No surprises in Chappaqua Xing lawsuits, except for odd timing
With 86 comments since publication Tuesday
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
by Susie Pender
Late last Friday afternoon, February 25, Summit Greenfield, the developer of Chappaqua Crossing, filed lawsuits against the town of New Castle in New York State Supreme Court, County of Westchester, as well as in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The plaintiffs in the federal case, SG Chappaqua, are suing the town of New Castle, the New Castle Town Board and Town Supervisor Barbara Gerrard, Town Board Member Robin Stout and Town Board Member Michael Wolfensohn in their official capacities (the “Defendants”).
Summit Greenfield has been threatening throughout the environmental review process to bring a lawsuit against the town and the town board for not giving them what they want, permission to build their proposed residential development at Chappaqua Crossing (the “Property”). See “Letters between lawyers for Summit Greenfield and town board end in standoff,” NCNOW.org, January 14, 2011.
Indeed, throughout every incarnation of the plan: originally 348 age-restricted housing units (2006 Planned Campus Petition); then 278 housing units, 246 age-restricted and 56 or 20% affordable housing (2007 Multifamily Planned Development District); and now 199 units with 20 or 10% affordable housing (2010 Modified Project Plan), Summit Greenfield has demanded that the town board end its environmental review and grant its application to rezone the property.
Why sue now?
As Supervisor Gerrard stated in her Supervisor’s report last week, “As I said two weeks ago, we intend to finish our work by the end of next month – that is, by March 31, 2011. That means that we intend to finish the environmental review and make findings under the State Environmental Quality Review Act and then decide on Summit Greenfield’s petition for application of a Multi-Family Planned Development zone and other zoning amendments to the former Reader’s Digest property.” To read the full text of the Supervisor’s Report, click HERE.
So why sue now?
“We will have to study [the complaints], of course,” explained Clinton Smith, legal counsel to the New Castle Town Board, “but at first glance, there is nothing in there that they haven’t threatened before. The timing is a bit odd for two reasons. They filed suit before the end of the deadline that they set, the end of March. And they only delivered a compliant parking plan in January, and this is February.”
“Despite recent statements by the Town Supervisor that a Final Environmental Impact Statement will be adopted in March,” stated the press released issued on behalf of Summit Greenfield by its spokesperson Geoffrey Thompson of Thompson & Bender, “the Town Board’s well-established history of missed deadlines and its demonstrated unwillingness to deal with the serious economic and social responsibility issues confronting the town has led the owners to turn to the courts to seek relief and damages.”
The federal complaint
“This action,” the federal complaint alleges, “arises out of Defendants’ continued efforts to prevent affordable housing in New Castle – which is highly likely to be occupied by racial or ethnic minorities and the elderly –by unconstitutionally and intentionally denying Plaintiff its rights and expectations to a fair, timely and unbiased decision on its long pending land use application.”
The plaintiff lays out three motivations for the Defendants’ actions:
1. To prevent the construction of affordable housing;
2. To maintain Chappaqua Crossing in its “stately and bucolic condition;” and
3. “To limit economic activity in the commercial portion of the Property so high-priced residential housing in the immediate vicinity can enjoy the benefit of having a sleepy, park-like campus atmosphere at the Property.”
The Plaintiff argues that the town board’s actions are a violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. Sections 3601 et seq and have deprived it of its constitutional rights to substantive due process and equal protection under 42 U.S. C. Section 1983.
The Plaintiff is asking for compensatory and punitive damages, to be determined by a jury, and attorneys’ fees. To read the full text of the federal complaint, click HERE.
The state complaint
The complaint filed in state court is only against the town of New Castle. In it, the Plaintiff alleges that the town’s failure to act on their application has deprived the Plaintiff of all economically viable use of the commercial portion of the Property, and therefore, constitutes a taking without recompense. The Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees. To read the full text of the state complaint, click HERE.