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Projects like Paul Savad’s 42-home development off Burr Road and Route 17B in Bethel may not be able to move ahead for the next 3-6 months thanks to the Town of Bethel’s just-approved major subdivision moratorium..

Litigation Threatened Over Moratorium

By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE — June 19, 2007 — Faced with the unblinking, expectant stares of more than 100 residents, attorneys and developers, the Town of Bethel Board plunged Thursday into its second moratorium in as many years.
And in the process, board members set the stage for one heck of a court battle.
In the public hearing preceding the 4-1 moratorium approval vote, lawyer after lawyer warned the board that they would challenge the legality of a moratorium that bans for three months the continuation of any major subdivision (5 or more lots) which has yet to receive preliminary approval from the planning board.
The purpose, said town officials, is to get a handle on zoning issues that should have been settled (but were not) when the township’s comprehensive plan was adopted last year.
For the attorneys representing a slew of projects in one of the fastest-growing townships in the state, that reasoning was not acceptable.
“Moratoriums represent a failure of the planning process,” charged Larry Wolinsky of Jacobowitz and Gubits, representing two different projects in Smallwood and along Laymon Road.
Like other lawyers, developers and even some residents that evening, he said the town had not firmly nor legally established the need for a moratorium.
“You are really blowing it,” said Paul Savad, an attorney who is also a developer working on a project along Burr Road. “This is not the right thing to do.”
Board member Richard Crumley took offense to the legal opinions set forth.
“I resent deeply attorneys coming into these meetings and threatening the planning board and town board,” he said angrily. “You’re not going to come into this town and ride roughshod over us.
“You’ll get what’s coming to you fairly,” he added, “… [but] if you want to try to make life miserable for us, we’ll make it miserable right back.”
Crumley’s remarks energized a group of residents who had been trying all that night – and for months prior – to put the brakes on development in Bethel.
“Nobody ever expected this kind of development [taking] place,” remarked White Lake native Stephen Altman. “I think we need a little breathing room.
“We all want to see the town grow responsibly,” he added. “I don’t think another couple of months is going to make a difference.”
However, board members Bob Blais, Richard Crumley, Dan Sturm and Andy LaPolt voted for a three-month moratorium that can, if necessary, be extended by another three months – and most expected that would be the case come September.
“Those three months, I’m sure, will turn into six,” confirmed LaPolt.
Supervisor Harold Russell was the lone opposing vote, although town attorney Rob McEwan advised the board to wait on the moratorium till the planning board took action on the projects left in limbo at its tumultuous June 12 meeting.
The rest of the board, however, disagreed, on the principle that some of those projects shouldn’t have been anywhere near the preliminary approval stage.
That, and the fact that, as Blais put it, “we’ve strung this out long enough.”

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