By Walter Dawkins
OLD TAPPAN – Residents involved in a pesticide complaint against a farm owned by a borough councilman are angry at his plans to build another greenhouse on the site.
James and Wilda Lagrosa have complained that greenhouse ventilating fans from Stokes Farm, owned by Councilman Ronald Binaghi Jr., blow contaminants directly onto their property. Wilda Lagrosa has asthma and breathing problems.
While undergoing state mediation with the Lagrosas, Binaghi received a construction permit in December to build another greenhouse structure – close to 7,000 square feet – on the 40-acre site.
“We’re negotiating to try to settle the problem, and he’s in the midst of building more greenhouses right next to my property,” said James Lagrosa, saying that Binaghi is “adding insult to injury.”
Binaghi, however, said he has the legal right to build on his own land.
“I have no idea why they’re upset,” the councilman said. “We’re well within our zoning requirements.”
The Lagrosas’ lawyer, Alan Ashkinaze, questioned the decision.
“Everyone’s scratching their head wondering why Ron [is] building this new greenhouse while we’re talking settlement,” Ashkinaze said.
“He knew that it would really upset the Lagrosas. He obviously has a lot of property and he didn’t have to put this very large one close to the Lagrosas’ property,” the attorney said. “To him it may make business sense, but it does come across as very un-neighborly.”
Binaghi’s lawyer promised that the neighbors’ needs will be considered.
“As far as I know, anything Mr. Binaghi is doing is entirely legal and intended to minimize any impact on the neighbors while continuing to operate the farm,” said attorney Alexander Carver, who also noted that the new structure is replacing a another greenhouse previously on the site.
According to the zoning permit application, the new greenhouse will have an open roof design with no ventilation fans.
But Lagrosa is still worried.
“He’s putting in almost 7,000 square feet of vegetation that’s going to be on my property line,” Lagrosa said. “Vegetation produces pollen, which adds to my wife’s health issues.”
Ashkinaze filed another grievance with the Bergen County Agriculture Development Board in December regarding the new greenhouse. As with an earlier grievance, it was referred to the state’s Office of Administrative Law because Binaghi sits on the ADB.
Ashkinaze said he expects both issues will be discussed before administrative law judge Elinor Reiner at the Office of Administrative Law in Newark on March 24.