Town Board rejects Kent Manor sewage plant

(Original publication: September 27, 2005)

KENT — Residents last night appeared heartened when Town Board members said they wouldn't give their needed recommendation allowing a controversial townhome project to build a sewage treatment plant.

For many, that seemed to be the highlight of at least a 90-minute discussion about the project, known as Kent Manor.

About 80 residents packed Town Hall to express their fears. One fear is that the 303 townhomes proposed for 113 acres off Nichols Street would clog roads with traffic and endanger their water supplies.

Bell Rosenblatt said she moved to the Hill and Dale community around Palmer Lake 12 years ago to avoid the crowds and traffic in Queens. She said she was worried the townhomes, which would sit across Route 52 from Palmer Lake, would hurt her home's value.

"We wanted to get away from the city. I don't have a house in the Hamptons. This home is our future. This home is everything to us," Rosenblatt said.

The project has languished in litigation since it was approved in 1988. Kent Manor, long-dormant in the public's eye, was resurrected earlier this year when Mount Kisco-based lawyer Charles Martabano approached the town about settling the legal matters so his client, RFB, LLC, could build the project as approved.

The latest lawsuit, from 1999, accused Kent and New York City of extortion by not approving its participation in a special sewage-treatment plant program.

Like last night, the town said it wouldn't give the needed recommendation. Like much of Kent, the site sits in New York City's watershed.

Martabano and lawyers for the town and other parties in the litigation met recently with state Supreme Court Justice Andrew O'Rourke. He is reviewing the matter and is expected to issue a decision next month on whether the project can be built.

"The matter is in the hands of the court. The board is very limited in what it can say or do," Supervisor William Tulipane told the crowd before the discussion.

The board was forced to revise the meeting's agenda at the last minute because the development company that owns the land wasn't properly notified about the gathering. The meeting was no longer billed as a public hearing, which carries certain legal connotations, but residents were still allowed to speak.

The sometimes-raucous meeting included shouting between the Town Board and audience members, with some expressing dismay at weeks of closed-door executive sessions, legal meetings and other proceedings.

Like a few others, Nichols Street resident Michael Tierney asked why the dealings concerning the project weren't more transparent. He accused Tulipane of not informing other board members about scheduled executive sessions in a timely manner. Tulipane denied the accusations.

Many of the residents questioned whether environmental studies from almost 20 years ago were still valid. That sentiment was echoed by Chris Wilde, an attorney with the environmental group Riverkeeper, who called for a supplemental environmental review.

"If there ever was a project that required one before being approved, this is the one," he told the board.

Martabano couldn't be reached late last night. But in the past, he said his client would work with groups like Riverkeeper and any concerned agencies.


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Tuesday, September 27, 2005