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Concerned Citizens of the Hudson Valley Formed
Earlier this week, a newly formed citizens group, Concerned Citizens of the Hudson Valley, Inc., asked me to serve as their counsel. The group's primary current mission is to defeat a proposal to build a large amusement park, Legoland, in the Town of Goshen.
Yesterday, we held an excellent press briefing; Brad Barnhorst, the new President of the group, Jessica Gocke, a local real estate broker, and Melissa Turner, all spoke eloquently. You can watch this on the Stop Legoland website which may also be known as Concerned Citizens for the Hudson Valley, Inc.
Sussman's Statement on SEQRA
Below, I want to present some of the important current legal issues. I will update as needed so that everyone can follow:
1. In NY, Town Boards and their consultants draft and adopt comprehensive or master plans to express their identities and define how certain areas are to be developed. These master plans are then implemented through zoning ordinances which give each specific parcel of land a zoning classification, defining and restricting their use.
2. A landowner who wishes to deviate from the assigned zoning may seek a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals [ZBA] or a zoning change from and only from the Town Board. here are strict standards to be met before a ZBA can grant a use variance.
3. Earlier this year, Merlin Entertainment, Inc., a large multi-national corporation, announced a plan to build its northeastern theme park on 160 acres of undeveloped land in the Town of Goshen. The company optioned land from a local developer and other property owners.
4. The land optioned is zoned for large lot residential housing and for agricultural purposes. This zoning is consistent with the current master plan and truly reflects the environmental sensitivity of the parcels.
5. To develop Legoland on this site, Merlin needs an amendment to the master plan and a zone change for the approximately 500 acres of land implicated by its project, attendant road access needs, etc.
6. Currently, the Town Board has before it Locals Laws 5 and 6 which reflect the changes to zoning and to the comprehensive plan necessary to allow Legoland's development.
7. However, rather than do the required environmental reviews which are prerequisites to adoption of either new zoning or the amended master plan, the Town Board has not begun SEQRA reviews. Rather, without the proper zoning in place, the Planning Board has held a scoping session and commenced a review of the Legoland site.
8. This process contravenes the handbook published by our DEC which explicitly requires that the Town board charged with approving a zone change or change to the comprehensive plan MUST do the intense environmental review required by state law [SEQRA], not delegate its completion to another board, like, as here, the Planning Board.
9. Moreover, before the Town Board votes for a zoning change and a change to the comprehensive plan, residents living on properties abutting that proposed for the zone change may petition the Town Board, demanding that at least a super-majority [4 of 5 votes] approve of any zone change. Here, Stop Legoland has submitted petitions which have been signed by far more than the required number of abutting land owners. This should force a super-majority vote on any zoning change and could spell an early death for the Legoland project.
10. When a developer typically comes to town, it selects a location zoning in a manner consistent, or not wildly inconsistent with its plans. Here, with the very active support of our county executive, Legoland selected a potential parcels for its uses which have zoning wildly inconsistent with its proposal. It should have been told to chill down until and unless the Town Board passes both an amendment to the Town's Master Plan and a zone change. It was NOT told this; rather, it treated the 800 people [captive audience] who crowded the Hooker Middle School for a scoping session [to discuss the potential environmental impacts it will have to study] to a 30 minute paid advertisement. If you or I came to the Planning Board to develop a project for which zoning did not exist, we would be told to go home until the Town Board adopted a zoning change. This did NOT happen here. Moreover, as explained above, through the process the Town is taking, its Town Board is abdicating its non-delegable review responsibilities and the Planning Board is going ahead with its review even though the site is not zoned for an amusement park.
Unless we uphold the law equally, it has no value. Our county government regularly violates the law in my opinion...It now is encouraging Goshen to do so. There is no defense to this behavior which disrespects our community and its residents. Fight back by educating yourself and others; reach out to the the websites for Concerned Citizens for the Hudson Valley, Inc. Information is the enemy of power and allows us to transcend and defeat vested interests pushing for advantage at our expense.
Merlin Entertainment has taken advantage of senior citizens, infiltrated our schools and has corrupted our children!
Merlin Entertainment is spreading money around to buy influence, entice favoritism and corrupt the planning process!
And, all of this is being facilitated with grant money and political clout from a Governor's office more interested in campaign contributions from favored special interests than the health, welfare and the property rights of state residents.
Sussman & Associates is a civil rights firm located in Goshen, NY. Michael Sussman has been fighting for social and individual justice for more than 35 years. He is well known as one of the top trial lawyers in the region. Christopher Watkins, Of Counsel, is an experienced and well-regarded trial attorney and litigator who has consistently obtained outstanding results for his clients. With a team of knowledgeable and hard-working staff, Heather M. Abissi, Esq., Mary Jo Whateley, Esq., Jonathan Goldman, Esq., and Geri Prescott, we comprise the law firm of Sussman & Watkins, dedicated to preserving civil rights and fighting for justice.
— Michael H. Sussman, Esq.
— Christopher D. Watkins, Esq.
— Background & Mission
— Our Staff
The Legoland Site Lies Directly Over a DEC Protected Wetland
The Legoland Site Lies Directly Over the Origins of the Otter Kill Creek
The Otter Kill is a Primary Tributary of the Moodna Creek
|The Moodna Creek and Its Tributaries Are Subject to Severe Flooding|
for the Hudson Valley
24 August 2016
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