Friday, September 16, 2011

North Elba Boathouse Cases Heat Up (amended)

A federal court judge this week dismissed civil rights claims in a case arising from a planning board decision to modify plans for a proposed boathouse on Mirror Lake in the Village of Lake Placid.

This is the second legal challenge in the past year to the authority of Lake Placid/North Elba’s Joint Review Board to regulate boathouse construction. Both challenges have been shepherded by Lake Placid Attorney James Brooks.

Chief United States District Court Judge Norman Mordue on Wednesday dismissed all charges that the community’s planning board violated the United States Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection when it required a private property owner, developer Keith Stoltz, to shorten the length of the dock he sought to build behind his Main Street storefront. The court also remanded an Article 78 challenge of the review boards’ procedures to state court.

On August 23rd, in a separate boathouse case litigated by attorney Brooks, acting New York State Supreme Court Judge Richard Meyer issued a summary judgment supporting Mr. Brooks’s argument that municipalities have no regulatory authority over boathouses built entirely above navigable waters. Mr. Brooks, who is Judge Meyer’s former law partner, contended that the state Department of Environmental Conservation has the sole responsibility to permit and regulate such shoreline-adjacent construction throughout the state.

Attorney and SUNY Albany School of Law Dean Michael Hutter and attorney for the Town of North Elba Ron Briggs have appealed Judge Meyer’s decision as well as a number of the jurist’s intermediate procedural orders. Arguments in the case will be heard by the Supreme Court’s Third Appellate Division in Albany by year’s end.

Also on August 23rd, in related criminal indictments handed up by the Essex County Grand Jury, general contractor Dan Nardiello of Lake Placid and builder Robert Scheefer of Saranac Lake were arraigned on misdemeanor charges of construction without a building permit. The property owner William Grimditch of Lake Placid was subsequently arraigned on the same charges. Judge Meyer will hear the cases against the three men—all represented by attorney Brooks—later this Fall.

Disclosure: Adirondack Almanack contributor Mark Wilson serves as President of the Lake Placid Shore Owners’ Association. The Association has filed a friend of the court brief supporting North Elba’s appeal of Judge Meyer’s decisions.

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Mark Wilson's editorial cartoons - under the pen name MARQUIL - appear in newspapers and online across New York State. He also provides editorial illustrations and occasional commentary pieces for The Sunday Gazette of Schenectady and regularly chimes in here at the Almanack, particularly at election time and during the annual Adirondack Bracket. Mark lives in Saranac Lake.




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