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Judge Dismisses Conifer's Lawsuit Against New Castle

Conifer Realty's proposed development site in Chappaqua.
Conifer Realty's proposed development site in Chappaqua. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- Conifer Realty was dealt a defeat in its lawsuit against the town of New Castle when a state Supreme Court judge ruled on Wednesday to dismiss the case.

Conifer, the developer for a proposed 28-unit affordable-housing structure in Chappaqua, filed suit against the town in February over the timing of when its special permit for the project is set to expire.

The developer argued that the permit, which the New Castle Town Board approved in September 2013 by a 3-2 vote, lasts for 25 years based on the town's code that covers workforce-housing.

New Castle argues that the permit was only good for 18 months and subject to an extension request. The town has argued that the 18-month period, which applies to special permits in general, covers construction, while the 25-year period covers the operation of the structure as workforce housing. The town has also noted that the 25-year time frame falls under standards that are in addition to the general language for special permits.

The judge, Charles Wood, made a clear ruling in the town's favor on the time period matter.

"A simple review of the Town Code makes it clear that the Town's interpretation of its code is the correct one," Wood writes.

Wood also delivered a rebuke to Conifer's argument of applying a 25-year minimum, calling it "absurd on its face."

Criticizing the application of a 25-year period, Wood added, "It would virtually guarantee that the project site and its relationship to the surrounding properties would materially change."

Reacting to the ruling, Town Attorney Edward Phillips said that the town is "pleased" with the judge's ruling.

Phillips added that Conifer could appeal the decision and has about a month to do so.

Daily Voice has reached out to Randolph McLaughlin, who is Conifer's attorney, for comment.

The project is called Chappaqua Station and would be located at 54 Hunts Place, a site that is roughly a third of an acre and located near Metro-North train tracks and the Saw Mill River Parkway. The site has come under criticism from some residents who argue that there would be a safety problem.

Under the 18-month timeline, the permit was to have expired in March. However, the court issued a ruling in February that blocked expiration. In his Wednesday ruling, Wood said that if Conifer seeks an extension within 20 days, the town has agreed that the permit will not lapse while the request is pending before the Town Board.

Previous coverage of the lawsuit is available here.

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