Chris McKenna Times Herald-Record @ChrisMcKenna845
MONROE - Construction of the 181-home Smith Farm project on Gilbert Street is on hold again, this time because a building inspector has denied permits for dozens of houses after determining that the designs deviated from the approved plans.
Workers stripped the land in 2015 shortly after the longstanding development plans were approved, but the project first faced stop-work orders and then a moratorium on housing construction that the Monroe Town Board imposed in April 2016. The board later settled a federal lawsuit by the developer, BMG Monroe I LLC, by exempting Smith Farm from the moratorium, and construction of several homes has begun since that settlement was reached last June.
But the 79-acre site straddles the town and village of Monroe, and the village building inspector, James Cocks, said this week that he has denied permits for about 46 homes in the first project phase because the drawings didn't fully comply with what village officials approved. His Feb. 5 letter to Sam Weisner of BMG Monroe listed six ways in which the duplex designs differed from the 2015 approval or the document that concluded the environmental review in 2006.
Ronald Kossar, a Middletown attorney representing the developer, said BMG Monroe asked the village Zoning Board of Appeals to overrule Cocks, but also plans to submit revised plans to him for approval. He said two outstanding design issues involved alleged changes in roof lines and siding materials.
The developer will appeal again to the Zoning Board and then go to court if the revised designs are not approved, he said. All construction other than site preparation has stopped in the meantime, because the builder has agreed not to proceed with the 16 homes the town has so far permitted until the dispute with the village is resolved, Kossar said.
Other longstanding housing proposals have been free to proceed since November, when the Town Board ended its 19-month-long housing moratorium after approving a new Comprehensive Plan and zoning revision.
With the moratorium over, the Planning Board finally gave its blessing last month to Bald Hill Estates, a 138-townhouse project that developer Dubja Realty first proposed in 2000 and that got preliminary approval in 2010. The final approval was contigent on several conditions, such as Dubja Realty paying the town $1 million in parkland fees.
Other projects are free to advance but will likely remain on hold while the developers are suing the town in federal court.
Their lawsuits allege the board halted construction and altered the town's zoning to block housing for the Hasidic community. The developers are seeking damages and demanding the court annul the town's new restrictions on accessory apartments and its revised zoning, which they say have reduced the number of homes they could build.
The plaintiffs, all represented by same Albany law firm, have three approved projects with 135 total lots on Rye Hill Road - Polak Farm, Shea Meadows and Eagle Ridge - and one located off Lakes Road, 115-home Henry Farms.
Source : http://www.recordonline.com/news/20180420/181-home-smith-farm-project-in-monroe-on-hold