White Lake, NY – The Town of Bethel and a Hasidic group continue to fight over a controversial shul on Schultz Road — and a judge was once again called on Thursday to end a standoff between the two sides.
Attorneys gathered before Judge Frank LaBuda, who previously allowed the group to use the building for the summer after touring the facility in July.
Once again, LaBuda sided with the United Talmudical Academy, ordering the town to lift the stop-work order and allow the group to finish work on the shul and community center.
LaBuda’s decision allows the group to meet an Aug. 28 deadline to meet stormwater standards, for which the Department of Environmental Conservation has cited UTA.
Bethel issued a stop-work order on Aug. 7, saying the UTA was using a mikvah — a ritual bath — and bathrooms that were deemed off-limits, and was doing work in the parking lot.
In July, LaBuda allowed the UTA to use the upper floors of the building for six weeks for religious purposes only, but not the lower floor. Attorney Henri Shawn, who represents the UTA, asked the judge to lift the latest order. He argued the town wasn’t letting the group finish the project.
While granting them the use of the building and saying they can continue working, LaBuda ordered the UTA to submit plans certified by an engineer by Sept. 30. The town says plans the UTA has filed are inadequate.
LaBuda will later decide if the project needs Planning Board oversight. The town wants the UTA to submit an engineering report and do traffic and other environmental studies, said Bethel Supervisor Daniel Sturm.
The controversy has prompted Bethel to conduct an internal probe of its building department. Town attorneys believe building inspector Tim Dexter made a mistake in granting a building permit. Sturm said that investigation should be completed in a week.