Thursday, March 02, 2017
Lawyers for the Mamakating Town Board and Planning Board have filed their lawsuit against the Village of Bloomingburg, the Village Baird and Planning Board and Chestnut Ridge developer Sullivan Farms II.
The suit, filed in Ulster County Supreme Court, seeks to have the court annul the village's most recent approvals of the 396-unit townhouse development, declare the village approval rescinded and void, halt site work, and require the developers to file brand-new applications for the project. The last move would essentially start the approvals process from square one, requiring new applications that follow all zoning, planning and other applicable laws and regulations. The suit also asks the court to order a new State Environmental Quality Review for the project.
Developer Shalom Lamm initially proposed a luxury golf course development for the parcel on Winterton Road. Only later did many locals learn that the project had morphed into townhouses, apparently marketed toward Hasidic Jewish clientele. Lamm has dismissed opposition to Chestnut Ridge and some other smaller projects, including a girls' school, as anti-Semitic.
The Town of Mamakating and other locals opposed to the project cited irregularities in the approvals process, including the changing project description and expected occupancy rates, questions about the adequacy of roads and water and sewer services for the project.
Lamm and Kenneth Nakdimen, his partner in Chestnut Ridge, are currently under federal indictment on voter fraud charges, based on allegations that they brought in and paid outside voters to sway the 2014 village elections to seat a board favorable to their project.
In 2014, the town briefly took over planning authority for the village, and rescinded approvals for the project. Litigation ensued.
In 2016, the village resumed its own planning authority.
On Jan. 24, an Ulster Supreme Court Judge ruled that the Mamakating Planning Board's negation of the project approvals was proper. Two days later, the village planning board issued new approvals.
The new lawsuit outlines "false statements and information" from the Sullivan Farms environmental review documents on occupancy (originally 810 maximum, two per unit; and no more than an average of .3 school-aged children per unit, amended in 2016 to 5.5 people per unit; when documents disclosed through litigation put the actual expected occupancy as high as 10 per household). Those occupancy numbers directly affect the water and sewer needs and the fiscal impact of the project on the village, which has about 420 residents, and on the town.
The town's lawyers argue that "the disclosed documents also demonstrate the developer's goal of taking over and controlling the Village of Bloomingburg."
The suit quotes the federal indictment, which in turn quoted Nakdimen saying "We need to win this election now more than ever and replace the entire planning board."
The disclosed documents "also state that the developer had worked 'in complete secrecy' since as early as 2002" to make Chestnut Ridge the start of a 10- to 15-year plan to annex and develop adjoining lands in the village and town for 5,000 to 7,000 homes and "large-scale commercial development," legal complaint states.
The lawsuit outlines a detailed history of the project and conflicts surrounding Chestnut Ridge, Sullivan Farms II and Lamm.
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