Hanover residents sue town, superintendent

HANOVER – A dispute over the maintenance of Stewart Avenue in Hanford Bay has resulted in residents filing a lawsuit against the town of Hanover and Highway Superintendent Steve D’Angelo.

Resident Robert Whalen, petitioner of the lawsuit on behalf of 11 homes, notified the OBSERVER of the lawsuit Thursday.

“Residents filed the suit after D’Angelo ordered his crews to stop maintaining the street (including snowplowing), which the town has previously maintained for more than 50 years. The road also contains municipal sewer, municipal water and natural gas lines. Attempts to contact Mr. D’Angelo and the Town Board for an explanation have gone unanswered,” Whalen said in the email.

Whalen said in a phone interview that the town stopped plowing the road in December, which affected mail delivery and could have affected emergency services from reaching the residences.

D’Angelo, however, said the reason the town has stopped maintaining the road is because it is on private property.

“If the town owned the road we would have to … maintain it, but this isn’t even wide enough to be considered a road in the town; it is basically a private driveway. I have tax maps and they show the town right of way ending there,” he explained.

D’Angelo said the town has maintained that part of the road in the past because it wanted to maintain access to the fire hydrant located at the end, but the road is not in the town right of way and does not meet the qualifications for road width and shoulder width to be a town road.

Then, about a year ago residents insisted the town be responsible for repairing a wall on a bridge over the creek.

“In the past we plowed and patched holes in the road but now they are pushing the town to repair this wall, which will be a pretty expensive project,” he explained. “It is just not fair to the taxpayers.”

Whalen said homeowners tried to contact the town board and D’Angelo, but received no response. He said a lawsuit was a “last resort.”

He also said although the road goes through private property there is a public easement and residents use it for access to the beach. He explained it was water damage from the town’s sewer lines which caused the damage to the wall and that the town highway department repaired the wall 15 years ago and he and other residents believe the town should repair it again.

“Without that retaining wall the road will be impassable and water and sewer lines would be in danger,” he said.

D’Angelo said Town Attorney Jeffrey Passafaro is aware and involved in the lawsuit and suggested putting up a sign demarcating the end of the town right of way on Stewart Avenue, which D’Angelo had installed.

He said it was never a problem before the issue of repairing the crumbling wall was raised. He added if the wall falls into the creek and creates a blockage, he will have to remove it for the safety of the other residents but said it is not fair to put the burden of the repair on town taxpayers.

Residents are being represented by Leonard Burkowitz of Orchard Park and will appear in State Supreme Court in Mayville on July 1.

A phone call to Hanover Supervisor Todd Johnson was not returned.

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