Schenectady County

Scotia business owner sues for access to dock

The proprietor of a local water ski school for children is suing the village for the right to drive

The proprietor of a local water ski school for children is suing the village for the right to drive down a short section of a bike path to access his property.

Joe Serth, owner of the Mohawk Valley Water Ski School, has filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court because he claims he should have the right for vehicles to travel down a portion of the bike path to get to his dock. The case is likely headed to trial in September.

Serth said the village previously had granted him permits to drive down the unimproved path. However, that practice stopped and in June 2011, Serth was cited by village police for a violation of a village ordinance by driving down the bike path.

The current path is not paved in all sections. It starts in the village off Washington Avenue near the former wastewater treatment plant and travels down what starts off as Iroquois Street. The path ultimately continues to Freemans Bridge Road, ending just across the street from the Water’s Edge Lighthouse Restaurant. Glenville and Scotia officials have been looking to work with the county on a project to pave the entire 1.2-mile path.

Iroqouis Street originally went to Scotia’s dump, which is no longer used. A sign posted at the entrance says “no motorized vehicles allowed.”

Serth said state law requires that if a municipality is going to decommission a street, like Iroqouis Street in this case, it must go through a formal process and still give abutting property owners the right of access — unless they receive compensation for taking their land.

“Scotia is arguing it’s a paper street,” Serth said. “It was never a street, and they don’t have to let abutting property owners use it.”

Serth has right of way access that runs roughly next to the bike path. Serth claims the village has blocked his access during special events such as the Jumpin’ Jack’s fireworks show. He also said it cost him thousands of dollars to repair damage done this past spring by village vehicles driving up and down his access way.

“We’ve asked them to stay off the right of way,” he said.

Serth also said village employees driving down the street yelled obscenities and insults at him and police have refused to charge anybody with trespassing.

Serth claims this fight over the bike path is a pretext for the village to take the property because he said it is interested in establishing campgrounds.

“They’re making a play for the property,” Serth said.

A lot is at stake for the village, according to Serth.

“If they lose, they’re going to have to maintain Iroquois Street, which is going to cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.

Serth said he thinks the whole matter could be resolved in one night if village officials would agree to sit down with him.

Mayor Kris Kastberg said the issue is that Serth would prefer that he and his clients drove on a nicer road — the bike path.

“We don’t want the public driving on the bike path, but he insists that he should have the right to,” Kastberg said. “We certainly don’t want business traffic on the bike trail.”

Police Chief Pete Frisoni said Serth made a complaint but his story changed several times and there was no evidence of a crime.

“Apparently he got in a shouting match back and forth with some village workers, but there was no violation of law that occurred,” he said.

“Unauthorized vehicles” are prohibited from using the bike path. However, village vehicles are permitted, according to Frisoni.

“Private cars and boat trailers going to his property and coming to his property are not authorized vehicles,” he said.

He added that Serth does not have exclusive access to the road he created on the right-of-way. “He does not own that property. The owner of the property has given us permission to be on that property,” he said.

The property in question is owned by Raymond Piotrowski.

Frisoni added that Serth’s property does not have adequate signs stating “no trespassing.”

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