2016-11-17 / Front Page

Heated zoning board meeting over Indian Crossing project

Lawyers battle it out with board

Christopher Modeleski, the attorney for owners of Indian Crossing development, presents the Babylon Village Zoning Board of Appeals with documents to show that his client is not required to maintain the existing historical home on the site. Residents disagreed.Christopher Modeleski, the attorney for owners of Indian Crossing development, presents the Babylon Village Zoning Board of Appeals with documents to show that his client is not required to maintain the existing historical home on the site. Residents disagreed.by Carolyn James

A bevy of attorneys representing the developers of Indian Crossing in Babylon Village, and the owners of a newly constructed home on that site, presented their clients’ cases to the Babylon Village Zoning Board of Appeals last week. They cited legal precedent and alleged mishandling of critical documents by Village employees, stopping short of threatening to sue the Village for failing to protect the property rights of the owners. The site is located on Deer Park Avenue and Ketawamoke avenues.

The application by Indian Crossing was to reverse the decision by the Village’s building inspector denying a building permit to erect a single family dwelling at 527 Deer Park Avenue, and/or to amend a decision by the Village requiring that the owners preserve an existing 200-year-old home on the site, known locally as the David Smith home, a revolutionary war hero.

But a demand by the attorneys for the owners of the home at 521 Deer Park Avenue added drama to the meeting, which lasted almost four hours. They told the zoning board that their client, Scott Fernan, had purchased the home in good faith after receiving a certificate of occupancy from the Village. Acting on that, and an email from the Village building inspector Steve Fellman that there were no other outstanding issues, the Fernan’s entered into a sale of contract and purchased the home. Following that, however, the Village amended that certificate of occupancy adding that it required that the historical home be preserved and allegedly never notified the owner.

“Clearly this second CofO, which was backdated and drawn up without notifying my client, is unconstitutional and deprives my client of his property rights,” said Richard Fernan, an attorney and the father of the homeowner.

 The attorney for the Frank and Chase Ognibene, the developers, presented more than 20 documents to the zoning board in a lengthy presentation outlining why the building inspector erred in his denial of the application and making the case that building a replica of the historical home was the better alternative.

Zoning Board chairman Bruce Humenik pointed out several times during the meeting that the Village proceeded on the basis of site plans presented by the developer when they applied for a subdivision that showed that the home was to be moved and kept on the site.

The applicants also presented testimony from construction and real estate experts that said the home would not withstand being lifted and moved and that even it were, the cost of refurbishing it would not be financially feasible to the developer.

 “A replica would recreate that historical house and not be detrimental to the community,” said John Breslin Jr., a real estate broker. 

Residents waited patiently for all of the attorneys and experts to give testimony, then spoke about the importance of preserving the village’s historical homes, the offensive nature of proposing to put up a replica and the owner’s effort to renege on a promise he made to them to preserve the home. Some residents also said that they did not care how the Village proceeded, as the development would be completed.

“I live four blocks away and I see a fence there, and overgrown grass and I don’t see how the village cannot give them (the developers) a permit to get this finished,” said Joseph Hubbard. “It’s an eyesore.”

 “I live in a 300-year-old home and it has been moved more than once,” said resident Mary Gallagher, a member of the Historical Preservation Conservancy (HPC), which has lobbied to save the home. “This was the home of David Smith who fought in the American Revolution and it deserves to be saved.”
Gallagher also refuted the comments of the expert who estimated the cost of the restoration saying that cost included work required only if the owners were accepting money from the state or federal government to restore the home.

“We have seen our historical Village disappear before our eyes,” said Stanis Beck, another member of the HPC. “A replica does not preserve our history.”

“I don’t think anyone in Babylon says we need more modern places,” said Mary Cascone, an historian with the Town of Babylon and a Village resident.

Humenik said the board had a lot of work to do before it even begins to consider the application. Board attorney David Roth said he could not immediately comment on the hearing.

Watch upcoming print edition of the Beacon for more on this story. 

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