MAHOPAC, N.Y.— An Article 78 lawsuit has been filed against a local developer and the Carmel Zoning Board of Appeals demanding that a series of variances issued for a mixed-used project that would include retail space and a housing development on the Mahopac-Somers border be annulled.
An Article 78 is part of the state’s Civil Practice Law and Rules, which allows citizens to challenge decisions of administrative agencies such as the ZBA.
The suit was filed on Thursday, Feb. 16, by Michael Barile, a longtime Mahopac resident, businessman and developer. Barile told Mahopac News earlier this year that he intends to seek the Republican nomination to run for Town Board in November.
Barile is questioning variances issued by the ZBA for a project known as Union Place, which has been proposed by Baldwin Hills Realty LLC. That corporation is part of Camarda Realty Investments, which is owned by local developer Paul Camarda.
The property in question is located at 150 Route 6 near Baldwin Hills Road.
The lawsuit states that the project calls for the construction of new buildings with just over 1 million square feet on approximately 290 acres for retail and retail service space, community space, a corporate park, a hotel and 180 residential rental units.
Court documents state that Baldwin Hills Realty originally created a legal two-lot commercial 12.9 acre subdivision on one of six contiguous parcels. Shortly thereafter, the documents contend, Camarda obtained site-plan approval and started construction of a bank branch on one of the lots. In 2016, the suit says, Camarda reapplied to the Carmel Planning Board to re-subdivide the same parcel, reduce the size of both commercial lots so they become non-conforming, create a new entrance way, and add a new 172-acre parcel located to the west.
The suit goes on to contend that Camarda planned for a large multifamily housing development on the 172-acre parcel and needed to provide access and egress through the previously approved two-lot subdivision. He also wanted to move certain amenities (a pond, walking path, bike path, comfort station) from the previously approved lot to the proposed multifamily development.
The Planning Board then recommended a zone change from commercial to multifamily to accommodate the developer. The ZBA granted area variances to create the two non-conforming commercial lots, one of which now has a building constructed on it, and an entrance way to the newly created but undesignated, lot.
Barile’s suit contends these proceedings were marked by “irregularities, procedural shortcuts, and a rush to accommodate the developer all while disregarding the applicable rules, regulations and code provisions and legitimate neighborhood concerns.”
The suit notes that on Nov. 3, Camarda told the ZBA that the proposed lot-line adjustment was under review by the Planning Board. Camarda sought approval for an adjustment for the two-lot commercial subdivision of the 12.93-acre parcel to reconfigure the commercial lots to accommodate their future improvements while merging the remaining acreage to the 172-acre parcel to the west in consideration of future development plans
“Of course, the Town Board, the Planning Board and [Camarda] planned a large multifamily housing project on the new 172-acre tract, but this was not mentioned,” the lawsuit states.
The suit contends the town attorney, town engineer, building inspector and ZBA failed to notice several impediments:
• There was no valid, existing “Baldwin Subdivision”—the plat was never filed and the conditional approval expired.
• Town code “lot-line adjustment” does not permit the creation of non-conforming lots; the reconfiguration of commercial lots for “future use;” the addition of land (172 acres) to an existing subdivision; or the “merger of remaining acreage” to another parcel.
The suit goes on to say that Camarda went back to the Planning Board Dec. 21, 2016, to obtain re-approval of the original “Baldwin Subdivision,” which had lapsed and for which no map had been filed. Nonetheless, the Planning Board voted to reapprove the expired subdivision as per the original conditional approval granted Aug. 16, 2015. However, the suit contends, this was an “approval” not a denial and did not constitute a “decision” appealable to the ZBA.
The next night, the suit states, Camarda returned to the ZBA requesting the area variances but there were several impediments:
There was no board “action” to appeal. Since the original subdivision approval had lapsed, the proposed re-subdivision map rejected by the Planning Board on Sept. 28, 2016, was invalid. The Planning Board had no jurisdiction to “reject” the re-subdivision of a plat that had expired and did not exist. The Planning Board re-approval the night before was a different map, not the one appealed from, and was an approval, not a denial.
The application to the ZBA was incomplete. The map submitted to the ZBA did not show the entire proposed new subdivision and omitted lot#3 where the multifamily housing is planned. The ZBA was only informed about the creation of two new non-conforming lots and a “merger” of the entrance way and “lands to the west” with the Camarda’s other holdings. Nevertheless, the ZBA considered the application.
In his presentation, Camarda said he needed the “variances in order to provide amenities to the new multifamily development he is planning on the rear property. He also told the board that Putnam County wanted a new access to the William Koehler Senior Center located adjacent to the subdivision.”
The lawsuit goes on to say that, “Nearby residents expressed concern about the future use of the property, the planned multi-family housing development and the present traffic congestion in Baldwin Place. Several residents asked that the application be held over until January because many concerned homeowners were unavailable due to the proximity of Christmas. Their request for the adjournment was denied. After a presentation by [Camarda] and his engineer, the ZBA voted unanimously to grant the variances.”
The lawsuit contends that: the ZBA had no jurisdiction in the matter; the application to the ZBA was not complete; the application to the ZBA was in violation of the conditional approval; the necessary parties did not go before the ZBA, such as representatives from Putnam County; the ZBA lacked authority to grant a conditional variance; and the ZBA failed to make a SEQR determination.
Former Carmel Town Supervisor Frank Del Campo, who has been following the matter since the project was first proposed, said he and neighboring residents are concerned because of the impact the plan would have on its neighbors. He notes that the area where the Union Place project is planned has no viable sewer or water infrastructure. He said, in a recent letter to residents and the press, that neighboring properties are already suffering from water shortage and septic issues and Union Place would compound them. He also writes that it would negatively impact traffic issues along that stretch of Route 6.
“The state Department of Transportation has indicated to me…it has no intention of widening Route 6 now or in the near future,” he wrote. “Because of water, sewer and traffic issues in this area, any residential development would be devastating to the surround properties.
Del Campo is holding an informational meeting on the Union Place proposal at the Mahopac Library’s community room on Monday, March 6, at 7 p.m.
Mahopac News reached out to Camarda regarding the lawsuit and he agreed to an interview. We will publish his reaction to the suit in our March 2 issue.