Slingerlands lawyer sues city council for blocking Kenwood housing project


BETHLEHEM – A lawyer trying to build a new subdivision on 67 acres of former farmland off Kenwood Avenue is suing city council for denying its waiver request that would have allowed the project to go forward in amid the city’s temporary moratorium on residential construction.

The moratorium – which is in place as the city undergoes a 12-month review of its land use policies – is set to expire next month, though the board intends to seek a six-month extension which would keep the moratorium in place until June. .

Cardona Development Group, a real estate company owned by attorney Anthony Cardona Jr. of Slingerlands, wants to build a residential development that would include 12 traditional houses and 40 townhouses. He bought the site, which was once part of the historic Kleinke farm, several years ago for just under $ 1.5 million.

But his plans, and those of other residential developers, were put on hold in late 2020 when the city enacted the moratorium, which is permitted by state law when a city conducts a comprehensive land use study, as Bethlehem is now doing to ensure its zoning. town planning laws and regulations are in line with the citizens’ vision.

Cardona told city officials he has spent $ 2 million on the project so far, which includes the purchase price. Earlier this year, his development company, represented by lawyer Joseph Castiglione, requested a waiver so that the project could be reviewed by the Planning Council and move forward during the moratorium.

In July, the town planning council recommended to the city council to approve the derogation, saying the moratorium had caused undue financial hardship in Cardona and that the project was unlikely to have a negative impact on the new regulations in land use issues resulting from the comprehensive review process.

However, city council members disagreed with the town planning council’s recommendation and rejected Cardona’s waiver request on October 13, arguing that the project, and others suspended during the moratorium, must wait until the full land use review is complete, possibly by next summer. .

“It would undermine the intent and purpose of the waiver to allow such a significant development to move forward as we update our membership plan and zoning code,” Daniel said at the time. Coffey, member of city council.

On November 1, Castiglione filed a complaint with the Supreme Court of the State of Albany on behalf of the Cardona Development Group against the city and the city council. The lawsuit seeks to overturn the denial of waiver of this advice and to rule illegal the moratorium on residential construction in the city.

The lawsuit claims that several members of the city council had conflicts of interest when they voted to refuse the waiver and that they did not take into account the recommendation of the planning council.

“The city council ignored all of this,” Castiglione told The Times Union.

The alleged conflicts cited in the lawsuit include donations of $ 50 that two city council members made to a GoFundMe campaign organized by a member of the Kleinke family to buy the land in Cardona.

The other conflict cited was an effort five years ago by city supervisor David VanLuven to help a local group approach the former site owner Linda Dwyer, whose late husband was a member of the Kleinke family. , to buy it for agricultural purposes. VanLuven is a longtime consultant to non-profit and government organizations with expertise in environmental issues.

VanLuven and city council members named in the lawsuit referred Times Union questions to city attorney James Potter. Potter told The Times Union that neither the $ 50 donations, nor VanLuven’s meeting with the group interested in buying the package years ago, created any conflicts because neither of them would have derive financial benefit from their actions.

“He (VanLuven) had no financial interest in their plan and he would not realize any material benefit if they were successful,” Potter said. “State and local government officials frequently meet with businessmen seeking land for development as well as environmentalists seeking to preserve the land. These meetings do not create a conflict of interest ”.

Castiglione said he disagreed with Potter’s argument, saying the donations and the reunion helped city council members advance their political policies.

City council is planning a public hearing on November 23 to consider extending the moratorium on residential construction by six months until June.

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