Orange County, NY – A plan to transform a long vacant 258 acre parcel of land in Orange County into a business development has been torpedoed once again, this time by a lawsuit filed by the Village of Kiryas Joel.
As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2eeayXp), Kiryas Joel village officials asked this past spring to be involved in the rezoning and redevelopment of Camp La Guardia, a former New York City homeless shelter located northwest of Kiryas Joel in Chester and Blooming Grove.
The Times Herald Record reported that the property was bought for $8.5 million in 2007 by Orange County, who then contracted with Scarsdale’s Mountco Construction and Development Corporation to build over 800 houses and 165,750 feet of commercial space on the site.
Those plans languished for years until Orange County finally paid Mountco $1.2 million to break the sales contract earlier this year, with the county announcing its intention to rezone the land in order to attract businesses to the site, a move that would bring more tax dollars into Orange County’s coffers.
The lawsuit, filed by Kiryas Joel on October 21st, asks that a zoning change from “office park” to “light industry” approved in June by the Town of Chester for the 60 acres of the site be annulled and that both Chester and Blooming Grove be prevented from taking any further action on the site until all environmental reviews have been completed.
A report that appeared in The Chronicle several years ago noted that development of the site would raise numerous environmental concerns including managing storm water which currently runs into wetlands and waterways, protecting air quality, trees and scenic views, creating additional sewer lines and significant increases in traffic.
Camp La Guardia is not the first major project in Orange County that has had Kiryas Joel officials taking action. The village submitted a FOIL request in June for information about the proposed Legoland theme park being built in nearby Goshen, noting that it wanted to make sure that zoning regulations are enforced equally throughout the county.
The Camp La Guardia lawsuit charges that Orange County and the towns and villages of Chester and Blooming Grove are deliberately trying to attract more business to the area in an attempt to prevent developers from erecting more housing that might serve Kiryas Joel’s burgeoning Chasidic community.
County executive Steve Neuhaus vehemently denied those accusations.
“This is the type of behavior that negatively impacts all Orange County taxpayers and is just one more reason why taxpayers feel abused by Kiryas Joel,” said Neuhaus. “The so-called poorest community in the nation tries to frustrate economic development by hiring high priced lawyers to keep this property from being put back on the tax rolls.”
Kiryas Joel officials responded by noting that it had been hit with legal actions numerous times by the county, leaving the village no choice but to hire an attorney.
“The county has sued Kiryas Joel on mulitple occasions to try to stop our community from serving the residents with water and residential officials,” said village officials. “KJ was forced to retain high priced lawyers to defend our right to clean drinking water and affordable housing.”