Attorney to Lloyd Town Board: Just say no

By Mark Reynolds
Posted 7/29/20

Recently the Lloyd Town Board passed a resolution by a vote of 3-2 that granted a waiver from a town moratorium for an Assisted Living project that will allow it to go before the Planning Board for …

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Attorney to Lloyd Town Board: Just say no

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Recently the Lloyd Town Board passed a resolution by a vote of 3-2 that granted a waiver from a town moratorium for an Assisted Living project that will allow it to go before the Planning Board for site plan review. Supervisor Fred Pizzuto, Claire Winslow and Lenny Auchmoody voted yes while Councilmen Joe Mazzetti and Mike Guerierro voted no.

When the moratorium was approved in January by a vote of 4-1 Councilman Lenny Auchmoody was then the sole no vote. He said publicly that the town not only would be holding up these developers who had invested time and money in their projects but that they could file a lawsuit against the town.

Earlier this year when the Comprehensive Plan Committee was revising wording for the code specifically on retirement communities, the town’s Land Use Attorney Paul Van Cott told the Committee that the Town Board would still have the right to say no to a developer should they deem that a proposed project was not appropriate for a site. When asked if the Town Board was told that if they voted not to move the Assisted Living project forward that they could be sued by the developer, he said anything that was told to the Town Board by counsel was attorney-client privilege.

“We’re the attorneys for the town. We represent the town’s interests and our communications, to the extent that we have them with the Town Board, are privileged,” he said. “I’m not going to breech that confidence, that would be unethical on my part. I represent my client 100% and it’s important to maintain that confidentiality.”

Van Cott explained that the town still has the right to say no to a project.

“You first have a legislative process and you’re looking at a specific area of land and the Town Board, not the Planning Board, has to decide whether or not it wants to rezone that land,” he said. “That is a legislative decision that the Town Board has a lot of discretion on whether they want to do that, so that is the basis for my comments at the Comprehensive Plan Committee. If the Town Board decides that they do not want to rezone that land as someone is proposing, it doesn’t have to.”

Van Cott said this right, “gives the town quite a bit more leverage and discretion in terms of making sure that appropriate development is done in the right places in the town.”

Van Cott said lawsuits can be brought at any time, “but when it comes to legislative actions, towns have broad authority to make the decisions that they believe are necessary to protect the public health, welfare and safety and the courts don’t step into the shoes of those decisions.”

Van Cott explained that all of Sanderson’s six parcels, which comprise about 50 acres, were listed in the resolution to grant the waiver from the moratorium only to show all of the lands that he controls. Van Cott stressed that the resolution limits the developer to just the Assisted Living Facility close to Route 9W should the Planning Board approve its site plan.

“There is nothing more to it, that’s all it is,” he said. “Anything else for that property is speculative because they don’t know where the town is going to land relative to retirement communities in terms of regulation.”

Sanderson’s original proposal was not only for the Assisted Living facility but also to construct an Urgent Care facility, medical offices, 219 independent living housing units, two multi-family structures, a clubhouse a pool house, tennis courts and a community garden. Sanderson’s attorney, John Furst, has insisted in recent months, that his client is only seeking to build the Assisted Living Facility, but in a subsequent, on the record interview, said, “at some point in the future he’s gonna look to develop those other portions of the property like he originally did a year ago. It’s so uncertain at this point; we’re waiting to see what the town does with the rezoning.”

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