Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Hasidic school suing village 

A Hasidic school is suing the village for denying its request to rebuild a bungalow cottage into a model home for a new Hasidic community near Kiryas Joel.

The Article 78, filed last month in Orange County State Supreme Court by Sheri Torah Inc., says the village's denial of its building permit to replace the Apple Lane cottage with a modular building was "arbitrary and capricious."

The village Zoning Board of Appeals — upholding the decision of the village building inspector — rejected the religious school's request on appeal.

The board argued that the replacement building would enlarge the cottage by adding a second story and that the building was ineligible for renovation under current zoning because it was abandoned.

The school says the village decision is discriminatory. "The whole thing just evidences an attitude that is negative to this group establishing itself within (the village's) midst, and that's the tragedy," said Sheri Torah's attorney, Jim Sweeney.

The dwelling lies amid a bungalow community of 46 run-down rental cottages on 26.2 acres of an 800-plus-acre property once known as the Lake Anne Country Club, which fronts on Clove Road.

According to an affidavit filed with the Article 78, a group of Hasidic investors called Keen Equities bought the 800-plus acres in 2004 with the intent of creating a Hasidic community for family, friends and relatives who lived in or near Kiryas Joel, south of the property.

Sweeney contends that the non-Hasidic neighbors of the property conspired to thwart these plans in 2006 by incorporating the Village of South Blooming Grove, which includes the property. Village officials have denied this contention.

Similar discrimination claims have been raised in numerous lawsuits against the village, most of which have been dismissed or discontinued. In one of the remaining suits, Sheri Torah says the village Planning Board has been deliberately avoiding a request to convert a former casino near the cottages into a shul to serve as the epicenter of the community's religious way of life.

Dennis Lynch, the attorney for the village in the lawsuit against the ZBA, said the plaintiffs need permission from the Planning Board to renovate the cottage because it is abandoned, an assertion the plaintiff disputes.

The village, in turn, disputes the plaintiff's claim that the property was properly subdivided in 2009, when a religious court in Kings County transferred the property with the cottages to a break-off faction within Keen Equities known as Blue Rose Estates, which leases the cottages to Sheri Torah.

All three groups — Sheri Torah, Keen Equities and Blue Rose Estates — share the goal of turning the bungalow colony into a Hasidic community, Sweeney said.


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