MONROE - The builder of the 181-home Smith Farm development on Gilbert Street has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Village of Monroe of hindering the project to try to thwart an influx of Hasidic families.
The 79-acre housing site falls in both the Town of Monroe and the Village of Monroe, and a few dozen homes have been built or are under construction on both sides of the border. The lawsuit is directed solely at the village, which had a long-running conflict with the developer - known as BMG Monroe I LLC - over several design issues and won a state court case that BMG brought on that matter.
The developer has now cast the dispute as part of a larger pattern in Orange County of municipal leaders trying to block housing for the growing Hasidic community, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. BMG is seeking an unspecified amount in damages from the Village of Monroe in a case filed last week in U.S. District Court in White Plains.
“The Village has done nothing but obstruct, frustrate, and delay the completion of the Project on constantly changing, superficial grounds, all designed to promote the Village's long-standing scheme to keep out the Hasidic Jewish community, at all costs,” BMG's lawyers wrote.
Richard Golden, the attorney for the Village of Monroe, disputed BMG's discrimination claims on Wednesday, saying the village had denied building permits only when the developer's construction plans deviated from the approved designs. Permits were then issued when BMG complied with the approvals.
“There is no action that the Village of Monroe has taken that is discriminatory in motive, whether it be against the Hasidic community or any other person,” Golden said.
BMG already has started 27 of the 44 homes planned for the village, but hasn't put siding on most of them yet because that is one of the lingering design disputes. The developer wants to use vinyl siding, while the village argues that the approved plans for the project allowed only other types of siding.
About 14 other structures - both single-family homes and duplexes - have been built or are under construction on the 60 acres in the Town of Monroe, and one of those homes has been issued a certificate of occupancy, town Supervisor Tony Cardone said on Wednesday. A total of 137 units are planned for the town side.