The controversial development of a parcel in Ramapo known as Patrick Farm was again the subject of recent appellate court decisions. The proposed development by the current owner seeks to build high-density, multifamily housing on 208 acres of woods off Routes 202 and 306 outside Pomona.

The lawsuits challenge the findings made by the Ramapo Town Board regarding the Patrick Farm proposal. On January 25, 2010, the Ramapo Town Board approved three separate resolutions regarding Patrick Farm. The first resolution was to amend the town’s zoning map to change the Patrick Farm property from zoning designation R-40 to MR-8.

R-40 zoning only allows for single family homes on 40,000 square-foot lots. MR-8 allows for multi-family housing on 8,000 square-foot lots.

The second resolution passed by the board was the adoption of the environmental study performed by the council pursuant to New York State Environmental Quality Review Act. The third resolution was to amend the town’s comprehensive plan to allow the proposed development to proceed.

In May 2010, Elizabeth Youngewirth, a resident who lives across the street from Patrick Farm, commenced a lawsuit seeking to challenge the board’s determinations leading up to the enactment of the local law and resolutions. The town sought to dismiss the lawsuit arguing that Youngewirth was precluded from challenging the findings, since she did not actively participate in the public hearings held by the town board.

In October, 2010, State Supreme Court Judge Linda Jamieson dismissed the lawsuit. Judge Jamieson held Youngewirth did not have legal standing to challenge the town board’s decisions. However, the appellate court reversed this finding and sent the matter back to court for a determination of the lawsuit.

In its decision, the Appellate Division, Second Department in Brooklyn found that Judge Jamieson improperly ruled that Youngewirth did not have standing to pursue the lawsuit. The court found that because the appellant lives in close proximity to the portion of the site that is the subject of the challenged determinations, she is legally an interested party with standing to file a suit.

Additionally, the appellate court found that the town failed to file the record of the town council’s proceedings with the Supreme Court in its papers submitted to Judge Jamieson. Therefore, the issues presented by the parties in connection with the town’s contention that the petitioner is precluded from maintaining this proceeding could not be resolved by the court.

Furthermore, the appellate court found that it was error for Judge Jamieson to reach the merits of the Youngewirth’s SEQRA challenge prior to the filing of the complete administrative record. In a related appeal, another resident brought a lawsuit challenging similar issues, but with a twist.

Sonya Shapiro, another resident living close to Patrick Farm filed a lawsuit making similar claims brought by Elizabeth Youngewirth, but also challenged that Patrick Farms could not be developed since it was dedicated park land. New York State law only allows for “alienation” of dedicated parkland if the State Legislature passes a law to the effect.

In July 2001, the Town Board of the Town of Clarkstown sold Patrick Farm to Scenic Development, LLC, the current owners. Judge Jamieson dismissed Shapiro’s claims, based upon the same findings as the related case. The judge also denied the parkland claim, finding that the applicable statute of limitations lapsed since the property was sold nine years before the Ramapo Town Board’s actions.

Both lawsuits were sent back to Rockland County Supreme Court for further proceedings. The Supreme Court must review the papers and determine if the Town of Ramapo fully complied with New York State law and whether to permit the development of Patrick Farm. Whichever way the Supreme Court ultimately rules, another appeal is likely.

The Rockland County Times will continue to monitor these lawsuits and report on the legal proceedings throughout the litigation.