The lawyer for Dickinson’s Keep developer Crowne Management said last week that town supervisor Kelly Myers should recuse herself from voting on the project or she could face a lawsuit for interfering in a project. As a low-to-moderate-income housing development, a discrimination charge could be made, said attorney Michael Moriello.
Myers denied interfering with the project, and town attorney John Greco said there was no reason for her to recuse herself from the project.
The catalyst for Moriello’s statement was an unsuccessful request by Myers to have the project’s April 4 public hearing at the Ulster County Planning Board rescheduled. Myers said the call was not an attempt to derail the process, that she wanted the hearing to be rescheduled because that same night the town was holding a public hearing on a $15 million sports complex and she believed constituents should be able to attend both. She wanted to attend, too. County Planning Board chair Dennis Doyle confirmed that was the reason Myers gave.
Moriello wasn’t buying it. In a letter to the town, he wrote: “in any event, this is to inform that any further attempts at interfering with my client’s administrative due process rights by the supervisor will not be countenanced.”
In addition, Myers “made opposition to my client’s project a centerpiece of her recent election strategy,” Moriello states. He further states that in his opinion, the Town Board overstepped its authority in rescinding a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement that reduced Dickinson’s Keep tax liability.
Moriello also hinted at discrimination. He cited the Federal Fair Housing Act, which states that action taken by local governments that “would be a discriminatory housing practice shall be invalid.” The law covers both actions motivated by an intent to discriminate, or when “the local government’s otherwise neutral action nevertheless has an unnecessarily discriminatory effect.”
“The supervisor is certainly entitled to her opinion, and she is free to speak the same against this project for justifiable reasons and as a duly elected public official,” Moriello acknowledges. “However, as a town official, she is not entitled to engage in a course of action which is at variance with New York State law and which may result in a discriminatory effect under Federal law,” Moriello states. “Accordingly, it is evident that the supervisor should recuse herself from any further activities which involve my client and/or Dickinson’s Keep LLC.”
In response, Greco states that “I see absolutely no reason why the supervisor should recuse herself from any future proceedings involving Dickinson’s Keep/Crowne Management. Supervisor Myers has not discriminated against affordable housing. None of her actions or practices was motivated by discriminatory interest.” Rather, “considerations of the impact on growth and character of community or neighborhood, including annual budget impacts, etc., and demand for additional community services (schools, police, fire etc.) are expressly required to be considered by SEQRA (the state’s environmental quality review act). All are certainly legitimate concerns and legitimate areas of inquiry.”
In conclusion, Greco writes: “at no time did Supervisor Myers attempt to interfere with procedural requirements or exert influence on the Town of Saugerties Planning Board or on the Ulster County Planning Board. Rest assured that she has not and will not engage in a course of conduct which is contrary to law or which may result in a discriminatory effect under federal law.”