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October 26, 2016
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Community reserve may not be pierced; court sides with Beechwood over developer

Judge Mark Meddaugh was straightforward in his decision. He wrote, “The Boymelgreens are completely mistaken when they assert that they have an express easement to cross over Beechwood’s lands. The Boymelgreens have failed to present either express language or circumstances supporting their claims to unfettered access to and through Beechwood. The Boymelgreens are also mistaken in claiming that there is any ambiguity in the descriptions of the property and/or the rights of way that were transferred to them that would work in favor of their claims of greater access to Beechwood.”

It’s not yet clear if developer Shaya Boymelgreen and his relatives will appeal, which may become known at the Bethel Planning Board meeting on July 10, but the decision, issued on May 30, throws into the question the development of roads into the neighborhood known as Plum Beach.

Two neighborhoods, Plum Beach and Beechwood, are located on a peninsula between White Lake and Kauneonga Lake. There is one road that allows traffic into Plum Beach, called Lake Shore Drive. Boymelgreen wanted to build two new roads through Beechwood: one through a paper road that a family has used as a driveway for 60 years, and the other through two lots that Boymelgreen owns. Both roads would go through Beechwood and into Plum Beach, which would have made access to the new 5,000-square-foot homes he was building a bit more convenient.

However, there were a few problems for him. One was that many years ago, a five-foot reserve was created between the two communities. According to attorney James Bacon, who is representing Beechwood residents, legally this could not be breached.

Another problem was that a number of residents of the seasonal community objected to the new road because it would mean increased traffic past their secluded summer homes and, according to Bacon, the only way a new road could be built through the neighborhood was if all of the owners of the property agreed to it.

Ultimately, the matter went to court, and the judge sided convincingly with the Beechwood residents. In a decision that ran 20 pages and covered decades of deeds, transfers and subdivision plans, Meddaugh said that the Boymelgreens had seriously misinterpreted the deeds.

The Boymelgreens also argued that because, early on in the process, some members of the Beechwood community acquiesced and temporarily agreed with Boymelgreens’ interpretation of the various deeds involved, Beechwood residents should now be prevented from arguing otherwise. But the court wrote, “the Boymelgreens cannot take advantage of their own false statements and baseless claims to Beechwood by turning themselves into the victims of their own statements and claims.”

Well before the ruling, in spring of 2011, the Bethel Planning Board issued a temporary permit to the Boymelgreens, which caused the Beechwood residents to go to court to prove that Boymelgreen did not have the right to do what he wanted to do.

Beechwood resident Frances Randazzo said that the planning board could have followed other courses, such as requiring Boymelgreen to prove he had the right to cross the reserve, rather than forcing the residents to prove he did not.

Beechwood residents overwhelmingly voted on an assessment to pay for legal bills and to reimburse two members who incurred legal costs early on; but the costs for the small community are ongoing and, if Boymelgreen appeals the lower court decision, those costs will go higher still.