Twenty-three residents, who are impacted by the flood zoning, filed the lawsuit against the New Paltz Town Board, on Sept. 25 with the State of New York Supreme Court in Ulster County claiming that the laws are “arbitrary and capricious.” Neighbors also complained that the Town Board did not “take a hard look” at potential environmental impacts the law might create and also accused them of ignoring “potential economic hardship to property owners within the area of special flood concern.”
New Paltz’s new flood law, which followed on the heels of a floodplain building moratorium, prohibits subdivisions in areas of special flood concern, and it focuses primarily on a section of Springtown Road between Dug Road and Cragswood Road west of the Wallkill River.
“We asked the board not to pass this unnecessary law; then we asked them to repeal it. Their arrogant desire for control prevents them from listening to the very people they are oppressing with this dictatorial law. They just don’t care whose lives they affect,” said Bob Gabrielli, a petitioner on the lawsuit.
Town Supervisor Toni Hokanson said that the Article 78 had been “referred to our attorney” and said that she believes that the town’s law will “stand up in court,” and that it was passed, unanimously, after “much discussion, deliberations, public hearings,” because “it addresses public health and safety.”
She went on to say that “the flooding in that area has only gotten worse, not better, and I don’t want to put any more residents in harm’s way, nor do I want to put any of our emergency service workers and volunteers in more harm’s way.”
Councilman Jeff Logan said that he felt “saddened that these residents would move so quickly towards legal action. From the very first time when they approached us, they said they would file a lawsuit. We’d been working on this for months, under the advice of our engineer, our attorney, our supervisor and we held public hearings, which directly impacted our revision of the law,” Logan said. “After it was passed these residents came to us and said they would sue us.”
The councilman said that at that point the Town Board -- threatened with legal action -- could not have an honest discourse with those in opposition to the law. “We’re a small community and many of these people I grew up with and deeply respect. I would much rather have a civil discourse with them and work together to strengthen our zoning than waste taxpayers’ dollars with a lawsuit.”
The petitioners and their supporters have said that they will continue to come to Town Board meetings, showing their solidarity by wearing the same colored shirts, and express their ongoing opposition to the law. They have said many times that the law has a negative economic impact on them, and some have said it precludes them from being able to subdivide property for their family. Others in the Red Shirt group have stated, as the lawsuit does, that there was not enough research done, nor proof that the floods cause public harm or safety to enact such zoning.
Ray Lunati has been one of the most vocal residents in opposition to the town’s floodplain zoning. He’s also listed as one of the petitioners of the Article 78. “I’ve been asking them for a year not to pass this law and they didn’t listen,” said Lunati. “I guess you listen to lawyers? That was the only action they left us with.”
The petitioners are being represented by Salvatore D. Ferlazzo of Girvin & Ferlazzo, P.C. based in Albany.