On March 26, Hanover Farms, the farmstand located on Route 28 in Mt. Tremper by a modular home owned by the Higley family that’s been the center of controversy since it first opened almost a decade ago, filed a lawsuit against the Town of Shandaken and its code enforcement officer, Richard Stokes, for issuing it a stop work order the previous week, among other issues.

The legal complaint filed in New York Supreme Court by Phoenicia-based attorney Pat Ellison charges that the stop-work order was vague and improperly carried out, and seeks to have it overturned…along with a request for restitution of all legal fees and other costs accrued in the skirmish, as well as whatever the court deems “just and proper” in terms of “further relief” from the town and from Stokes. It also asks that the town, and its representatives, not be allowed to try and stop work on the business again.

The lawsuit claims that the town’s, and Stokes’ actions — including interviews and accounts of the Hanover Farms case in local publications, (including Woodstock Times) — are “wrongful and malicious” and “intended to destroy or inflict serious damage to plaintiff’s business and reputation, and will in fact prevent plaintiff from opening its seasonal farm stand for business as planned in early April.”

The Hanover Farms issue first came to light when it opened in a residential district, and neighbors claimed that it was thwarting local zoning laws via its size, hours of operation, and failure to accommodate proper parking off the busy highway that runs by its front. Several attempts to write new zoning laws around the business came to naught when the business’s owners, Al Higley and Alfie Higley Jr., took to bringing large crowds and threatening lawsuits every time Hanover Farms came up in discussion at Shandaken Town Hall.

Last year, Alfie Higley won a seat on the Shandaken Town Board as a Republican candidate.

The current problems come after the town board passed a new farm stand law written to accommodate Hanover Farms, after which the Higleys were issued a building permit on March 9 allowing for concrete pad repairs and roof work, meant to fix problems that occurred during Hurricane Irene’s damaging race through the area last August.

Stokes, and the town, have since claimed that Hanover Farms was putting in new concrete and extending the size of its business.

At the April 2 Shandaken Board Meeting, discussion of the matter ranged from nearly unanimous condemnation of Hanover Farms’ lawsuit, and the Higleys’ claims, by town board members (with Alfie Higley recusing himself), to support from fans of the farm stand, who claimed that its benefits should be weighed against town zoning, and code enforcement issues.

The board passed a resolution to retain the law firm of Kellar, Kellar, and Jaiven of Kingston to file an answer to the lawsuit. Again, Higley recused himself. ++