A controversial development plan that would adds hundreds of houses and condominiums on undeveloped land in Rockland County is bringing a state appeals court back to the bench in August.
The Appellate Division, Second Department, has agreed to hear arguments on Aug. 2 in 10 appeals related to a long-standing dispute between the Village of Pomona and the Town of Ramapo over development on some 200 acres known as Patrick Farm.
In a separate matter, the court also will hear 15 appeals on Aug. 23 arising out of mortgage foreclosure cases.
The unusual, but not unheard of exceptions to the Second Department’s summer calendar, in which oral arguments are typically not heard, is viewed as another “innovative way we can to get cases calendared and decided more quickly,” said April Agostino, clerk of the court.
“It would not be easy to fit them into our regular calendar, logistically, to have these 10 appeals, which are devoted to one set of litigants,” Agostino said of the Rockland County cases.
Agostino noted that there has been no recent marked increase in appeals handled by the Second Department, but that “volume” of work is always an issue. She said that in 2017, she expected the court would handle a similar load to 2016, in which it disposed of nearly 3,700 cases.
Presiding Justice Randall Eng scheduled the two sets of arguments in August, Agostino noted, at a time when normally only elections appeals would be heard.
The justices on each set of appeals, she added, were willing to devote extra time to the cases because “they understand the issue the court faces [with volume] and are willing to help.”
“This is novel that we’re having two calendars of this length,” Agostino said.
The foreclosure cases will be handled by Justices Reinaldo Rivera, Robert Miller, Joseph Maltese and Francesca Connolly, with Rivera presiding.
On the Rockland County appeals, all of which involve related cases but which have not been consolidated, Justice John Leventhal will preside and will be joined on the panel by Justices Leonard Austin, Jeffrey Cohen and Colleen Duffy.
The lawsuits, which date back to 2010 and continued to be filed until at least 2013, center on whether the Town of Ramapo legally altered the zoning that has allowed the project to progress.
The dispute largely pits Pomona and certain neighbors living close to the planned development against Ramapo, a developer, Scenic Development, and other owners of the land, Forty Six-Fifty Two Wadsworth Terrace Corp. and Newfield Estates.
Pomona and the neighbors contend that the area of Patrick Farm had long been zoned for one structure per acre, and that the changes to zoning made by Ramapo to fit some eight dwelling units per acre violated prohibitions agasinst altering zoning when it is not done in the public’s interest.
Pomona, which sits at the border of Patrick Farm, says that the intended development violates “spot zoning” rules and would change the character of a suburban area that generally has fewer homes and larger plots of land.
According to Pomona attorney Doris Ulman, the developer plans include 497 dwelling units, including 314 town houses, 72 condominium units, 24 rental apartments and 87 single-family homes.
“They’re putting high-density housing right in middle of a low-density zoning area,” she said, adding that environmental and safety concerns are also at issue.
But Alan Berman, first deputy attorney of Ramapo said, “All the approvals for zoning were valid. We took a hard look and there was executive review, and we think all the approvals were valid.”
Terry Rice, a lawyer for developer Scenic, could not be reached for comment.