Lawsuit claims village owns parcel approved for home
One fact is indisputable about 13 Gate House Road in Nelsonville: 35 years ago, Harold Lyons applied to the Planning Board to subdivide a parcel into four lots, with one designated for use as a public park.
Whether the village ever took or rescinded ownership of the park is at the heart of a lawsuit filed March 23 by the owner of a neighboring property.
Marc Kushner, who lives on Wood Avenue, claims in documents filed in state court that the ongoing construction of a 5,870-square-foot residence on the Gate House Road site is illegal because the parcel is restricted to use as a village park.
Kushner is disputing a determination by Planning Board Chair Steve Marino that Nelsonville refused to accept the property from Lyons. Kushner said he and his attorney could find no record of the Village Board taking a vote on the matter.
Along with Marino, the lawsuit, filed in Putnam County Supreme Court, names the village and Planning Board; John Duggan, who paid $275,000 for the Gate House Road parcel in December 2018; and William Bujarski, who as Nelsonville’s building inspector issued a construction permit.
Kushner is asking a judge to prohibit further construction and rule that the restriction can only be removed by a vote of the Village Board and the consent of the people who own houses on the three residential lots created by Lyons’ subdivision.
The roots of the dispute date to 1987, when Lyons, said Kushner, received approval from the Planning Board to subdivide 9.44 acres used for his soil-mining operation into four lots: three residential and a fourth of 4.84 acres “proposed as open space for parks and playground.”
The property at 13 Gate House Road was designated as a “reserve area,” according to a map filed with the Putnam Clerk’s Office on June 9, 1987. The minutes for the May 21, 1987, meeting of the Planning Board cited Lyons’ request for the subdivision, pending the payment of fees and transfer of the title. Lyons provided $4,500 to be held in escrow.
Kushner said in the lawsuit that while it appears the deposit was returned to Lyons, it is unclear if a deed for the parcel was ever given to the village. However, he noted that the 1991 master plan references village ownership “a 4-acre tract near Wood Avenue to be developed for a village park.”
Kushner said that while then-Mayor William Merando wrote Lyons in March 2000 to tell him that Nelsonville was unable to accept the lot to create a park, he could find no record of the Village Board formally rejecting the gift.
On June 24, 2021, in a letter addressed to “whom it may concern,” Marino, the Planning Board chair, said the property “is considered a buildable, residentially-zoned vacant lot.”
He acknowledged the existence of the 1987 subdivision map but described it as “preliminary” and said the village had later deemed the property “undesirable and unacceptable for use as a park.” He added that the Planning Board would work with its owner to file an amended map without the “reserved area.”
A day later, Bujarski issued a building permit. Construction began in August, said Kushner.