January 31, 2014 —
The developer who plans to build 396 units in 40 townhouses in the Village of Bloomingburg, which are being marketed to the Hasidic community, has been ordered to not work on any new units. Some 10 townshouses appear to be complete from the outside, and two more are partially complete. The judge ruled that Shalom Lamm may finish those two townhouses to protect them from the weather, but may not begin any additional ones.
Sullivan County Supreme Court Judge Stephan Schick made the ruling on January 31, after issuing a temporary restraining order the day before. The order was sought by the Rural Community Coalition (RCC), which has been fighting the controversial project for several years.
At a hearing at the courthouse in Monticello, John Henry, a lawyer for Lamm, argued that the injunction should not be granted because the plaintiffs were bringing their complaint after the statute of limitations, which is six years, had expired.
One of the main complaints, and one that interested Schick quite a bit, was that the annexation of the property in question from the Town of Mamakating into the Village of Bloomingburg required a vote of the people who lived in the area, and that did not happen.
Henry said that the RCC had brought the project to court before, and if they had objected to the lack of a vote they were obliged to bring it up at the time, and not after the six-year statute of limitations had expired.
Schick said the constitutional right to vote on a matter was an
important one, and at one point asked Henry if he knew of any case law, in which the constitutional right to vote had been subject to a statute of limitations.
Henry said no, but certainly other constitutional rights had been cut off by statutes of limitations.
The lawyer for the Town of Mamakating, which was arguing in favor of the injunction, read a line from the constitution that said no annexation of property from one municipality to another may be permitted without of vote of the people involved, and therefore the entire project was illegal.
The attorney for RCC, Kurt Johnson, said that the board passed one annexation in 2006, but amended it and passed another annexation toward the end of 2008, and therefore was not subject to the statute of limitations in any case.
Holly Roche, president of RCC, later said that an annexation does not become official until it is complete, and therefore the statute of limitations period did not begin until the end of 2008.
The judge also touched briefly on the “closer than arms length deal” connected to the project, a reference to the fact that the developer deeded over two properties to the mayor of the village as part of the overall process.
Henry again argued that the RCC had no right to bring action about alleged improprieties now, because that should have been done when they were previously in court.
“Even if they didn’t know about them?” Schick asked.
"Yes," said Henry.
Schick said he was going to grant the injunction, and would not be dealing with the previous judge’s ruling, which said the planning procedures were done properly, but would instead be dealing with the voting issue and alleged improprieties.
The RCC is required to post a $100,000 bond, in case they lose the case and the developer suffers financial harm.
Roche said that will be a challenge for the grassroots group. The RCC website is www.ruralcommunitycoalition.com .