was not to leave a gap, but to end at the property line. A mistake had created the impression that it stopped short.
“I didn’t make the mistake, the Planning Board made the mistake if there was a mistake,” said Quatarone at the meeting last Tuesday. “We agreed on this 20 years ago that this wasn’t going to be opened. We didn’t mess up. Your attorney said it was fine then. Why are you changing your tune now, ma’am?”
Members of the board tried to calm Quatarone, explaining that the public hearing had been closed at the previous meeting and it was not the time to talk.
“Mr. Quatarone, you need to stop,” said Pedersen, telling him repeatedly that he could not speak.
“Why don’t you shut up?” Quatarone fired back.
In the end, Planning Board Secretary Robin Kauffman placed the 911 call and Pedersen moved to adjourn the meeting until Quatarone either left or stopped. Quatarone subsequently sat in the front row and waited quietly for the police to arrive.
“It’s not appropriate for the public to speak,” Pedersen explained to the officers when they arrived, telling them that they were having problems with a man yelling and disrupting the meeting. “They had their opportunity to speak and now it’s time for the board to do its work and not have people yelling at us.”
When the officers looked around the silent room searching for the problem, Quatarone spoke up.
“It’s me, right here,” called out Quaterone, waving his hand in the air like a schoolboy with the right answer. “I’m not being disruptive. I’m trying to invoke my First Amendment rights.”
Quatarone left with the officers, still calling out.
When the meeting resumed, the board voted unanimously to approve the Martinelli subdivision, creating four lots on Brimstone Hill Road and the large lot at the end of Sinsabaugh Road.
In their decision, the board noted that if the road had ended where indicated by Quatarone, it would landlock not only the Martinelli property but also the 5 acre lot he had created for his daughter as it would not have the requisite road frontage.
Quatarone said after the meeting that was the board’s mistake and since he gave his daughter the five acres, there was no reason why he wouldn’t have given her ten or whatever might have been required.
He also pointed out that he was not arrested as a result of the incident at the board meeting, saying the officers couldn’t charge him with anything.
“I’m considering a personal lawsuit against each and every one of them,” said Quatarone, adding that his next step is to file an Article 78 proceeding against the Planning Board, “but everything is money.”
Part of Quatarone’s ire is a result of the investment he made installing the road, which he estimated at more than $25,000.
“I’m not going to go down, to have the town steal my property, without talking,” said Quatarone. “But how much more do I have to spend to defend my land from them stealing it?”
By RACHEL COLEMAN