By Matt Youngfrau
WURTSBORO February 4, 2003 The Town of Mamakating has always walked a fine line between economic development and protecting and maintaining the beauty and the environment of the town. In fact, the town adopted a Master Plan to do just that a few years ago.
That is at the heart of an Article 78 proceeding that the Town Board has filed against its Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning Board, Richard Scarpulla, Premium Country Homes, LLC, the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency, and Bloomingburg Housing Associates. The lawsuit was filed late in December.
The issue centers around Scarpulla and Premiums application to the Zoning Board for a housing development on the Shawangunk Ridge, for which the ZBA issued two resolutions. The first resolution calls for driveway and road construction to be on slopes of 35 degrees or greater. The second resolution allows the project a variance to build on slopes of greater than 35 degrees.
The Town of Mamakating Board is looking to have those resolutions overturned and an injunction ordered so no projects can move forward until this is settled.
We went out of our way to try and work this out, commented former 25-year ZBA Chair James Barnett, who was replaced by the town board during their January reorganization meeting. We didnt do this behind closed doors. We did what we were supposed to according to the law and the Master Plan. They just want to restrict development. This is a waste of taxpayer money.
Due to conflicts of interest with Town Attorneys Richard Stoloff and William Bavoso, outside counsel had to be hired. It is estimated that representation will cost between $40,000 and $50,000. That angered several of the zoning board members.
They should just let us do our job, remarked Cliff Asdale. If theres another controversial project, what will they do sue us again? We are trying to look out for the towns best interest.
We have never been influenced by anybody, Barnett stated. We do not want to be threatened or intimidated. Just let us do our jobs.
Town Supervisor Fred Harding sees things differently.
This all stems around the prohibition of construction on a 35-degree slope, Harding said. The Planning Board rejected the plans. The ZBA felt driveways were not included as construction. [Town Board Member and Liaison to the ZBA] John [ORourke] made many efforts to get them to rescind their decision and look at it again.
We have put no undue influence on them, Harding continued. This is not personal. We wanted them to reconsider. They chose not to take that approach. I hope it all works out.
It is strange, Harding admitted, when you are suing yourself, so to speak. I hope we can work out an agreement so this will all go away. This was a unanimous decision by the board to do this. I hope it will be solved within a month or so.
The lawyers have been exchanging documents back and forth. No court date to hear the case has yet been established.