Judge: ‘Boathouse’ must go

Canada Lake property owner Joseph Herms has until Feb. 4 to remove all of his belongings from his la

Canada Lake property owner Joseph Herms has until Feb. 4 to remove all of his belongings from his lakefront building, which is scheduled to be demolished as early as Feb. 5, Acting Supreme Court Judge Richard C. Giardino ruled Thursday.

Judge Giardino issued his ruling after a hearing conducted Thursday in his chambers.

During that proceeding, held in chambers so that Herms’ latest attorney, Kalmon Glovin of Brooklyn, could participate by speakerphone, Giardino rejected Glovin’s argument to delay demolition until spring or summer.

In a July 2008 order issued by Giardino following a lengthy trial, Herms was fined $50,000 and given 60 days to obtain a demolition permit from the town of Caroga. Giardino gave Herms an additional six months to complete the removal of the building.

Herms insists that the building is a boathouse that the town authorized him to build in 1999. Town officials — and finally the courts — found that Herms circumvented town zoning codes, constructing the lakeside home he originally applied for but was denied.

The appeals process forestalled demolition, but Giardino said the clock began ticking on his order when the state Court of Appeals announced in October that it would not hear Herms’ case. Herms had until Dec. 20 to obtain the demolition permit, but he never acted.

Glovin argued Thursday that the clock should have been frozen until Jan. 13, when the Court of Appeals rejected Glovin’s motion to reargue the case.

In a somewhat combative exchange Thursday between Glovin, Giardino and the town’s lawyer, Salvatore D. Ferlazzo, Glovin accused town officials of committing fraud in their dealings with Herms.

“There was, and there is, fraud,” Glovin said, citing tape recordings of the Town Board meetings that led to the decision to file suit against Herms to force demolition. Pledging to pursue the issue in court, Glovin said, “It’s not over, it’s not resolved.” The issue, he said, “could be earth-shaking to the case once it’s explored.”

Ferlazzo responded to Glovin, calling the possible court action frivolous and warning Glovin that he would seek sanctions against him should he file such a case.

“I don’t respond well to threats,” Glovin replied.

Giardino told Glovin he also found the remarks offensive and said pursuing such a case was “grasping for straws.”

The tape recordings had been entered as evidence at the 2007-08 trial and their contents reviewed in the appeals process, Ferlazzo noted.

In asking for a delay in demolition until the warmer months, Glovin said hiring a contractor to drive equipment across the ice of Canada Lake could result in what he called a disaster. The property is only accessible by water.

The request for more time, Ferlazzo said, is more evidence of Herms’ strategy, which he characterized as “delay, delay, delay.”

Ferlazzo said later that the town will be working with a contractor who submitted a proposal to remove the building for about $34,000. The contractor said the work would take three days. Ferlazzo said he anticipates the building will be gone by the middle of February.

The ice depth following the recent thaw is still about 22 inches, Ferlazzo said. Town Code Inspector Michael Heberer, present for the hearing, said cold weather this weekend should add substantially to the thickness.

With interest and other costs, Herms’ $50,000 fine has risen to more than $61,000, Ferlazzo said.

Funding for the fine and the demolition will be taken from the $100,000 insurance bond Herms was forced to obtain when he began the appeal process.

Categories: Schenectady County

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