LIBERTY – By a 3-2 vote, the Town Board of Liberty voted down a proposed resolution that, if passed, would have green-lit the progression of the Lake Hills Estates Planned Use Development (PUD) …
LIBERTY – By a 3-2 vote, the Town Board of Liberty voted down a proposed resolution that, if passed, would have green-lit the progression of the Lake Hills Estates Planned Unit Development (PUD) project onto the Planning Board at their meeting on December 4.
Those who voted against the resolution, ultimately shutting down the application, included Board members Brian McPhillips, Vincent McPhillips and John Lennon Jr.
Town Supervisor Frank DeMayo and Board member Dean Farrand voted in favor of the resolution.
Prior to the vote, the Supervisor noted one of his reasons for supporting the resolution was the town’s need for a bump in generate revenue and a break on the taxpayer’s burdens.
The McPhillips’ both stated their reasons for voting no. Two of those reasons included their shared belief that there was insufficient information provided at the current stage of the development’s application, as well as their belief that the PUD-style was not being used as it was intended to be used when it became part of the Town Code in 1987.
Additionally, Vincent used his speaking time to address other related issues and rumors. He ensured that no one on the board has accepted any graft for their vote on the matter. He also confirmed that he was not asked to walk the property alongside other Town Board members.
Vincent noted that despite his voting no, the development would bring in benefits to taxpayers of the town.
“[The development] would have a benefit because it would bring tax revenue, [and] because of the way this board gives out bonuses and raises to themselves, we need that tax revenue,” Vincent said.
The Town Board recently approved the 2024 Final Budget in a 3-2 vote, which gave the Town Supervisor Frank DeMayo a $35,000 raise and his Confidential Secretary Nick Rusin a $20,000 raise for his employment as a grant writer for the town. It also created a salaried Liberty Parks and Recreation Department position of $41,000 that will incur a tax rise of 1.3 percent on top of a 0.3 percent increase additionally approved by the board.
Vincent continued to say that if the developers were to return later in the future with answers to the questions and concerns, he may reconsider his vote. Following Brian and Vincent, Lennon’s announcement to vote against the resolution cemented the Board’s decision to deny the application.
“I read over [the laws] and spent a lot of time thinking about this, and looking at the zoning. In 1987, it was a whole different world here,” Lennon said. “I read that PUD law and Article IV, and Article IV is very vague…The way I see it, I am not really in favor of it.”
Farrand, a Planning Board veteran of six years, noted that after reviewing all the documents, feedback and provided information, he believed the sketch plan of the project did indeed meet the required merits to move forward to the Planning Board. With no further discussion, a roll call vote was initiated by Supervisor DeMayo, where the application was officially denied with three no votes and two yes votes.
“I would personally like to thank the public for attending these meetings and for rendering your opinions, and I think throughout this process it has been a healthy discussion,” DeMayo said.
Supervisor DeMayo then motioned to direct the Town’s Legal Council, Ken Klein, to draft a resolution of a local law that would place a moratorium on any further PUD projects within the town for a three month period effective immediately. The motion passed unanimously with the intent to allow further in-depth review of Town Code section 147-23. According to Klein, as the current PUD application failed, any new PUD applications submitted by the developers would fall under the moratorium.
After brief discussion, the motion to draft the moratorium resolution was passed by the Town Board unanimously. The motion also allows three additional three month extensions of the moratorium.
As it stands, there remains zero PUD applications ever approved or built within the Town of Liberty’s history.
The now denied Lake Hills Estates PUD was slated to be at the corner of Kelly Bridge Road and Route 55, and was set to span 79.8 acres, with an anticipated installation of 90 duplexes (180 units) of two-story buildings. Some of these homes were expected to be two bedrooms and some three bedrooms. The development would have had three proposed wells and would have used roughly 55,000 to 60,000 gallons of water per day.
The Town Board voted to adjourn their regular meeting without any further discussion.
Public shows out in force
Joining the crowd of dozens of Liberty residents who held up signs displaying their opposition to the PUD project, a number of public commenters thanked dissenters for the dismissal of the project.
Harriet Dorfman, an Orthodox Jewish woman who had previously stated her dissatisfaction with the project, reminded those in attendance that Board Member Brian McPhillips’ election to county government could have a possible impact on the sway of the board come January 1.
Prominent public voice against the project, Cora Edwards of Swan Lake, expressed her gratitude for the denial of the application, which has been under discussion since May.
“The fact that there’s some brakes on this runaway train is due to everyone who has come here [to oppose the project] and for you [on the Town Board] who have represented the people who have voted for you,” Edwards said.
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