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Couple complain of ill wind Say pesticide fumes come from farm that official owns

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 admin

By Walter Dawkins
The Record Staff writer

Old Tappan- When James Lagrosa and his wife moved to DeWolf Raod more than 25 years ago, the Stokes Farm next door had two greenhouses. Since then, they say, the number had grown to at least 16.

“When they apply pesticides in the greenhouses, all of that pesticide vapor blows right at my property”, Lagrosa said.

For years, Lagrosa said, he has asked the owners of the 40 acre Stokes Farm-Borough Councilman Ronald Binaghi Jr. and his father, a former councilman-to move the ventilating fans, to no avail.

However, he hopes that may change now that the property has come under scrutiny.

Two weeks ago, borough Construction Official Peter Abballe sent a letter to the younger Binaghi, explaining that four greenhouses originally constructed as temporary are actually permanent structures that “require a formal application to the Planning Board for site plan approval”.

Nearly 15 years ago, the state granted five-year temporary exemptions for greenhouses, said the Lagrosas’ lawyer, Alan Ashkinaze. However, he said, it “doesn’t appear that Binaghi senior, a councilman at the time, ever made a formal application- and if he did, he clearly never made a renewal application for another five years”.

Last week, Ashkinaze sent a letter to Abballe, asking him to “issue an order directing Mr. Binaghi to immediately take down these structures and/or cease and desist operating the existing greenhouses until all necessary approvals have been obtained”.

“It’s our hope that the borough will do the right thing, and that is to enforce the local and state regulations and force the Binaghis to be in compliance with all necessary regulations”, Ashkinaze said.

As of Wednesday, Borough Administrator Greg Hart said, the Binaghis had not yet submitted an application to the Planning Board for site plan approval and that the farm was operating as usual.

It is in the hands of our borough attorney,” said Mayor Victor Polce. “He has done the appropriate research, and we are moving to try to get some finality to this situation, which is to the satisfaction of both the Binaghis and the Lagrosas”.

Borough Attorney Allen Bell refused comment.

When contacted by The Record, the younger Binaghi responded with a telephone message: ” I serve on the Borough Council, and we just got a message from our borough attorney that we are not supposed to comment to the media until this plays out. So, I apologize, but I can’t comment right now. But I will be able to in the future.”

Rea Epstein, chairman of the Old Tappan Planning Borad, said she was sure the younger Binaghi will take the appropriate action.

“Mr. Binaghi is a person who is very concerned about the future of the town and about the well-being of the people in town”, Epstein said. “I’m sure he’s going to look for resolution to this right away. He’s not someone who shirks his civic responsibility by any means”.

Lagrosa wonder why, then, he’s been unable to get any satisfaction.

“My wife’s health has deteriorated. She has asthma and breathing problems. She has never had that before”.

“Over the years, we’ve asked the owners of the property, Ronald Binaghi senior and junior, if they could have the fans moved and they refused”, he added.

“This had been going on for years”, said Lagrosa’s wife, Wilda. “Binaghi junior had been permitted to do whatever he wants, and both the father and son have always felt they were above the law”.

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