Developer threatens village with costly trial and 'significant damages'

Chester village attorney says residents will not be 'bullied'

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  • Russell M. Yankwitt and Craig Cepler with Yankwitt LLP, representing BT Holdings, outside court (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Mary E. Marzolla, Esq., of Feerick Lynch MacCartney & Nugent, representing the Village of Chester (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

By Frances Ruth Harris

— BT Holdings, a development firm disappointed in its plan to build hundreds of condominiums in the Village of Chester, met the village in Orange County Supreme Court on Dec. 19.

Russell Yankwitt, the lawyer representing BT Holdings, expressed his disappointment that the court adjourned the January trial date.

"We are, however, pleased that the village finally responded to our repeated requests to meet to discuss a potential resolution of this matter in early January," he said.

Yankwitt said BT has worked with the village on the development for nearly a decade, "spending thousands of hours and millions of dollars to ensure that the townhome and senior project to be built would benefit the village. That is why it was so shocking when the Village immediately reversed course as soon as the property was annexed into its borders, blatantly breaking its signed agreements with BT and immediately taking action to prohibit BT from moving forward with the project the Village had approved."

The village acted in "bad faith," Yankwitt said, leaving BT with "no choice but to pursue justice through the courts," which could prove costly trial and result in "significant damages award against the village."

He said he hoped common sense will prevail, and that the parties will have "a productive meeting" next month.

"If this is not productive," he said, "we are prepared to proceed immediately with trial."

Attorney Mary Marzolla represented the Village of Chester. She emailed to The Chronicle her comments to the court:

"The village respects the rights of all property owners," she said, "But that does not mean the village will be bullied by any developer who wants to over-build to maximize profit at the expense of the health, safety and welfare of village residents. If the developer wants to resolve this issue by following the existing zoning laws, the village welcomes such a resolution. Until then, however, the village board will act appropriately to make certain all development is smart and sustainable being compliant with village land use laws."

Village okays 120 residences, not 340Earlier this year, village trustees told developer Frank Nussbaum of BT Holdings that he can go ahead and build on his acres, as long as he keeps the number of residences to 120 single-family houses, not the 340 townhouses he had been requesting since getting the town-to-village land annexation he pursued under a friendlier village board.

By annexing about 60 acres of the BT Holdings site, previously located in the town, the village made its superior water supply and infrastructure available to the proposed development. But after years controversy and struggles in court, the village is saying no to the greater number.

The newly annexed land, freed from the town’s more restrictive zoning, needs new zoning, which will be decided by the village and, perhaps, the court.

Editor's note: This article has been undated to correct an earlier error that called the 120 residential units allowed by the village "condos." The board said 120 single-family homes would be allowed, not condos.

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