The Village Planning Board voted against extending approval for a 42-unit affordable housing project on North St., a move the developer’s attorney said could land the village in court on a discrimination suit the village’s attorney believes it would lose.
Planners announced last month that Premier Development needed to move forward on its Country Meadows project and seek building permits by July 23 or start the review process over. The developer has been before the board with various project plans since 2009 for a plot of land on North St. next to the Ametek Rotron facility. The latest is mixed-use housing for seniors, low-income families and the disabled. The developer has sought state subsidies it needs for the project to be viable but has not received them. Each year Premier has sought a one-year extension on plans.
Developer Pat Simmons, RUPCO CEO Kevin O’Connor and attorney Michael Moriello attended the board’s July 8 meeting seeking another extension. They said the chances of approval this coming year were better because there are no similar projects in Ulster County, and because a smaller amount of funding is being requested thanks to support from RUPCO, the Anderson Center for Autism and other private sources. If they are not selected this round, the project would be abandoned.
“We’ve made a significant investment on this project,” said O’Connor. “The owner has paid his taxes and we are simply asking for a one-year extension.”
Simmons said he has spent $500,000 so far on the project, which includes legal and engineering fees.
Planner Mary Leahy was unmoved. She has been an opponent of the project, arguing that its location doesn’t conform with the village Master Plan’s goals of concentrating development in the village center.
“We set a time frame so projects move forward,” Leahy said. “We’ve been working on this project since 2009.”
Chair Jeff Helmuth and Gary Newkirk voted in favor, while Leahy and Rita Ford voted against the extension. With the vote 2-2, the extension failed.
Moriello said he would advise his client to go to court over the matter.
Reached after the meeting, village attorney Alex Betke said if such a suit were filed, he believes the Planning Board would lose. He cited a recent Supreme Court decision, Texas Department of Housing v. Inclusive Communities Project, which centered on the federal Fair Housing Act. According to CNN, the ruling concluded, “the law allows not only claims for intentional discrimination but also, claims that cover practices that have a discriminatory effect, even if they were not motivated by an intent to discriminate.”