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Much ado about...mulch

by WayneTimes.com
April 10, 2021

 An ongoing battle between the Town of Ontario and Preston’s Home & Garden Center & Preston’s Tree & Landscape Service on Route 104 in Ontario has reached new heights. The two entities have been battling in court for several years. On the business side Aaron Preston has worked to build a successful business. From the Town of Ontario’s perspective, rules must be followed.

The fight began four years ago when through permits, zoning and town board approvals, Preston’s business plans were approved. But Preston had to implement state regulations including developing a water retention pond, comply to the height of mulch piles and ceratin conditions/days of operation.

Unfortunately, according to the town, piles of mulch, higher and wider than approved, now sit on the spot a retention pond should be located.

At odds are nearby residential home owner’s complaints. The fight includes town approvals never signed, the height of mulch piles on the property, the grinding of mulch on the site, failure to create the storm water pond, failure to pay required fees, failure to get approval of final designs.

The Town issued a statement after the issue began appearing on social media sites. “Thus, notwithstanding the long history involved with the Preston Landscape operation and Mr. Preston’s misrepresentations on social media regarding the facts, it all boils down to the following:

In order to “legitimize” the commercial wood mulching operation Mr. Preston started in 2019 at his landscape business, he needed to apply for and receive a “Special Permit” from the Planning Board. 

He made the Special Permit application, which received substantial opposition from adjoining residential neighbors and had significant issues. The Planning Board denied the Special permit application, which is certainly within their discretion.

Mr. Preston challenged the Planning Board’s denial of the Special permit to the NY State Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court upheld the Special Permit denial and specifically enjoined Mr. Preston from wood mulching at 1640 Route 104.

Mr. Preston has now ignored the Order of a State Supreme Court Judge and is mulching.

“We have advised the Court of the fact that Mr. Preston continues to mulch in violation of the Order and it is up to the Court to determine how it wishes to enforce its Order and any “penalty” it decides to impose on Mr. Preston for his violation of the Order.” 

In Aaron’s defense, the Town of Ontario gave approval for Preston’s to store and process its own mulch in November 2018. Preston’s purchased the machinery on that approval and started making their own mulch.

In 2019 Preston’s received a violation from the Town of Ontario and were told that they were to stop making mulch. Preston’s went to court on this violation and the Town of Ontario Judge Sucher found Aaron Preston Not Guilty on October 3rd 2019. Citing the approval in November of 2018.

Preston’s Home & Garden Center and Preston’s Tree & Landscape are growing businesses and has plans to relocate a portion of their businesses, however they still have raw product on the site that needs to be moved. While also getting material ready for Spring, the Town of Ontario Code Enforcement Officer asked Wayne County Sheriff Office to enforce Supreme Court decisions that Preston was in contempt of court. This is after the Lawyer for the Preston’s spoke to the Ontario Town attorney discussing that Preston’s needed time and a way to remove this raw product. Also stated in a recent meeting minutes resolution that the town now wants all wood, logs, chips, mulch, firewood and machinery removed from the property. 

In a neighbor’s sworn deposition it stated that in March of this year Preston’s has run a mulching operation on the site: “causing virtually constant noise, dust and odors, literally ruining your deponent’s quality of life and destroying the value of her residence.”

The neighbor is not alone and the town received complaints even on Easter Sunday and “on a virtually daily basis, including weekends.”

Town officials and police have met with Aaron Preston numerous times in an effort to bring the “Special Permit” into a working relationship.  The Town claims the requirements/rules of the permitted operation  have been violated. Aaron Preston’s acknowledgment of the Court Orders and stated he was fully aware indicating “that it was the Order of a “kangaroo court” which he had no intention of obeying and that he would continue to use his mulching machine at 1640 Route 104.

In the court documents filed in March: “Clearly, Mr. Preston has no regard for the residential neighbors who adjoin his property (all of whom have lived on Ridge Road far longer than he has been in business), nor does he have any respect for the New York State Supreme Court or its Orders.

As a result, your deponent again respectfully requests that this Court impose whatever penalties it can and issue whatever further Order it finds appropriate to give myself and the other surrounding neighbors some peace and quiet, as we should all be able to enjoy”.

Wherefore, it is respectfully requested that the Petitioner herein, Aaron be held in Contempt of Court, for his willful violation of the Order of this Court, dated December 21, 2020, imposing a Fine and/or period of imprisonment for such Contempt, in the discretion of this Court; together with such other and further relief as to the court may seem just and proper.”

This notice only inflamed the issue and the mulching continued.

 Meanwhile the court arguments continue over definitions of ‘light manufacturing’ and requirements under the permits, along with past court decisions.

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