LACKAWAXEN TWP.- The Lackawaxen Township building was abuzz Jan. 13 when township residents presented many overlapping questions to area business owner Mike Mancino at the conditional use application hearing.
As the Township Supervisor (elected last November), Mancino recused himself from the proceedings as he was looking to amend his current conditional use permit to include the new indoor arena/barn as part of the commercial operation at Vanderbeek Farm. Previously, the building was only approved for personal use. The building would have the same number of horses, but Mancino said he might add a bathroom, which according to Township Solicitor Tony Waldron, that would fall under a zoning issue. His present intent is to change the use of the building from residential accessory use to a commercial use.
In the past, organizations that include Wounded Warrior, Horses for Hero's, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and more, have used the facility at Vanderbeek Farm on a, "limited basis," that has had to work around the weather, Mancino stated. Because the organizations are offered minimal cost to free services, Mancino said the new barn would allow for year-round activity which would help with some costs. Additionally, it would be an opportunity for the farm to host equine and community events that would allow for recognition for the township. If it passes, Mancino said that would open several options that could help his business grow. As of now, the facility is used for friends and family activities.
At this time, Mancino said there isn't an immediate plan to increase the number of horses or staff. The use of the indoor arena, he explained would allow for an expansion of the lesson program that is currently done indoors and is weather dependent. Ultimately, he explained that the, "weather was really the driving force for the business to be more efficient." At the time of the hearing, Mancino said he has an odor management and nutrient management plan in place. A yearly audit was recently done that outlines the plans requirements. The arena he said, is not setup for large amounts of people and there aren't any bleachers.
Referencing the narrative Mancino presented, Marilyn Nalesnik said it appeared as though a door would be opened for other activities that would need additional permits if his request was approved. Waldron clarified that Mancino was attempting to adjust the current approval of the commercial riding stables. It wouldn't be changed, except to include a building that wasn't permitted to be a part of the commercial business. Waldron said the only change Mancino was looking to do was the use of the building for commercial activity. Because of concern of traffic, Waldron suggested if the board were to approve the request, that they do something that would limit community events that didn't need approval.
There appeared to be some confusion as to what Mancino was trying to specifically accomplish and so he explained that if the conditional application use is approved, the only change would be that the indoor arena would be included in the activities that already occur on the farm. After Mancino explained his plan, Nalesnik questioned whether the request were to pass if his pervious ideas about snowmobiling and dog sledding would now occur. Mancino answered that those plans would not occur because they have already been withdrawn. Waldron added that the plans were never approved and this request is simply allowing for outdoor things to occur indoors.
Looking at the number of horses on the farm, one man asked whether Mancino could accommodate 47 horses. As his business has grown, Mancino explained that he tried for a conditional use that would include the acreage he owns across Route 590 which would allow for up to 46 horses. With boarders, he said there are currently less than 25 horses.
His reasoning for more horses, he said was because to send the same horse on every trail ride would be inhumane. If more than 27 horses were permitted, that would allow for the horses to be rotated, he said. From a business perspective, Mancino said he hopes that with time he does acquire more horses because as the business grows to where 40 to 46 horses are needed. With his family and staff who can care for the horses, Mancino said he wants his family to know that it is their responsibly to care for the horses because, "they're not just dollar signs." The horses he said, are more like family pets than machines used to make money. There are times, he said, that his vet bill is higher than his mortgage, to which that is, "just part of the game." He acknowledged that as the demand for the horses go up, so too does expenses and the demand would help with the cost because he is not in an easy business.
Trinidad Andreiuolo noted that she is concerned with the noise occurring late at night. As private home owners, she said people want "peace and quiet." So for activities to be occurring regularly at 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. is not something she looks forward to. So she asked if anything would be mandated. Waldron said this concern is covered by the noise ordinance that was adopted two years ago. Under the current commercial use, Mancino said he believes events are permitted to occur from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Horseback rides, he said go till dusk and he is considering including moonlight rides, but nothing would exceed 11:00 p.m.
Anthony Andreiuolo brought up his apprehension about Mancino bringing more stock to his farm. Mancino answered that two calves have been brought to the farm and there will be cows for fresh milk. There are pigs now, which he said will be bred and eventually sold. Because of his concern, Andreiuolo said the "ramifications down the road are keeping me awake." Mancino responded that he can rest soundly because he has an agricultural type business. At this time, Andreiuolo said he does not have a problem with Mancino's proposal; instead it is, "down the road that worries me." To which Mancino replied that, "anything down the road you'll certainly be aware of. No secrets."
A few of the residents, said they were not notified of the hearing. By law, Waldron said the township has to announce such hearings, which was done twice in The News Eagle. That didn't appear to mean much to Nalesnik as she pointed out that many people don't look to the newspaper anymore for information and so advertising on the township's website or a Facebook page would be more practical. Although not an adjoining party, Nalesnik had a lot to say about Mancino's request. She said it wasn't about rejecting Mancino's request, but to hear what was occurring in the community and because she wasn't aware of the hearing she was a little concerned. Because she can smell Mancino's horses, Nalesnik wanted to have the chance to ask him questions.
Noting that she is not shy, Nalesnik said she didn't feel the notification system was appropriate for people who want to be, "kept abreast of the situation." Because people weren't notified, she said it, "creates a sense of distrust," because something could occur that people aren't aware of. She acknowledged that wasn't the case at the hearing, but by not learning about the hearing sooner it created an, "element of drama that doesn't need to exist." She complimented Mancino's "online presence," and "understanding of social media and website use." Now, Nalesnik said she would like to see them brought to the township.
Supervisor Richard Krochta said the township website is being worked on and a Facebook page has been created. Supervisor Bob Cocchi said it was his fault and the township was not trying to hide anything. To which Nalesnik responded that by people not being aware of the hearing it, "leads to perhaps a sense of mistrust even though that's not the case."
The Board's decision will be made the monthly meeting that is scheduled for Monday, January 20th at 6:30 p.m.