My view

Time to let it go

By JOHN PIZZOLATO
Posted 3/16/22

In response to Carol Reynolds’ March 9 letter to the editor [click here to read that letter], I seriously doubt this letter actually comes from Carol. I’ve only known Carol to be a …

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My view

Time to let it go

Posted

In response to Carol Reynolds’ March 9 letter to the editor [click here to read that letter], I seriously doubt this letter actually comes from Carol. I’ve only known Carol to be a friendly weekender from New York City with whom I’ve traded pleasantries when we’ve met at various functions. She never attended the Zoning Board of Appeals hearings in question, so any knowledge she would have of the situation would be hearsay. Carol’s husband, however, is Town of Highland Councilman Jim Gutekunst, who delivered a similar rambling misrepresentation of my business’ supposed violation at the Democratic caucus last summer and was booed off the stage. But sure, let’s address “Carol” for the sake of argument.

I am disappointed “Carol” felt the need to rehash the town’s ill-fated attempt at issuing my business a violation for its own errors in both interpreting code and keeping proper records. But, after two years, here we are again. For the record, we’ve never played the victim; we fought like hell with the facts to defend our business with which we support our family. I’ve never let my personal woes get in the way of contributing or doing what is right to represent and advocate for the Town of Highland. “Carol” and the rest of the board know this is not my narrative or conduct when representing the chamber, the market, the byway or any other professional or public matter. I show up and do the work because I want to live in a nice place. I am not rude or harassive, and I always come prepared. Councilman Gutekunst himself incorrectly filled out his petition last year to be on the Highland Democratic committee, effectively removing himself from the position. Is that the basis for these claims? It’s time for some new material.

“Carol” wavers between discussing my candidacy for supervisor, my business’ alleged violation, and my position as Town of Highland delegate and subsequent chairmanship of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Committee. I’ve met with other town leaders several times to discuss a path forward and have successfully mended relationships that were frayed in the zoning appeals process. We can agree to disagree, but keeping this going serves no one. It’s time for everyone to focus on working together and getting our community through these trying times.  

All that being said, the following statements are 100 percent true and verifiable regarding the proposed violation from 2020 that “Carol” wishes to bring up to invalidate my leadership and reappointment to the byway:

  1. According to its own code, the town had 62 days to respond if additional paperwork was needed to open our business 10 years ago. We worked very closely with the town’s code enforcer at the time and the town supervisor, and the county’s planning department. We were issued a certificate of occupancy. We received a state grant which required the town and county to sign off and approve, which they did.
  2. When the alleged “violation” surfaced two years ago, town officials who offered “help” encouraged us to just bite the bullet and start from the beginning with our paperwork for our established business of eight years. As a business, that was a risk we were not willing to take.
  3. We were advised by our attorney and other town employees that this had nothing to do with paperwork, but was rather a “gotcha” moment for acting too uppity for newcomers, and seizing too strong a role as community leaders. Said violation was delivered at the onset of the pandemic. Rather than focusing on how to help small businesses in a global free-fall, the town decided that revisiting their files and issuing violations was a priority?  
  4. We paid $8,000 in defense of this “violation” that was ultimately dismissed. The taxpayers paid for the town’s unfounded aggressions.  

I am disappointed that I have been stripped of being a voting member of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Committee by not being appointed Town of Highland representative, even as I was elected chairman by that body. The byway committee is a passion project for me that I believe in 100 percent. The river and the beautiful drive are so unique to our area and, regardless of title, I will continue to support and contribute to the good work of the committee.

My run for supervisor was a clean, issue-oriented race, totally free of attacks and character assassinations. I ran on community unity. I lost by only a handful of votes, and the experience was personally rewarding and great for democracy at large. I continue to participate in town meetings and initiatives, and I want the current board and supervisor to succeed.

However, circling the wagons against perceived political adversaries hurts the town’s morale at large. Once you choose to put yourself out there for a public office run and subsequently accept the role as a public servant paid for by tax dollars, you do have to answer to the public. The River Reporter’s editorial, referenced by “Carol,” calls for transparency in explaining why some people are not reappointed to volunteer positions and points to the need for transparency in government, a frequent complaint that I heard on the campaign trail. That and the insular nature of how power is wielded in the Town of Highland. No alternates were appointed to the byway committee, including another former chairman of the byway committee; nor was our über-dedicated town co-historian, whose life’s work is to promote the historical richness of our area. This is a deficit to the town.

I was reappointed to the byway in 2021, subsequent to the “violation” hearings. But I guess my close run made some nervous enough to continue to attempt to destroy my character and spirit, as well as send a message to my supporters. If these attacks continue, they will do nothing but lay the groundwork for legal actions against said bias and the will of the people. The Zoning Board of Appeals case was very public and the people of the town leaped to our defense. We realize that paid legal defense is a privilege not everyone has, and the attacks that are not made public are plentiful. In writing this response, I wanted to ensure that this sad and inappropriate governmental behavior doesn’t affect other small businesses and residents.

All this being said, I can’t wait to continue contributing to the town’s greatness, regardless of whether I am elected, appointed, or just show up.

John Pizzolato owns the Stickett Inn and is the outgoing chairman of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway committee, co-founder and president of the Barryville Farmers’ Market, secretary of the Town of Highland Democratic Committee and he is on the board of directors of the Greater Barryville Chamber of Commerce. He lives in Barryville, NY with his husband Roswell Hamrick.

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