NYS AG Warns Forestburgh Township About Biased Zoning Laws

By Hamodia Staff

Site of proposed Lost Lake Resort.

New York State Attorney General Latitia James has sent a letter to Forestburgh Township warning that the town’s discriminatory zoning regulations they instituted recently, which apparently was done to prevent a Chassidish developer from building a pre-approved community of nearly 2600 homes is in violation of state laws.

The project, Lost Lake Resort, was originally begun by Double Diamond Companies in 2011 when the Sullivan County town granted a zoning change which would allow the company to build 2557 single unit houses along with cottages and condominiums and a golf course on 3.3 square miles in the town.

After investing millions of dollars preparing the infrastructure for the project, the company realized that they were not able to sell the units, and it sold the land, along with the pre-approved plans, to Rabbi Mordechai Zev Halberstam, who had the ability to sell the parcels to numerous chassidish families who were interested in developing a community in Sullivan County.

When the town began delaying the project with numerous roadblocks and added substantial fees, all geared to end the project, Rabbi Halberstam filed suit two years ago, suing for discriminatory practices. The Unite States Justice Department also sent a letter to the judge in that case informing him that they were of the opinion that it appeared that the towns actions violated federal law.

Recently the town enacted new rules which required that houses of worship obtain a larger parcel of land than similar secular structures, and required larger setbacks as well. These rules were enacted in secret without allowing outsiders to comment or attend, in violation of New York State Open Meetings laws.

On Friday, April 19, the office of Attorney General Latitia James sent a letter to the township informing them that they appeared to be in violation of the laws which prevent discrimination against houses of worship, as well as being in violation of the Open Meeting laws.

“We are glad that the New York State AG has looked into the what has transpired in the town of Forestburgh,” Matis (Abe) Rutner of Sullivan County JCC told Hamodia. “Together with the Justice Department, who has written to the judge concerning the Lost Lake law suit, we expect the township to conduct themselves in compliance with the law and treat us without any discrimination.”

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