As a second house began to take shape at the Greens while the first reached rooftop height, U.S. District Judge Philip M. Halpern signed settlement orders, along with County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Greens’ Managing Member Jehuda Landau, that leaves settlement puts the judge in charge, holding jurisdiction now and into the future.
The Greens of Chester sued Orange County and the town of Chester for 100 million dollars in July 2019. New York State Attorney General Letitia James joined the Greens’ suit, saying: “Blocking the construction of homes to prevent a religious group from living in a community is flat out discriminatory.”
The county and the town denied discriminatory speech.
The county, the town, the Greens and the attorney general have been in discovery under a court order to mediate for months.
The settlement ended Greens’ claims against Orange County, but the claims against the Town of Chester stand and were not addressed in the settlement.
Provisions in the 21-page settlement for the 431 homes to be built include:
Engineers must be acceptable to both parties or the Orange County engineer must have been in active practice for five years in the county and ten years in New York state;
Any water complaints from neighbors of the Greens go to the state;
County Executive Steve Neuhaus retains responsibility in an individual capacity;
The Greens will build a pool with the county expediting plans within thirty days;
The county will take Greens’ wastewater at its Harriman plant as Chester’s water allocation allows;
Communication time limits are two business days to answer phone calls and 20 business days to answer letters; and
Any non-response of the county to the Greens is a breach of the settlement agreement.
‘We thank the County’
The Greens at Chester released the following statement upon the announcement of the judge’s ruling:
”We thank the County and its officials for entering into an agreement reaffirming the three core points we have always maintained: prior to the initiation of the litigation, the county had already granted The Greens at Chester every necessary approval of our 431-home development; all County approvals have been and remain in good standing; the County has no legitimate interest in interfering with The Greens development because it complies with all appropriate laws and regulations. A notable achievement of the court ordered settlement agreement is that in it the County has assured both The Greens and the Court that the County will refrain from improperly interfering in the Greens development on a going forward basis.
“We are particularly appreciative of the work by the County legal department and County Department of Health that led to the issuance of a letter by the Office of the Commissioner of Public Health on November 3, 2020 certifying that:
The Department’s public health engineering staff have reviewed all application engineering materials submitted to the County with respect to any and all County Health Department approvals required to be issued to The Greens at Chester project...(and that) the Department is unaware of any aspect of the project... that is not in compliance with any local, state, or federal laws ... that might adversely impact existing County approvals.
“We are confident that the County will live up to both the letter and spirit of the settlement agreement, and that with the support of County Government, The Greens will not experience any delays as a result of County actions as we continue to build and deliver outstanding homes that are in high demand by current and future Orange County residents.”
Greens’ builder Livy Swartz added: “We thank the County officials for their efforts to resolve the litigation and for their clarification that The Greens of Chester has every necessary County approval to continue building homes for the benefit of the public.”
No comments were received from County Executive Steve Newhaus. Neither Chester town Supervisor Robert Valentine nor board members commented by press time.