Friday, October 31, 2008

Making Waves

--------------------------NEW VOICE? --------

Permission to operate a new community radio station for Greene and Columbia County listeners has been granted by the Federal Communications Commission. The license, authorizing a 3300-watt station occupying 90.7 on the Frequency Modulation dial, was granted to the non-profit arts group called free103point9, whose envisaged home is a 29-acre property in Acra called Wave Farm. (See the 10/3 posting of Seeing Greene).

--------Tom Roe, program director, said in a news release that the new non-commercial station will “give active, involved members of the community a chance to take the microphone, go on the air, and talk about what is going on in Greene and Columbia counties."

--------Daytime programs will cover “agriculture, hunting, schools, arts, music, politics, and other issues important to the community.” Evening programs will beam “live web streams of events (games, performances, meetings, lectures) all over the two counties.” Late night and Saturday broadcasts would be devoted to “international radio art, experimental music, and special local broadcasts.”

--------Satellite studios for FM90.7 will be located in the Catskill Community Center and in Columbia County, Mr Roe added. And “workshops to train citizen journalists and reporters” will be offered next year at various locations, before broadcasting begins in 2010.

-------Helping as an advisory council to plan the station’s operations are Dharma Dailey, of Ethos Wireless in Palenville; Max Goldfarb, a Hudson-based artist; Hosneara Kader, of Hudson Family Literacy; Debra Kamecke, Cairo Public Library director; Alan Skerrett, of Columbia County’s branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Hudson Talbot, vice-president of the Catskill Community Center; and Andy Turner, of the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Agroforestry Resource Center.

-------Prospective participants in planning, grant-seeking and future operations can contact Mr Roe at or 518-622-2598.

------------------------------THE PERMIT BATTLE

--------Broadcasting from the contemplated new Acra studio of the new radio station may depend on the outcome of a lawsuit in which a State Supreme Court judge is asked to nullify or reverse a “purported” decision by the Cairo Planning Board.

--------“Plaintiff-petitioners” in the civil action are Galen Joseph-Hunter, owner of the 29-acre wooded property known as Wave Farm (and wife of Tom Roe), and the non-profit corporation called free103point9, which is a vehicle for radio broadcasting and other activities that come under the heading “transmission art.”

--------Named as “defendant-respondents” are the Town of Cairo, its governing Board, its Planning Board, and each member of the Planning Board. Direct target of the plaintiffs is a “purported” September 8th resolution adopted on a 4-2 vote by the Planning Board, rejecting the plaintiffs’ site plan application. The plan contemplates the establishment at Wave Farm of a two-story center for radio broadcasting and other “transmission art” activities, including special events in the summer.

--------In legal parlance the Wave Farm lawsuit is an Article 78 proceeding, whereby a Supreme Court judges can nullify “arbitrary and capricious” decisions made by local governing boards.

--------(Coinciding with the Wave Farm case is another Cairo-based Article 78 proceeding. In this case Ellsworth “Unk” Slater and other plaintiffs accuse the Town Board of “arbitrary and capricious” conduct in their adoption of a sewer improvement resolution that was pivotal for the fate of the proposed real estate development—commercial and residential—known as Alden Terrace).

--------Characterizing the Planning Board’s decision as legally spurious as well as arbitrary and capricious, the plaintiffs contend that:

*”Malicious bad faith” and “ill will” fueled the Board’s “irrational and arbitrary” treatment of the Wave Farm principals.

*The purported resolution as filed with the Town Clerk was not a valid one, recording a formal vote taken at a duly prepared regular meeting, with reasons given.

*The Board did not formally reject the site plan application, but instead only voted down a motion to approve.

*The Board acted only after the end of a prescribed 62-day limit, whereas relevant local law prescribes that applications not resolved within that period shall be deemed accepted.

*The Board deliberately stalled in its early handling of the matter, in order to handle the case under a new site plan law rather than the law that prevailed when the Wave Farm application was first made.

--------An account of the Planning Board’s action was posted on the October 3rd installment of Seeing Greene. Included in that report were adverse comments made by internal dissenters as well as outsiders. Soon afterward, Town Attorney Tal Rappleyea circulated to Board members and other Cairo officials a warning against making public comments on the matter, in light of the prospect of litigation. His message was characterized by at least one recipient as a “gag order,” although it did not come from a judge or a municipal executive. It may have deterred dissident Planning Board members from reiterating beliefs that could support the petitioners’ complaint.

--------The case has been assigned to Judge Joseph C. Teresi.

--------On Tuesday, Albany attorney Michael J. Murphy, representing the various defendants, submitted to the Court a Verified Answer to the plaintiffs’ Complaint. Judge Teresi is scheduled to take up the case in mid-November, starting with deciding whether the plaintiffs’ cited causes of action suffice to warrant further judicial proceedings.

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