[Return to Home Page] [Subscriptions] [Newsstands] [Contact Us] [Archives]

Hilltowns Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 28, 2005

Allen refuses to close flea market

By Matt Cook

KNOX—The owner of the Fox Creek Flea Market will keep his business running even though he has been, and will continue to be, ticketed for violating the town’s zoning ordinance.

"I guess I’m going to have to get some tickets because I’m going to go bankrupt if I refund [the vendors’] money," said Edward Allen, who appeared pro se before a Knox town justice last week.

Allen, of Berne, is charged with opening the flea market without a special-use permit from the town’s zoning board. He pleaded not-guilty to town justice Linda Quay last Wednesday. Quay adjourned the hearing until Sept. 14, at which time, Allen said, he will return with a lawyer.

Quay said any tickets Allen gets between now and then will be considered all at one time.

The tickets each carry a maximum fine of $350 and a minimum of zero, Quay said.

According to federal court documents, Allen filed for personal bankruptcy earlier this month under Chapter 13 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.

Allen told The Enterprise that his bankruptcy has to do with his house payments, and is not connected to the flea market or his other businesses, a garage and a motorcycle shop.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows a debtor with regular income to file a three-to five-year repayment plan with the court. If the court approves the plan, the debtor and his creditors are bound by it. This protects the debtor from giving up any property.

Allen has two creditors listed in the court documents: Household Finance Realty of NY, of Elmhurst, Ill.; and Manton Sweeney Gallo, of Rego Park, NY.

No permit

Allen and his wife, Martha, claim they have done everything the town has asked of them in order to secure a permit and are frustrated they cannot get a straight answer.

"There are no steps to follow, there’s nothing in writing," Mrs. Allen said in court.

"If I was suicidal, it would’ve been over already," Mr. Allen said.

Allen owns and operates Altamont Garage. He compared his experience starting a business in Altamont with starting one in Knox. Getting a permit in Altamont was much simpler, he said.

"I was done in 15 minutes," Allen said.

The Fox Creek Flea Market, in the Southwest corner of Knox, opened in late May. It is open on Sundays and holiday weekends and consists of sites for about 270 vendors who sell antiques and other goods from space rented to them by the Allens.

Years ago, the Fox Creek Auction Arena, which was then owned by Douglas Cater, held auctions and functioned as a flea market for vendors from all over the area, bringing hundreds of people through West Berne every weekend. Cater was taken to court for illegal practices and his operation was shut down.

In a front-page Enterprise story on July 14, Allen said he was pleased with the opening-day crowd, Memorial Day weekend, but suspected summer heat had put people off. "I knew the first year was going to be tough," he said. "With the heat and humidity, sometimes even I don’t want to go out there."

He said he has about 20 vendors.

At that time, Allen said he planned to submit the required information to the zoning board and to go through the public-hearing process, but would keep the flea market running every Sunday in the meantime.

After his first visit to the zoning board, Allen was given a temporary permit, but it was revoked the next month.

Earl Barcomb, chairman of the Knox Zoning Board of Appeals, was not available for an interview this week. Two weeks ago, however, Barcomb said Allen appeared before the zoning board in June, but was denied a special-use permit because he needed to submit further information, including a plat plan of the site.

Robert Price, chairman of the Knox Planning Board, told The Enterprise that the zoning board requested the planning board do a site-plan review of the property. To do that, Price said, the planning board requires a plat plan of the property and a business plan.

Although the site was a flea market years ago, Price said, it was established before the zoning ordinance and therefore the town has no records of it.

"They’re essentially starting from ground zero," Price said.

Price said Allen has not come before the planning board or submitted any materials.

"Whatever he has, no one else has seen it," Price said.

Allen told Judge Quay that he paid $1,500 for an appraisal on the property when he bought it, and the appraiser gave him a map that included the layout of the buildings. Allen said the town did not accept the map because it was not to scale.

Price questioned the Allens’ willingness to work with the town to get the permit. He cited the example of Mark Wade, who, Price said, spent 11 months working with the planning and zoning boards before he got a permit to reopen the Foxenkill Restaurant, just down the road from the flea market.

"From my point of view," Price said of the Allens, "these people are taking the approach that they don’t have to abide by the town’s rules: They can do what they want."

Allen was reluctant to talk to The Enterprise because, he said, last time he did, he was ticketed.

Von Haugg pushes for regime change in Knox

By Matt Cook

KNOX—A first-time candidate wants to shake things up in Knox, a town that has had the same supervisor for over three decades.

"We need a change of regime, so to speak," said Mark Von Haugg. "When somebody is in an office for an extended period of time, they get complacent."

The Knox Republican Committee has selected Von Haugg as its candidate for supervisor in November’s election. The current supervisor, Democrat Michael Hammond, has been in office since 1973.

In a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one, the GOP got two candidates elected to the town board in the last election after a court decision took the Democrats’ names off the ballot because paperwork had been filed late. The Democrats launched a write-in campaign which re-elected Hammon, a retired teacher who has a wood-working business.

Von Haugg has lived in Knox since 1969. He is self-employed in the telecommunications business.

According to Patricia Gage, chair of the Knox Republican Committee and a town councilwoman, Von Haugg will be joined on the ticket with Helene O’Clair, a candidate for councilperson, Kimberly Swain for tax collector, and incumbent Gary Salisbury for highway superintendent.

There is a second position open on the town board, but the Republicans have not announced another candidate.

The Republicans have yet to decide on a platform for the election, Gage said.


Von Haugg and the Republicans will face a Democratic slate largely made up of long-time office holders.

According to Maynard Porter, chair of the Knox Democratic Committee, Hammond will be running again, along with councilmen Nicholas Viscio and Charles Conklin. Viscio is seeking a fourth four-year term and Conklin is seeking a third.

"The main reason for selecting these people is because we have seen they can do a good job," Porter said.

The Democrats are also sponsoring incumbents Deborah Liddle for town clerk and Delia "Barney" Palombo for tax collector. Liddle is unopposed.

August Landauer will be the Democrat’s candidate for highway superintendent. After 20 years on the job, Landauer lost to Salisbury two years ago after late-filed paperwork took his name off the ballot and the write-in votes for him didn’t count since his name appeared on the ballot on a third-party line.

"We’re sure he’s going to do a good job if he wins," Porter said. "We’re not taking anything for granted."

The only Democratic newcomer to the election is Jean Gagnon, who will be running unopposed for town justice.

"We went around and looked for a good candidate," Porter said.

Justice John Rodd Jr., a Democrat, will not seek reelection.

There are no major issues facing the town this year on which the Democratic candidates will campaign, Porter said.

"All we’re trying to do is provide the best candidates and the most dedicated servants that we can provide for the town," Porter said. "That’s all."

Either way for Zeh

By Matt Cook

WESTERLO—After losing as a Republican in a race for town board two years ago, Councilman R. Gregory Zeh Jr. may run on the Democratic ticket this year, or on the Republican ticket, or both.

Though neither party has held its caucus, the chairmen of the Westerlo Democratic and Republican committees both told The Enterprise their parties are planning on sponsoring Zeh in November.

"Excellent, I guess everybody thinks I’m doing a good job," Zeh said after The Enterprise told him of the situation. He said he has been approached by the Democrats to run but not by the Republicans. He would welcome a nomination by either party, he said.

"I’m interested in the job. I’m not interested in the partisan politics," Zeh said. "I just want to do what’s best for the residents of the town."

Zeh works as an accounting system manager for the Gollub corporation. He was unanimously appointed to the town board earlier this year after the death of Councilman Clifton "Sonny" Richardson. Richardson was the first Republican on the town board in over 70 years. His four-year term would have been up at the end of the year.

Zeh was enrolled as a Republican at the time of his appointment.

Voters enrolled in the Democratic Party outnumber Republicans 4 to 1 in Westerlo.

Zeh said he has "absolutely enjoyed" his time in office so far.

"Whoever wants to support me, that’s fine," he said.

Charles Faul, the Republican chairman, said his party hasn’t decided on candidates for the other two open positions—council member and judge—but is looking forward to running an incumbent.

"We haven’t had one before," Faul said. "Greg’s done a great job."

According to Richard Rapp, chairman of the Westerlo Democratic Committee and town supervisor, the Democrats hope to nominate incumbents for each available position.

In addition to Zeh, Councilman Edward Rash will seek a third term on the town board. Rash is the director of advertising and public relations at Hannay Hose Reels, in Westerlo.

Alan Bauder will be running for town justice. He has held the position for nearly 20 years.

The Democrats will not be choosing any specific issues on which to campaign as a group, Rapp said.

"None that I can think of," he said.

DA seeks jail time for Hyson DWI

By Matt Cook

WESTERLO—The Albany County District Attorney’s Office is seeking jailtime for a Greenville man who is charged with drunk driving in Westerlo.

Joseph Hyson, 39, of 9779 Route 81, Greenville, was indicted last Friday on four counts: two felony charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and reckless driving.

He faces two-and-a-third to seven years in jail on the top count of the indictment, the district attorney’s office said.

"[Drunk driving] means jailtime," said Richard Arthur, a spokesman for District Attorney P. David Soares. "DA Soares is committed to prosecuting these cases aggressively and sending people to jail."

Arthur told The Enterprise that Soares, who is in his first year in office, wants to publicize DWI indictments more, so people understand that the consequences of drunk driving include jail.

According to the district attorney’s office, Hyson was stopped at 6:29 p.m. on Route 32 in Westerlo for traffic offenses and failed field-sobriety tests. His blood-alcohol content was .09 percent, Arthur said.

According to Arthur, Hyson had a switchblade knife when he was arrested.

In a statement, Soares said that he was particularly upset about this case because it happened at dusk, when visibility is poor, and many people use Route 32 to return home after working in Albany.

Elston sentenced to 28 years for kidnapping and rape

By Matt Cook

RENSSELAERVILLE — A young man who was arrested for kidnapping and rape after escaping from Rensselaerville’s Camp Cass Residential Center has received nearly the maximum sentence for the crimes.

Michael Elston, 16, of 130 Spring Street, Buffalo, was sentenced on July 21 before Judge Stephen W. Herrick for the felony charges of first-degree rape and second-degree kidnapping.

He received seven years in prison for the kidnapping charge and 20 years for the rape charge. The terms will run consecutively and are one year short of the 28-year maximum.

After prison, Elston will face 10 years of post release supervision. He will also be required to register as a sex offender and was given a 25-year court order of protection, prohibiting him from making any contact with the victim of his attack.

"The guy’s life is effectively over," said Richard Arthur, spokesman for Albany County District Attorney David Soares.

On May 27, Elston pleaded guilty to the charges.

According to the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, in late December, Elston forced a 51-year-old female kitchen worker from Camp Cass into an office and forcibly raped her. Elston then had the worker get him a kitchen knife from a locked cabinet, the sheriff’s department says.

Elston and the woman left the camp in her car, the sheriff’s department says, and he held her at knifepoint during the drive from Rensselaerville to Albany, where he ordered her to stop so he could use the phone.

Once Elston finished using the phone, the sheriff’s department says, he ordered her back into the car, and, as she entered the car, she kicked at Elston and was able to drive away. She drove to the sheriff’s station in Voorheesville, the sheriff’s department says.

Camp Cass is run by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. It has a capacity for 25 males, ages 14 to 17, a Camp Cass spokesman told The Enterprise after the escape. The spokesman would not comment on the incident.

In a statement, Soares said he was pleased with Elston’s sentence. He referred to Elston as a "ticking time bomb."

[Return to Home Page]