Several Yorktown residents have sued the town for approving an allegedly secret site plan for a garden center they have been fighting for years.
The 13 neighbors also named Yorktown Garden Supply and owners George and Francine Hirsch in the Jan. 20 complaint filed in Westchester Supreme Court.
“This is a case about the town board catering to special interests,” the complaint states, “by illegally granting site plan approval to Garden Supply in a clandestine manner.”
Town Attorney Adam Rodriguez responded in a brief telephone interview that the site plan was part of a legal settlement “approved by the previous administration and presented and reviewed and so-ordered by Judge George Fifidio. Now there’s a binding court order governing resolution of the matter.”
Yorktown Garden Supply and its neighbors have been at odds for years.
The Gomer Street business sells bulk landscape supplies, such as mulch and gravel. It is surrounded by houses in a residential zone that does not allow commercial operations.
The business is classified as a nonconforming use, or as the Hirsches say in a related court filing, “a legal” nonconforming use.
The neighbors’ complaint cites zoning violations from 2016 to 2018 for excessive noise, failure to get a building permit for renovations and “illegal expansion of nonconforming uses without site plan approval.”
The Hirsches had sued Yorktown last year to stop the town from prosecuting the alleged illegal expansion of the business. It has been operating since the 1940s, their complaint states, and the Hirsches have been doing business there since 1986.
For years, they claim, Yorktown has failed to explain how the business has expanded illegally.
The real issue, according to the Hirsches’ lawsuit, is that Yorktown abused its discretion by accusing the business of code violations based on false claims lodged by neighbors.
The town board determined that it was in its “best interest … to settle this matter and avoid prolonged costly litigation,” according to a resolution enacted on Sept. 24.
Yorktown and the Hirsches had negotiated a settlement.
The Hirsches would install fencing, adhere to parking restrictions and drop its lawsuit. The town would drop its code violation case and the proceeding would be “sealed.”
The Hirsches also agreed to complete a site plan by today, Jan. 30.
The plan, according to the town board resolution, would become “the agreed upon site plan for the premises” and all parties would be bound by it.
The site plan, the neighbors claim, is illegal.
A state-mandated environmental review was not done. The planning board has not reviewed the plan. No public hearing was held. The town board’s resolution was not listed on the Sept. 24 agenda. The board’s determination was not publicly disclosed until the meeting minutes were published. The neighbors were unable to get a copy of the board’s determination, despite “numerous written requests,” for months.
The neighbors are demanding that the court annul the board’s determination and declare it as “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion lacking substantial evidence.”
Rodriguez said the court-ordered settlement is not discretionary; the dispute is “really a closed matter.”
The site plan, he said, would essentially memorialize the existing layout of the property. The fencing would be a new feature, but fencing is exempt from the environmental review process.
The neighbors include Beth-Ann and Jason Permuy, Mary and James Murphy, Negjip and Fatlume Bakraq, Ruby Schuberg, Mary and David Craig, Stephanie and Patrick Smith, and John and Roopal Carbo.
They are represented by attorney Michael V. Caruso of Brewster.