Friday, September 16, 2016
Bloomingburg Mayor Russell Wood is running out of shelf space for all the lawsuits involving the village and the infamous Chestnut Ridge townhouse development.
The two most recent lawsuits came last month. One is an Article 78 complaint filed by developer Shalom Lamm in protest of the Town of Mamakating planning board's July decision to rescind the site plan and subdivision approvals given to Chestnut Ridge in 2009. The other is an appeal Mamakating filed against the department of state to be granted standing in its quest to invalidate the certificates of occupancy issued by the village in 2015.
The two suits join a long list of lawsuits over the high density 396-unit development that created a firestorm when it became clear, several years after it was approved, that the homes were being designed for Hasidic Jewish families.
"To me, it's insane," Wood said. "We're so small for all these legal battles."
The August lawsuits are a continuation of a year-long fight over the width of the roads in Chestnut Ridge.
When former village building inspector Joe Smith issued COs for 45 units in August and September 2015, Mamakating, which had jurisdiction over village planning and zoning at the time but not code enforcement, promptly litigated it. Smith used the wrong portion of state code, Mamakating argued, and the roads were in fact too narrow to meet state fire code requirements. Chestnut Ridge Road is a split boulevard with a median between two 10-foot lanes, and the other roads are all 18 feet wide. Current state fire code requires all buildings to be accessible by a 20-foot fire apparatus access road.
Mamakating lost its initial court appeal to invalidate the COs, but in April the state informed Bloomingburg that the roads are, in fact, not in compliance with state fire code. That determination played a large role in Mamakating's decision to rescind approvals, which Lamm is fighting in his Article 78 complaint.
State fire codes are written to protect the public, Mamakating town supervisor Bill Herrmann said, and the town is continuing its legal fight because it cares about residents' health and safety.
"Somebody has to watch out for them," Herrmann said.
The whole muddle is going to be moot, according to Wood, because Lamm has agreed to widen the existing roads to 20 feet. That should be done in the next few weeks, Wood said, and COs for Lamm's new construction will not be issued unless the roads are 20 feet wide. Bloomingburg has also recently taken planning and zoning jurisdiction back from the town, and Wood said he does not anticipate the village board will enforce the town's rescission of approvals.
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