Greens at Chester developers settle federal discrimination claims against Orange County
CHESTER - The developers of the 431-home Greens at Chester project have agreed to a partial settlement of their federal discrimination lawsuit that would end their claims against Orange County but not those against the Town of Chester.
Under a 21-page settlement approved by a judge on Monday, county officials agreed to defer any decisions about the quality and adequacy of the development's wells to two state agencies, without influencing that evaluation. They also pledged to accept wastewater from the project at the county-owned treatment plant in Harriman if Chester has enough remaining allotment at the plant.
Except for an agreed-upon letter from the county health commissioner to affirm the project, "the County acknowledges that The Greens Development is fully approved by the County with respect to any approvals it has the power to grant," the settlement read.
Construction at The Greens at Chester housing construction site in Chester on Sept. 18, 2020.
Under the terms, County Executive Steve Neuhaus and the county government admitted no wrongdoing and paid no damages to the developers.
Filed in July 2019, the lawsuit contended that town and county officials had obstructed the development plans to prevent an influx of Hasidic families, in violation of the Constitution and Fair Housing Act. State Attorney General Letitia James later joined the case in support of the developers.
Town officials deny the discrimination clams and say they denied the developers building permits because their house sizes exceeded what the town approved. They issued permits for a pair of attached houses in September — the first homes in the development to be started — after the developers posted an $11 million bond for infrastructure.
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The settlement Judge Philip Halpern approved on Monday requires the county to respond within 30 days to the developer's applications for a "potential bathing or swimming facility." County officials also pledged to answer within 20 days any correspondence from the developers or their consultants and respond to any phone calls within two days.
Jehuda Landau, managing member of the Greens at Chester LLC, and Neuhaus signed the proposed settlement last week before it was filed in court on Friday.
The developers' claims against town officials are still pending in court. Livy Schwartz, one of the developers, told the Times Herald-Record on Monday that the town has now issued permits for seven homes in all, six of which are under construction.
A notice last month from the state Department of Environmental Conservation indicated the developers had applied to drill two additional wells.