A New Hyde Park man was sentenced last Wednesday to 60 days in Ulster County Jail for starting an April 2012 fire that destroyed former Tamarack Lodge buildings in the Catskills town of Wawarsing.
Lance Muckenhaupt, 57, of 110 Windsor Gate Drive had pleaded guilty in April to violating a statewide ban on burning debris near the former resort earlier this year, according to Ulster County Chief Assistant District Attorney John Tobin.
Ulster County Judge Donald Williams sentenced Muckenhaupt to the jail term and ordered him to pay $28,000 in restitution.
Tobin said Muckenhaupt was clearing debris from one of the buildings of the former Tamarack Lodge, which he was in the process of purchasing from the Western Mohegan Indian tribe. The lodge had been abandoned in the 1990s and the buildings were in disrepair, Tobin said.
“He was burning debris. What the debris consisted of isn’t entirely clear. He was burning it 60 to 100 feet from the nearest building. The wind took the fire to the building and the wind continued to spread embers from that building to another building,” Tobin said.
Tobin said 30 to 50 structures on the 200-acre property had been destroyed or damaged by the fires. Muckenhaupt had been indicted Oct. 4 for setting the fire on April 7, 2012.
“The fire actually jumped from one side of the property to the other over Route 52 in Wawarsing and ignited both sides of the acreage,” Tobin said.
Tobin said Muckenhaupt had committed a misdemeanor in violating a provision of environmental conservation law in burning the debris. Tobin said his office had recommended the judge impose a fine in addition to the restitution, which Tobin said has been paid in full.
“Our office was not recommending jail. We recommended a fine of $5,000 and restitution of $28,000,” Tobin said.
But, Tobin said, the judge disagreed with the recommendation and imposed a 60-day sentence.
Tobin said Muckenhaupt will serve the 60 days on weekends because the judge did not want the employees of Muckenhaupt’s Long Island business to lose their jobs.
After pleading guilty to the violation, Muckenhaupt failed to appear in court for his originally scheduled May 20 sentencing.
Williams issued a bench warrant for his arrest and Tobin said Muckenhaupt subsequently turned himself in, saying he had confused the date.
Tobin said he was held in the Ulster County Jail for 11 days prior to last week’s sentencing.