Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bloomingburg Planning Board meeting lacks quorum 

The strange, ever-shifting saga of Shalom Lamm's 396-home Hasidic development and the proposed private girls' school that would serve it took yet another bizarre turn Wednesday night. More than 125 opponents of the Bloomingburg projects packed the Mamakating Town Hall for a Village of Bloomingburg Planning Board meeting to reconsider the school that the board unexpectedly — and perhaps prematurely — voted down in December, prompting a lawsuit from Lamm.

But Planning Board Chairman Russ Wood canceled the meeting when only two of the four board members showed up — not enough for a quorum. The two members who didn't come to the meeting, Andy Finnema and Ann Haenelt, both voted against the project, along with Joe Roe, who did come to the meeting, which was held in Mamakating to accommodate the large crowd. Finnema and Haenelt did not return calls for comment after the meeting, but some in the crowd said they knew they weren't coming.

The crowd, which included Lamm's partner Kenneth Nakdimen, left quietly. But some members said the cancellation was typical of the village that last week was raided by the FBI as part of its ongoing investigation into corruption, including voter fraud. Coincidentally, the Village Board apparently canceled yet another board meeting late Wednesday when a handwritten sign appeared on Village Hall saying that Thursday night's meeting would not be held.

The board has had only one regularly scheduled meeting since August, despite the ongoing controversy over Lamm's projects and claims it's violating the state open meetings law.

"I think this (the canceled planning meeting) shows the village is in such a dysfunctional state," said Mamakating Supervisor Bill Herrmann.

"I'm just wondering what's going to happen next," said development opponent Lesleigh Weinstein. "Trust no one."

The meeting was supposed to be held in response to Lamm's suit against the Planning Board, in which he essentially claimed that the school vote was based on emotion, not village law, which allows the school. In an example of just how heated the development fight has become, Lamm blamed "bigotry" in his statement about the suit:

"With no legal rationale or explanation, the Village Planning Board bowed to pressure from some residents motivated by blatant and ugly religious bigotry. The vote went far beyond the scope of the Board's review authority, which should have been a simple pro-forma affair, and left us no choice but to seek relief from the courts "»"

But in a recent conference about Lamm's lawsuit, Sullivan County Supreme Court Judge Stephan Schick essentially recommended that the girls' school go back before the board to complete the review process because the vote occurred before a public hearing was held — as is required by law.


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