Town Board members named as individuals removed from Chappaqua Crossing lawsuit in state court
August 3, 2012
by Christine Yeres
Nearly a year ago, on September 14, 2011, John Walsh, the attorney representing the town of New Castle, asked Judge Kenneth Karas to dismiss the case against individually named board members—then-Supervisor Barbara Gerrard and council members Robin Stout and Michael Wolfehsohn (Elise Mottel and John Buckley had recused themselves)—in the state lawsuit filed against them by Summit Development and Greenfield Partners, owners of Chappaqua Crossing. It was sufficient, argued Walsh, that the suit be directed at the municipality; to name board members as well was “merely to harass and burden the public officials.”
The attorney representing Summit Greenfield countered, at the time, that he was having difficulty gaining access to the private emails of the three board members, and believed that naming them as individuals would assist in Summit Greenfield’s discovery process. Judge Karas was unpersuaded of the value of including them, but invited both sides to submit written arguments. Now, 11 months later, Karas has ruled that the three be removed as defendants in the case, agreeing with the town’s attorney that to include them was redundant.
Summit Greenfield filed suits in both state and federal courts against the town, claiming in the state case that in board members’ review of the application to construct 199 residential units on the property had been a “sham” process that amounted to a “taking” of the property, since, by limiting the number of residential units to 111, the town had hobbled the economic viability of the project and the value of the property for Summit Greenfield. And although 20 of the 111 units approved by the town board are to be fair-and-affordable units, in the federal suit Summit Greenfield claimed that the town had intended, through its review process, to prevent the construction of affordable housing, thereby violating the Fair Housing Act.
Reached yesterday for comment, Gerrard explained: “The judge recognized that there really wasn’t a separate reason for board members to be named. I’ve read all the briefs, and I thought John Walsh and his firm did a crackerjack job.”
As it stands now, Walsh has asked for dismissal of the state suit; the federal suit continues. In the meantime, town board members have proposed a zoning change at Chappaqua Crossing that would permit a grocery store on the property, along with other limited retail. Any zoning change must go through a public hearing process. The board has set September 24, 2012, as opening day for the public hearing.
Related: http://www.newcastlenow.org/index.php/article/index/new_town_board_sets_date_for_public_hearing_on_grocery_plus_limited_retail”>Town Board sets date for public hearing on grocery plus limited retail at Chappaqua Crossing, NCNOW.org, 7/27/12