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Watertown housing developer sues Pamelia, Supervisor Longway for $3.5 million

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A Watertown developer has filed a $3.5 million lawsuit against the town of Pamelia and its supervisor, Lawrence C. Longway, claiming Mr. Longway has repeatedly stymied construction plans for 53 single-family townhouses on Route 37.

AYDM Associates Inc., whose principal is Guy H. Javarone, filed action Wednesday in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, alleging, among other things, that Mr. Longway has used his elected position to undermine completion of the 53-unit Emerald Acres project because Mr. Longway owns a competing 46-lot single-family home development off Route 342.

AYDM Associates contends that it has met all of the conditions required by the town to complete the project, but that the town has been slow to reciprocate and now refuses to issue any more certificates of occupancy for buildings under development. The company maintains that its project is being held to different standards than others underway within the town, including Mr. Longway’s.

Mr. Javarone “has been held to a standard that nobody else has ever been held to,” his attorney, L. Michael Mackey, Albany, said Thursday.

The lawsuit is the latest volley in a dispute between Mr. Javarone and Mr. Longway, who was ordered by a state Supreme Court judge in Herkimer County in April 2012 to have no further involvement with the AYDM Associates’ project because of the potential conflict of interest. Mr. Longway said Thursday he has had no involvement with the project for more than a year, referring additional questions about the suit to Town Attorney David A. Renzi, who was unavailable for comment.

Mr. Mackey said that when Mr. Javarone was preparing to apply for subdivision approval for the Emerald Acres site, Mr. Longway “attempted to talk him out of pursuing it,” offering instead to sell him his own approved project. However, Mr. Mackey said, the proposed sale price Mr. Longway cited “greatly exceeded” the fair market value of the property, and Mr. Javarone declined the offer.

“Once Mr. Javarone turned that down and proceeded with his own project, essentially (Mr. Longway) has done everything he can to try to thwart it,” Mr. Mackey said.

According to the complaint, AYDM Associates submitted an application in August 2010 to the Planning Board for 60 single-family homes on the 5-acre parcel, with the site being served by municipal water and sewer systems. The following month, the company submitted a revised application for 60 single-family townhouses and in October 2010, the board granted final approval for 53 townhouses, subject to several conditions, each of which AYDM contends has been met.

The 24-page lawsuit outlines several subsequent roadblocks the town allegedly placed in front of the project’s completion, including a letter from Kris D. Dimmick, the town’s engineer, that sought to compel more than 40 changes to the Planning Board’s final approval of the project, such as a change in the design of a private road and the relocation of water and sewer lines. It is claimed that Mr. Dimmick issued the letter at Mr. Longway’s direction.

It further is claimed that AYDM Associates needed to submit applications and engineered plans to the state Department of Health for approval of a proposed public water system and to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for approval of the proposed sewer service to the development. At a Town Council meeting in April 2011, the company asked Mr. Longway to sign the applications, which it maintains was “ministerial,” but Mr. Longway refused. The company claims that the supervisor’s refusal “was without justification and improperly benefited” Mr. Longway’s competing development. It is claimed that Mr. Longway also refused to supply the Development Authority of the North Country needed information about the town’s water supply capacity.

That matter wound up in Supreme Court, with AYDM seeking a court order compelling the town to sign the documents. In addition to ordering the documents signed, a judge determined that the town board did not have the authority to amend or alter the Planning Board’s final approval of the project. It also was ordered that Mr. Longway no longer be involved with the project.

According to the suit, while 19 townhouses were under construction, the town tried to stop the project, claiming that its water and sewer systems were improperly installed. The town’s building inspector, Walter H. VanTassel, examined the work and determined that it was done consistent with approved plans and building codes and issued certificates of occupancy for three completed townhouses. It is alleged that at a Sept. 30 Town Council meeting, the board, at Mr. Longway’s direction, “retaliated” against Mr. VanTassel by eliminating his position, which he has held for 15 years. Mr. Longway said shortly after the meeting that having Jefferson County take over Mr. VanTassel’s duties at the end of the year would save the town money, with that being the reason the position was eliminated, not because of any personal vendetta over Emerald Acres.

At the same meeting, the town board dictated that Mr. VanTassel not issue any additional certificates of occupancy for Emerald Acres during his remaining tenure unless authorized to do so by a town board member. It is claimed in the suit that no other project, including Mr. Longway’s, has to obtain a board member’s approval to receive a certificate of occupancy.

The suit is seeking declaratory judgment finding that the town’s action violates AYDM Associates’ rights under the U.S. Constitution, including alleged selective enforcement and violation of due process claims, and a claim under state law for interfering with a contract. The suit also is seeking injunctive relief seeking an order that the town refrain from any further behavior complained about by AYDM Associates.

The suit further seeks $3.5 million in compensatory damages from the town and Mr. Longway, and unspecified punitive damages against Mr. Longway. Mr. Mackey said the delays in the project have caused construction costs to rise and that Mr. Javarone has incurred great expense trying to meet excessive town standards that other projects are not required to meet.

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