MONROE - The Monroe Town Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to deny requests from five developers to exempt them from the town's building moratorium so they could proceed with construction of their housing projects.
Voting separately on each of the petitions, board members voted 4-0 in opposition to three of them and 3-0 against the other two, with one member absent and town Supervisor Harley Doles abstaining from two votes. Board members had met privately with their attorney, Dennis Lynch, to discuss threatened litigation by one of the developers' attorneys before they voted, but made no comment on the requests or their decisions as they announced them in quick succession.
The developers, who have approvals for 446 total homes in five development plans, had petitioned in May and June for exemption from the moratorium the Town Board imposed in April. The projects seeking waivers were the 181-home Smith Farm project on Gilbert Street; the 46-lot Shea Meadows and 49-lot Polak Farm plans on Rye Hill Road; the 55-lot Forest Edge project on Mountain Road, next to Kiryas Joel; and the 115-home Henry Farms subdivision plans on Lakes Road.
Ronald Kossar, the Middletown attorney representing the developers of Smith Farm and Forest Edge, said after Wednesday night's vote that his clients intend to sue Monroe for a massive amount.
"We will sue very vigorously," Kossar said. "In my view, it will expose the Town of Monroe and its counsel, individually, to damages that could approach over $100 million."
Councilman Tony Cardone said the board had rejected the waiver requests because all of the developers failed to demonstrate that delaying construction would cause them a severe financial hardship, which was the criterion in the moratorium law for allowing exceptions.
"The moratorium is in place to get things in order, not to benefit a developer," he said.
The board halted residential development in April to preserve the status quo while a planner reviews the town's Comprehensive Plan and zoning and recommends updates and improvements. Cardone and Councilman Mike McGinn said Wednesday that the board's consultant, Bonnie Franson, has made progress on her review and will soon schedule public sessions to solicit input on potential zoning changes. The moratorium, initially set for three months and later extended by another three months, is now set to expire around Nov. 4. The moratorium applies to all housing construction in the unincorporated town areas outside Monroe's three villages.