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Amsterdam judge sues to halt senior housing project

Variance granted by city zoning board challenged

Thursday, July 25, 2013
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— The biggest development project currently planned for Amsterdam’s South Side is facing a legal challenge from a prominent neighbor — City Court Judge Howard Aison.

In a lawsuit filed June 27, Aison, acting as his own attorney, is targeting Vincent Fiorillo, head of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, and Deer Run at River Ridge LLC, a subsidiary of the River Ridge Living Center nursing home off Sandy Drive.

The Article 78 filing submitted in state Supreme Court in Montgomery County alleges the board failed to adequately review plans to develop new senior housing on property owned by River Ridge owners Susanne and Paul Guttenberg.

The roughly $25 million project would include a three-story assisted living facility with 120 beds on property just to the south of the existing River Ridge Living Center. The project received state Health Department approval at the end of 2012.

According to Paul Guttenberg, the new facility is expected to employ as many as 100 people, not including roughly 200 workers during construction.

He said the family also plans to move forward with dreams they had when they bought the facility from Montgomery County of building senior housing cottages with three or four units each. He said as many as four could be built in tandem with the assisted living facility.

Aison’s complaint stems from the location of property he owns — downhill and to the south of River Ridge.

“Drainage at this location is poor and water runoff due to the disturbance of the ground and the construction of buildings will significantly impact the real property [Aison owns],” the lawsuit states.

In an apparent effort to thwart the new construction, Aison contends in the lawsuit contends the zoning board should not have issued a use variance. It did so unanimously in early June.

Aison argues the board did no research and failed to gather information from Deer Run at River Ridge that would prove the city’s law requiring single-family homes in this zone prevents the developer from earning a “reasonable return” on its investment, which is necessary to justify the variance.

Aison contends the decision will create a hardship for him.

Amsterdam Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday, and Aison could not be reached.

Guttenberg said Wednesday the path of stormwater and drainage is taken into account with building projects. He said he’s turned over paperwork to lawyers and is forging ahead with building plans.

 
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