PAUL SMITHS - The state Adirondack Park Agency is seeking a court order and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines against a Paul Smiths couple for running an unpermitted junkyard.
The state attorney general's office filed a civil complaint against Alvin and Cathy Fuller on March 31 in Franklin County State Supreme Court.
The complaint says the Fullers established a junkyard on their 1-acre property on Easy Street, state Route 86, without an agency permit, in violation of the APA Act. The property is filled with old cars, trucks, camper trailers, motor vehicle parts and other junk. The stuff has been accumulating for many years, highly visible on this main Adirondack highway.
The state attorney general’s office, on behalf of the Adirondack Park Agency, has filed a complaint that Alvin and Cathy Fuller are running an unpermitted junkyard on this property on Easy Street in Paul Smiths.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
The agency says it received complaints in October 2009 that the Fullers were maintaining an unpermitted junkyard on the property. By the following February, the Fullers agreed to resolve the violation through a settlement agreement, which required them to remove all the junkyard material by June 1, 2010. The agency later extended that deadline to Aug. 1, 2010.
By that date, however, the complaint says the Fullers didn't remove the material or make a request for more time. In September, the agency sent the Fullers a letter that said they had failed to comply and that the matter was being referred to the attorney general's office for enforcement.
The March 31 complaint, signed by Lawrence Rappoport, an associate attorney in the AG's office, seeks an order and judgment compelling the Fullers to remove all the junkyard material from their property and prohibiting them from re-establishing the junkyard without an APA permit.
The agency is also seeking a civil penalty of up to $500 a day for each day since Nov. 10, 2009, the date on which the agency informed the Fullers that the junkyard violated the APA Act. That amounts to more than $260,000. A separate penalty is also sought of up to $500 a day for each day since Aug. 1, 2010, the date on which the Fullers allegedly violated the extended deadline for compliance with the settlement. That works out to about $130,000.
"If injunctive relief and civil penalties are not granted, defendants are likely to continue their unpermitted junkyard, adversely affecting adjoining land uses and other resources of the Adirondack Park," the complaint reads.
APA spokesman Keith McKeever said the agency had no option but to go to the attorney general's office.
"They agreed to the settlement and have not undertaken any actions to bring themselves into compliance," he said. "The agency desires that the Fullers fully comply with the settlement agreement and do so expeditiously."
The Enterprise tried to contact the Fullers for this story. Their listed telephone number was disconnected, and messages left with a separate listing for Cathy Fuller were not returned Monday.
The Brighton town council tried to make the Fullers clean up the property roughly a decade ago when it passed a local litter law with them foremost in mind.
"But when we proceeded to attempt enforcement, we ran into opposition from our town justice, and he was, in turn, backed up by our county district attorney," recalled town Supervisor John Quenell, who was a councilman at the time. "The fault they found was that it found criminal penalties instead of civil. They said, 'Hey you really can't enforce this as it's currently written.'"
The board later rewrote the law with civil penalties rather than criminal, but has not gotten around to enforcing it, Quenell said.
"I think the reason for that, in part, was that we found out that the Adirondack Park Agency was taking some action, so we figured we'd just hold back and let that happen," Quenell said.
Quenell said the Fullers' property is a prominent eyesore.
"I would it say it is an embarrassment to the town," he said. "It should be an embarrassment to Paul Smith's College. It's on the main approach to the college. Quite honestly, if it was on a back road or in the woods somewhere, people probably wouldn't be as concerned about it.
"It certainly is, in my opinion, a property that is in violation of the law, certainly the state automobile junkyard law."
Enterprise Managing Editor Peter Crowley contributed to this report.