07/24/13 3:30pm
07/24/2013 3:30 PM
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.

The Riverhead Town attorney’s office now says Councilwoman Jodi Giglio does not have to pay another $1,500 in fees to get a building permit for a second-story addition to her Baiting Hollow home, contradicting an earlier stance taken by the town building department.

The move comes after Ms. Giglio, who’s claiming that “political rivals” in the town dragged out the process when they realized she was getting close to obtaining permits, hired an attorney to investigate the situation.

Over several years, Ms. Giglio and her husband, Mike, had built the second-story addition, a finished basement, an inground pool, a hot tub and a deck. All had gone without certificates of occupancy until recently.

On June 20 of this year, the Giglios were issued COs for the basement, first applied for in 2009, and the pool, first applied for in 1999. But a letter dated June 20 from building inspector Richard Podlas said a Sept. 29, 2009, building permit for the second story had expired in 2010 and the Giglios would have to pay a $1,500 renewal fee before the CO could be issued for that addition. The letter was sent again July 11, according to the town.

Ms. Giglio said last Wednesday that she had not received either copy of the letter. She claimed she had paid the $1,500 building fee in 2009 and should not be required to pay it again. The fee represents a triple fee, a penalty the town previously imposed on applicants who had built structures without a permit.

Complicating matters was an Oct. 20, 2012, letter from Mr. Podlas saying Ms. Giglio owed a $403 permit fee for the pool and a $1,160 fee for the basement. The letter stated that these fees would be added to the Giglios’ “open permit” for the addition, “which Leroy Barnes put hold on, so therefore this permit does not have to be renewed, even though it expired.”

The wording of the letter brought charges from political rivals that Ms. Giglio was being given a waiver.

“It sounds like, from the way that reads, that by putting a hold on it, whatever that means, it allowed her to get a favor that otherwise would be unavailable to the public, and it seems like, although it’s not abundantly clear, it allowed her to avoid having to renew the permit again and pay the fee again,” said Anthony Coates, who is challenging Ms. Giglio in a Republican primary this September.

Supervisor Sean Walter, who also originally thought the letter from Mr. Podlas meant the fee was being waived, said Friday that the entire Giglio building permit file was being turned over to the town attorney’s office. On Tuesday, he said he wasn’t commenting on the case anymore.

“It’s up to the town attorney’s office,” Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Barnes, the former building department coordinator referred to in the October 2012 letter, said on Friday that he had held up all other permits until a building permit was obtained for the basement. He pointed out another 2009 letter in the file, on which he had written by hand, “On hold. Finished basement no permit.”

Deputy town attorney Bill Duffy said Tuesday that he is recommending the building department not require the $1,500 fee because the Giglios paid it in 2009 and the town “never released the permit, so you can’t claim it expired.”

Ms. Giglio charged on Tuesday that politics were involved in her not getting the permits, citing Mr. Walter’s claim that “Giglio’s toast,” made at a fundraiser for Mr. Coates.

“This is dirty politics and has been dragged out for political purposes,” she said in a statement to the News-Review. “When my political rivals realized I was closing out the matter with the building department, things were suddenly held up in the building department and additional things were requested.”

When asked for comment Tuesday, Mr. Walter laughed but declined comment on that claim.

However, Mr. Coates, when asked for comment, said the issue arose long before this year.

“This issue has gone on for 14 years,” he said. “She arranged for tax abatements, permits and everything else for the Summerwind project [of which she is an owner] during this same time and ignored her personal property until I asked a question. She likes to blame other people for her problems. She’s blamed her husband, me, the supervisor, the media, her attorney, her architect and the building department, when the fault lies directly with her. None of this exonerates her from 14 years of willful neglect in a tax avoidance scam.”

The additions to the home, except for the pool, were not reflected in the town’s tax assessment records from 2003 to 2013, meaning that the Giglios were not taxed on the improvements. Ms. Giglio has said she will pay the taxes due on those improvements.

Ms. Giglio also questioned how Mr. Coates had obtained so much information about her building permits since he had never filed a Freedom of Information request with the town to see the file.

Mr. Coates said he has never seen the file and had only asked questions of Republican leaders in response to rumors that the building permits were lacking.

“And all of a sudden a chain of events began,” he said.

“I raised the issue and, boy, did they step over themselves trying to cover up the situation,” he said. “I haven’t said a word about what’s in the file. I’ve reacted to her statements and to what’s been in the press.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

07/07/13 12:00pm
07/07/2013 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The 110-year-old Baitting Hollow Library holds 6,000 books.

There’s no doubt you have to keep your eyes peeled if you’re looking for Baiting Hollow Library.

Located on Sound Avenue, nestled between a residence and a side road, it appears to anyone passing by to be an extremely small house. But in reality, it’s an extremely small public library.

Though it does not boast the large number of books, services, programs or staff members you’ll find at most local libraries, it’s rich with character and history.

The Baiting Hollow Library, painted light gray with burgundy shutters, consists of just one room. A narrow walkway leads from the door to the road and a sign on the front lawn gives the library’s name, along with its days and hours: Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The library hasn’t always been in this location, however. In fact, it’s moved around quite a lot throughout its long history.

Current librarian Charlotte Jacques is an expert on the subject.

Full bookshelves line all four walls of the room, and Ms. Jacques usually sits in the middle, at a large table entirely covered with towering stacks of books.

As she told the library’s story, she leaned back in her chair and smiled over an old scrapbook of aging photos and yellowing newspaper articles.

According to Ms. Jacques, it all began in the year 1903.

At the time, there was a club for parishioners of Baiting Hollow Congregational Church called the Philomathean Club, named for a Greek word meaning “lover of learning.”

The club hosted a series of winter lectures that year and used the admission money to launch the Baiting Hollow Free Library, since there wasn’t a library in the community.

The first location of the library was in the parsonage, where the minister of the church lives, and the first librarian was the wife of the Rev. Frank Voorhes.

Eventually, the library outgrew that location and moved to a portion of the Baiting Hollow post office, now the Calverton post office, where it was run by two sisters who served as postmistresses. After the post office, the library moved to the home of Goldsmith Wells, Ms. Jacques’ great-grandfather, where it was operated by his daughter Sarah. After that, it returned to its original location at the rear of the Congregational church. Today, that space is occupied by two bathrooms.

In 1941, the local Warner family donated a plot of land, so long as the spot remained a library. In a community effort, the Talmage family provided a house that was on their farm to serve as the library building. A foundation was poured and the house was moved from the farm to the designated site, where the library has been ever since.

Ms. Jacques, who has been librarian there for the past 11 years, grew up with the family-run library.

“It was a hobby at first,” she said of spending time there, “since I was about 6.”

She started working there by filling in for her cousin on and off over the years, and eventually she took over.

“I like picking out the books — that’s my favorite part,” Ms. Jacques said. “And I get to see all of the regulars from the neighborhood.”

One such regular is Nathaniel Talmage Jr. Although he says the main reason he goes to Baiting Hollow Library is because of its convenience, he has an undeniable family connection.

“It’s convenient for me and I can be in and out in two minutes,” Mr. Talmage said. “Also, I grew up with it.

“In the past 15 years I’ve become much more interested in reading books and going to the library. And it does have that family history.”

The library holds 6,000 books, which Ms. Jacques knows readily since she has to count them every January. Five visitors mark a busy day for the library and patrons sign a check-out card the “old-fashioned way,” since there aren’t any Baiting Hollow Library cards — or any computers.

Most books on the library shelves are written by modern authors. Ms. Jacques picks out what she thinks people will be interested in reading from a catalogue or buys them at BJ’s. As for herself, the librarian loves mystery novels and has read all of Sue Grafton’s books.

The library’s modest annual budget of about $11,000 covers Ms. Jacques’ salary, building maintenance and book purchases. She says she buys about 200 new titles each year.

If you find yourself riding along Sound Avenue, don’t let the size of Baiting Hollow Library deter you from stopping in for a lesson in local history. Talk to Ms. Jacques to hear more of the interesting story of the 110-year-old library — or just let the book-lined walls speak for themselves.

intern@timesreview.com

05/26/13 12:43pm
05/26/2013 12:43 PM

KERI NAJDZION COURTESY PHOTO | Ashley Yakaboski of Baiting Hollow has been selected Miss Polish Town USA 2013.

Ashley Yakaboski of Baiting Hollow has been selected Miss Polish Town USA for 2013. Miss Polish Town leads the parade and ceremonies at the Polish Town Fair in August.

First runner up was Anna Klimczuk of Mattituck and second runner up was Tiffany Russo of Hicksville.

KERI NAJDZION COURTESY PHOTO | First runner up was Anna Klimczuk of Mattituck and second runner up was Tiffany Russ of Hicksville.

05/16/13 12:00pm
05/16/2013 12:00 PM

BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA COURTESY PHOTO | Scouts on a rope obstacle course.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has withdrawn its support for a controversial COPE obstacle course proposed for a wooded area of the Baiting Hollow Boy Scout Camp, potentially limiting the project’s chances of gaining approval from the Riverhead Town Planning Board.

“DEC determined the plan for the camp did not meet the [1981] conservation easement’s requirement that no further development could occur on the land,” said DEC spokesperson Aphrodite Montalvo. “As the conservation easement states, ‘No buildings, residences, mobile homes or other structures … shall be constructed … on the Protected Property …”

A COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) course is a series of rope- and wire-climbing obstacles that exist at Boy Scouts camps throughout the country. But the proposed location of the Baiting Hollow course is about 100 feet from the backyards of some neighbors on Silver Beech Lane, who have rallied to oppose the plans.

Baiting Hollow camp director Jim Grimaldi described the proposed course as requiring the installation of a dozen 35-foot telephone poles on camp property east of Fresh Pond. A variety of climbing exercises will be hung from wires between the poles, including a zip line, a cargo net, a Burma bridge, a balance beam and other climbing apparatus.

The Scouts have said the proposed location is the only place the course can be built on the 90-acre Baiting Hollow property because the rest of the land is too hilly.

The DEC’s withdrawal of its support came after some Baiting Hollow residents who live near the proposed course met Saturday with the DEC official who ruled last year that a COPE course was “in keeping with the spirit and intent of the conservation easement” the DEC applied to the property in 1981 after paying the Suffolk Boy Scouts $127,000.

That land remains under the ownership of the Suffolk Boy Scouts, but the easement puts restrictions on what can be built on it in order to preserve the land.

Heather Amster, the DEC’s regional real property supervisor, who wrote a letter of support for the COPE course on May 11, 2012, met with residents Saturday at the home of Bob and Mary Oleksiak, who live closest to the proposed COPE course. The Oleksiaks’ attorney, former Riverhead Town supervisor Phil Cardinale, was also present.

Ms. Amster’s 2012 letter, written to Mr. Grimaldi, read that “Natural Resources staff have reviewed the design plans and purpose of the rope course and have determined there will be little to no impact to the protected property, and that the course itself is in keeping with the spirit and intent of the conservation easement.”

Mr. Cardinale wrote to DEC regional director Peter Scully on May 10, emphasizing that “the public paid a considerable sum for this conservation easement. The public has a right to expect the conservation easement they paid for will be enforced. If the State of New York, via the DEC, elects to waive any of the conservation protections the public paid for, that waiver must, as required by law, be made publicly and placed on the public record of the Suffolk County Clerk’s office.”

The easement’s stated intent is to “preserve perpetually the protected property in its natural, scenic, open space and wooded condition,” Mr. Cardinale stressed in his letter, saying this intent “would be violated” by the construction of the COPE course.

Mr. Cardinale said he made these same points in the meeting Saturday.

On Monday, Ms. Amster sent a new letter to Dirk Smith, the Scout Executive of the Suffolk County Boy Scouts, and copied Riverhead Town.

“The department finds it necessary to withdraw its approval for the placement of a COPE course on lands under conservation easement to the [DEC] at the Baiting Hollow Boy Scout Camp,” her letter reads.

Ms. Amster wrote that the “new information” received by DEC officials “demonstrates that the project’s purpose and scope are more significant than previously indicated. Of particular concern are the scenic impacts the project would have and the potential utilization of the course by non-scouting organizations for a fee, neither of which is consistent with the conservation easement.”

Mr. Grimaldi said on Tuesday that he had not read Ms. Amster’s letter and could not comment.

John Roe, the Scouts’ attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr. Cardinale said he believes the COPE course cannot be built without the DEC’s approval.

Bill Duffy, the attorney for the town Planning Board, which has held two public hearings on the application, said the town has received the DEC’s letter and town officials are discussing whether the course could be permitted without its support.

The Planning Board has yet to issue a decision on the COPE course, and has another meeting scheduled for today, Thursday, May 16, at 3 p.m.

“We had just found out about the covenants last week and we’re happy that DEC was nice enough to come out and visit with us,” Mr. Oleksiak said. “We’re very happy to find out we did have some say in the matter.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/29/13 12:24pm
04/29/2013 12:24 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Runners navigate the muddy Survival Race course last year.

Thousand of runners and “zombies” are expected to descend on the Dorothy P. Flint 4-H Camp in Baiting Hollow this coming weekend, May 4 and May 5.

But while Saturday’s Survival Race and Sunday’s Zombie Race appear to have the support of Riverhead Town Board members, race organizers still don’t have a Town Board resolution approving the two-day event.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said on Friday that town officials were still waiting on information from a town fire marshal.

Mr. Walter said he anticipates the events will be approved by the Town Board, but that approval might not happen until Thursday’s work session, which is just three days before the first race.

“This should have been submitted much earlier,” he said, indicating that the Town Board only first discussed the proposals two weeks ago, and the applications were only filed on March 1.

Both events are being organized by Dean Del Prete, who also owns Cousins Paintball centers in Medford and Riverhead, and race director James Villepigue.

The two organized a one-day Survivor Race at 4H last September, which attracted more than 4,000 runners and spectators.

This year, they plan to hold a May 4 Survival Race, the May 5 Zombie Race, and a second Survival Race on Sept. 7 — all at the 4H camp off Sound Avenue, according to Mr. Villepique.

The Survival Race is a 5K run in which participants will tackle a number of obstacles and mud puddles.

The Zombie Race is a 5K run in which participants must allude people dressed as zombies who will try to capture flags worn at the runners’ waists, said Mr. Villepique. Racers have a belt with four flags, like in flag football, and if the zombies capture all four flags, that runner is out of the race and turns into a zombie.

“The difference between the two is that the Survival Race is more of an athletic type event while the Zombie Race is more of an entertainment event,” Mr. Villepique said.

The zombies are given costumes and are screened, he said. The zombies cannot touch runners and are instructed not to scare people to the point they are actually frightened, especially children, he added.

“It’s not like we have zombies wandering in the forest,” Mr. Villepique said. “We have designated areas that we call a zombie hoard. And then there are managers of each hoard, so, say, there may be 10 zombies in a hoard, and then there is one manager in the hoard who oversees the conduct of each group of zombies, to make sure they follow our code of conduct.”

When the group appeared at the April 11 Town Board work session, board members initially said an event of this size should have been proposed much earlier, and Mr. Walter suggested it might need a mass gathering permit from the county, and that it had already been submitted too late for that.

But race organizers said they would keep the attendance below the 5,000 attendance figure for which a mass gathering permit would be required.

Riverhead Police Lieutenant Richard Boden also said that last year’s event did not cause traffic problems.

A main complaint last year was that the Survival Race used Terry Farm Road, which is a private road. The race organizers say they will not use that road this year.

While the Survival Race may have about 4,000 runners, the runners start in waves of about 100 each half hour, so there is never a point where all 4,000 runners are entering or leaving the site at the same time, Mr. Villepique said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/18/13 10:00pm
04/18/2013 10:00 PM

BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA COURTESY PHOTO | Scouts on a rope obstacle course.

After hearing nearly an hour of objections from neighbors and others, the Riverhead Planning Board on Thursday afternoon decided to adjourn to May 2 a public hearing on a controversial proposal to built a “COPE course” on a section of the Baiting Hollow Boy Scouts Camp that is only about 100 feet from homes.

The COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) course is a series of 12 rope and wire climbing devices that are hung from twelve 35-foot high telephone poles. One of the devices is a zip line.

The various challenges are designed to meet Boy Scouts of America standards, and are based on attaining seven goals outlined by the Boy Scouts of America: teamwork, communication, trust, leadership, decision making, problem solving and self-esteem, according to the Boy Scouts.

More than 300 Scouts camps across the country have COPE courses, scouting officials said.

But residents of Silver Beech Lane questioned why the Scouts chose to put the course right near their homes, when the Scouts camp is almost 90 acres in size.

Bob Oleksiak, whose home is closest to the proposed course, read a letter from his wife, Mary, who was present, but he said “would be crying” if she read it herself.

Ms. Oleksiak, who has cancer, said that if built, she would see the course from every window in her home, instead of the nature and wildlife she sees now.

“After cancer, I just want to rest and recuperate. This will no longer be a place to heal and recover, it will be my cause of death,” her letter read.

Other neighbors, including former town Councilman George Bartunek and Joe Van de Wetering, said they have no objection to the COPE, just to the proposed location.

“This is not a NIMBY issue,” Mr. Van de Wetering said. “This is an ‘in your face’ issue.”

Fran Rosenfeld, who lives next to the Oleksiaks, said she would never be able to sell her house if the COPE course is behind it.

Richard Amper, speaking on his own behalf and not on behalf of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society nonprofit he helps lead, said the presentation by the Boy Scout representatives at Thursday’s hearing made hardly any mention of the neighbors.

“I can’t figure out why the Boy Scouts are constantly at war with their neighbors,” he said.

The Baiting Hollow camp many years ago proposed to install a cell tower that neighbors opposed, and the Schiff Scout Reserve on Wading River-Manor Road had proposed selling their camp and allowing it to be cleared for a golf course many years ago. Neither proposal came to fruition.

Several other speakers, including former supervisor Phil Cardinale, who is representing the Oleksiaks as an attorney, said the proposal should require a special permit from the Town Board before the Planning Board can vote on the site plan because it constitutes an expansion of a “pre-existing, non-conforming use,” meaning that the use existed before zoning but doesn’t conform to its present zoning, which is residential.

A town planning report from environmental planner Joe Hall said that proposal doesn’t constitute an expansion of the pre-existing use, merely an accommodation for enhancing the existing scout camp.

Mr. Cardinale disagreed, saying that when he was supervisor, projects that were proposed on the non-profit Little Flower campus, which also is a non-conforming, pre-existing use, needed special permits from the Town Board.

He said that if the Scouts are allowing non-Scouts groups to use the course for a fee, that would constitute a new use.

Mr. Grimaldi said in an interview that the Scouts do charge a fee to school and youth groups, but do so only to recover their costs in having an instructor present. He said the course is never used without a Scout instructor present.

Councilman John Dunleavy and others said they felt the Scouts should be made to agree in writing that they would not rent the space out to non-Scout groups if the COPE course is approved.

Mr. Cardinale said COPE courses are used be non-Scouts groups. He referred to a quote from the Baiting Hollow camp’s director Jim Grimaldi in a News-Review article about the COPE course, in which Mr. Grimaldi said the course would also be used by school and youth groups, as well as to information from national Boy Scouts web sites saying that COPE courses are routinely rented out to non-Scout groups.

John Roe, the attorney for Suffolk County Boy Scouts, said he could not commit to that restriction without discussing it with Scouts leaders first.

But he said the Scouts camp at Baiting Hollow has been there for 87 years and “we tried to be a good neighbor during that time. We think the impact from this is going to minimal.”

He said the Scoust camp is only used from July 1 to the end of August for weekday campers, but it is used on weekends sometimes beyond those months.

Mr. Grimaldi said the site in question was chosen because it is the only site on the camp that is flat enough to put the course.

Mr. Roe said the camp property is like a “U” in that it is high on the east and west ends and low in the middle, where Fresh Pond is.

Bill Dunn, the vice president for program at the Suffolk County Scouts, said the COPE course is not an obstacle course in which the objective is to complete it quickly. It’s a course where instructors give directions to scouts who then carry them out.

“This is very disciplined,” he said. The COPE course has consistently been suggested by scout leaders as something the Baiting Hollow camp lacks.

The course is not open to anyone who shows up, he said, and when it is not being used, the various climbing challenges are not reachable without a ladder.

But Mr. Oleksiak said the course will not be secured, because people could enter from private property, and those people could bring a ladder.

Planning Board member Ed Densieski said the board would adjourn the hearing to their next meeting, which is at 7 p.m. May 2.

Prior to the hearing, residents had asked that the date of the hearing be shifted to a night meeting. The Planning Board declined to do so, but said it could have the day time hearing on Thursday and then adjourn it to the night meeting.

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/18/13 6:00am

COURTESY PHOTO | Boy Scouts on a rope obstacle course.

There are two troubling elements in the controversy of the proposed training course proposed for the Boy Scouts of America property in Baiting Hollow. The project would be built close to adjacent property owners.

First, why can’t the Boy Scouts of America learn to be good neighbors? Previously, the Suffolk Chapter proposed to site a money-making cell tower on the property, without regard for their neighbors’ concerns. The Nassau Chapter proposed converting their scout camp in Wading River into a golf course until environmentalists intervened and protected the land, the community and the camp.

What kind of message does this send to the young people the Boy Scouts of America are trying to shape? It sure isn’t the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The scouting organization may not be willing to love their neighbors as themselves, but they might try, at least, to accommodate them. Flat or not, the portion of the scout property abutting their residential neighbors can’t be the only place to erect telephone poles.

The other problematic position to emerge from the Riverhead Town Planning Board’s meeting on the subject was the position of member Ed Densieski. He asked why members of the public should be accommodated at an evening meeting, because they had to work during the day, at the alleged inconvenience of the applicant. Of course, it’s because government is supposed to represent the public’s interest, not the applicant’s. Maybe that’s why Densieski is no longer a member of the Riverhead Town Board. You have to get elected to that body.

Richard Amper, Lake Panomoka

To read more letters to the editor, pick up a copy of the Riverhead News-Review on newsstands or click on the E-Paper.

04/06/13 7:00am
04/06/2013 7:00 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Bob Oleksiak of Baiting Hollow stands at the edge of his Silver Beech Lane property, about 90 feet from where Baiting Hollow Scout Camp officials are proposing to build a rope climbing course for youths.

Bob and Mary Oleksiak imagine that in the near future, the quiet and comfortable moments they’ve come to enjoy together in their backyard, which Ms. Oleksiak calls her “little piece of heaven,” will be interrupted by the constant noise of screaming kids.

Boy Scouts, to be exact.

The Oleksiaks and their immediate neighbors in Baiting Hollow are up in arms over plans to install a COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) course at the adjacent Baiting Hollow Scout Camp off Sound Avenue, owned by the Suffolk County Boy Scouts. The neighbors insist the course structures should be placed somewhere else on the 90-acre camp property — not immediately behind their yards.

A COPE course is a series of rope and high-wire climbing challenges designed to meet Boy Scouts of American standards, according to the COPE Course website. The site says COPE programs are based on attaining seven goals outlined by the Boy Scouts of America: teamwork, communication, trust, leadership, decision making, problem solving and self-esteem.

At a recent Riverhead Town Planning Board meeting, Baiting Hollow camp director Jim Grimaldi described the proposed course as requiring the installation of twelve 35-foot-high telephone poles on property east of a pond called Fresh Pond. He said the location is in “the farthest east part of our property.”

He later told the News-Review it’s the only viable spot on the property for the course, considering the land is flat in that area.

But that puts it within sight of the neighbors, making for some contentious exchanges before an auger has even hit the ground.

“I tried to make an attempt at explaining to the neighbors what a COPE course was, but I don’t take well to being threatened and cursed at, so we stopped the conversation,” Mr. Grimaldi told the Planning Board.

For his part, Mr. Oleksiak denied that he ever cursed at Mr. Grimaldi, though he said in an interview that Mr. Grimaldi had called the police on him for trespassing during one of his regular strolls through the neighboring camp.

According to tax maps, six properties abut the camp land. Mr. Oleksiak said there are markers in place indicating where the course would go and that the markers are only about 99 feet from his backyard. The land is currently woods and some trees will have to be cut down to build the course.

“Why are they putting it here when they have so much land elsewhere that they could put it?” Mr. Oleksiak asked Friday. “This is going to affect 25 homes on Silver Beech Lane. All you’re going to hear is noise.”

“They’re taking away my little piece of heaven,” lamented Ms. Oleksiak, who is battling cancer.

“I can’t sell my home now because the taxes are too high; I’m paying $19,000 in taxes,” said Annmarie Schreiber, who would also have the course running along her backyard. “Now they are going to put a thing like this up and make it a commercial area? I’ll never be able to sell my house. Are they going to charge only $1,000 in taxes? Because that’s what the house is going to be worth.”

Other neighbors also complained to the News-Review.

“The Oleksiaks are going to be exposed to this in their backyard,” said George Bartunek, a former town councilman who lives in the area. “The opinion here is that this is something that could be placed elsewhere to keep it more distant from everybody in the neighborhood.”

The Planning Board has scheduled a hearing on the proposal, which also calls for construction of an archery pavilion farther east on the scout property, on Thursday, April 18, at 3 p.m.

Mr. Oleksiak said he is asking the town to change the hearing to a night meeting because many people can’t attend in the daytime.

The camp director said the land’s terrain is what’s dictating the proposed placement of the course.

“It’s a large piece of property and we’ve been there for a long time, this is our 87th year, but we don’t have a lot of flat property,” Mr. Grimaldi said in an interview Tuesday. “To do the course and to do it safely, you have to have some flat property. There is no other place for it.”

He said the state Department of Environmental Conservation is allowing the group to cut down up to six trees but is requiring them to plant four new trees for every one they cut down.

As for the neighbors’ concerns about noise, Mr. Grimaldi said the COPE course will generally be used by only about a dozen scouts, and maybe two instructors, at a time.

“It’s meant for small groups,” he said. “It’s not like you’re building a football field or something like that.”

Mr. Grimaldi said the tallest pole is 35 feet and no poles are taller than the trees, so the course will blend in with its surroundings.

“You will have to look for it and know that it’s there in order to find it,” he said. “It’s in the middle of the trees and it’s a dozen telephone poles with wires hanging in between them and challenges hanging on those wires.”

He also promised there would be at least a 100-foot buffer between anything the camp builds and the nearest property line, not the 90 feet Mr. Oleksiak counted.

Mr. Oleksiak and his neighbors are also concerned about how the course would be secured when it’s not in use, and whether camp officials plan to build a fence or have lights or surveillance around the course.

Mr. Grimaldi explained to the News-Review that ladders are used to get to the elements of the course and that when the course is not in use, the ladders are not there and there is no way to access the various climbing elements, as they are called.

“There is nothing you can climb on from the ground,” he said.

The Boy Scouts also plan to bring local schools or youth groups to the site, Mr. Grimaldi said, though in those cases a Boy Scouts representative will always be on hand to supervise activity.

“We will always be running the course,” he said. “When we are not there and we’re not running the course, there is no way to access it.”

An archery pavilion is also planned for the property, which involves building an open-air roof over an existing archery range toward the west part of the scout property.

“The fact that the camp has existed for 87 years and we’ve really been free of complaints from our neighbors for 87 years … that record, in itself, should stand for something,” Mr. Grimaldi said. “I think we’ve been pretty good neighbors for 87 years and we’ll continue to be good neighbors for the next 87 years.”

tgannon@timesreview.com