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UMH voted down again, proceeding to litigation against Coxsackie

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    The Coxsackie Board of Trustees met on Thursday to vote on the proposed Mountain View Estates project pioneered by UMH. The board voted 4-1 to put the project into zoning code 87. This allows UMH to build 80 homes instead of 160, making the project unfeasible, Sam Landy, president and CEO of UMH, said.
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    The proposed plan for UMH’s Mountain View Estates at 25 Van Dyke St. UMH has been at odds with the village for 13 years. UMH is now intending to sue the village, alleging the village is changing zoning codes to prevent them from building their project.
January 12, 2018 11:30 pm

COXSACKIE — United Mobile Homes is planning to sue the village after its proposed factory-built home community hit another roadblock Thursday when the village implemented a new law.

The board voted to approve Local Law No. 6-A in a 4-1 vote, which repealed Local Law No. 4 of 2008 and replaced the “manufactured home park” category in section 155 of the town code with “mobile home park,” according to the resolution. The law will regulate the location, development and operation of mobile home parks in the village, according to the resolution.

The decision affected a 13-year struggle between UMH and Coxsackie that started when the company purchased a 110-acre parcel at 25 Van Dyke St. in 2005.

In 2006, the company proposed building 260 manufactured homes on the land to be named Mountain View Estates. Each home is proposed to be one or two stories, built on traditional concrete foundations, with attached two-car garages. The homes are slated to be 1,680 square feet with a 480-square-foot garage, said UMH President and CEO Sam Landy, adding they can be made larger.

The village put a moratorium in place in 2006 to prevent any major projects that would require a sewer hookup. After nearly 12 years, the temporary ban remains in effect.

Because the local law was approved Thursday, the proposed housing project must abide by a different zoning code, which will restrict the size of the units. The code will require UMH’s manufactured homes to have at least 1,000 square feet of floor space and exist in a manufactured home park.

These parameters would force the company to reduce its plan to build 160 homes on 47 acres to 80 homes on 110 acres.

This makes the project financially infeasible, Landy said. The code also mandates the homes have 1,000 feet of square floor space instead of 320 square feet.

“We will file suit and go from there,” Landy said Friday, adding he expects the paperwork to be ready in a month.

The meeting revealed a struggle before it even began when Landy brought out pictures of the proposed project and asked if anyone would like to see them. Evans told Landy to take the pictures out into the hallway.

Landy argued the meeting hadn’t started, so he wasn’t breaking any rules. He left the room and returned when the meeting began. He presented the pictures again during public comment.

Mayor Mark Evans is president of State Telephone, a communications and internet provider based in Coxsackie. Albany attorney David Engel, who represents UMH, addressed the board citing reasons UMH should proceed with the project and asked Evans to recuse himself from Thursday’s vote.

“Local Law 6-A of 2017 is clearly intended for UMH because there are no other properties around that are an MDR-3 [Medium Density Residential] zone and 20 acres or greater,” Engel said. “The law is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan of 2008, which allowed for the appropriate development of a mobile home park.”

Evans cut Engel off after eight minutes and asked him to sit down. The mayor did not recuse himself from the vote.

“The mayor should have recused himself from the vote due to the State Telephone Company’s adjacent property with our land,” Landy said.

“This process that we are following has been methodical, carefully thought out and is fully documented in the minutes of the planning board and village board,” Evans said in an emailed statement Friday. “The job and responsibility of the planning board and the elected village board is to protect the charm, character and make-up of the village.”

Evans would not comment on the issue of his recusal or any pending litigation with UMH.

Public comment before the board’s vote became contentious when residents of the project’s adjacent areas posed questions to the board and UMH about what the project would do to their village.

“This could cause a lot of traffic commotion,” said John Kudlack, of 26 Van Dyke St. “This is a cute little community. I don’t want backhoes and bulldozers going up and down the street tearing up the infrastructure.”

Kudlack said UMH’s proposal to add sidewalks and streetlights to the areas around their property would not work because many residents in the area are unable to shovel.

“Who will maintain this property when it needs it?” Kudlack asked.

Resident Jessica Sorozan spoke about her concern with bringing 160 new families into the area and how it would affect the already struggling Coxsackie-Athens School District.

“I spend over $100 a year on school supplies for teachers to give to other students,” she said. “I buy tissues for the whole first grade. Where is that money coming from with new families?”

Sorozan added new properties in the area will also raise school taxes.

“I struggle to make $30,000 a year,” she said. “How is this even possible? I can’t even afford to live in these homes. This town has lost its charm from the people moving up from the city.”

J.D. Fielding, owner of the Facebook page Keep Coxsackie Charming, also spoke up to the board Thursday.

“Don’t think I don’t understand the intentions of UMH or why they want to build there,” Fielding said, acknowledging he understands why anyone would want to build on the plot of land.

“But, they do not understand or love Coxsackie like we do,” he said. “They have been jumping in bed with political interests and whatever suits them since the beginning.”

Fielding added the company has made repeated insults against the residents of the town, referring to them as “backwoods.”

Village Trustee Donald Daoust was the sole member of the board to vote against the law Thursday night.

“I’ve listened to the concerns of residents in town and those of UMH,” Daoust said. “At this time, there are not enough answers to the questions that have been posed, so I’m going to vote no.”

The room, which was packed with residents, erupted into applause when the law was approved. Most in attendance, including UMH representatives, left the meeting immediately after the ruling.

Evans did not allow Landy to directly respond to the concerns, but he was allowed to address the board.

“We want to build a more beautiful village,” Landy said. “We clearly will be upgrading the neighborhood and be a good neighbor.

“If the community needs street lighting or sidewalks, we are happy to provide that,” he said. “We are willing to pay $5,000 for each sewer hookup.”

Landy indicated Wednesday the $200 sewer hookup fee that Coxsackie charges are unusually low.

UMH proposed building 160 manufactured homes with an attached garage and crawlspace, Landy said, adding the homes would sell for $220,000 to $260,000.

The homes are each expected to cost $155,000 to build before legal, engineering and real estate fees, Landy said. Lot rent will cost approximately $600 per month.

Residents will be able to pay for an independent landscaper to tend to their yard for $80 a month during the summer. Residents will also have the option to mow their own lawns.

Landy has said in the past he is willing to provide the money for the town to build a new sewer system, including a new system in the park for the houses.

“I just believe that would cause more problems,” resident Chris Hanse said.

The village held a special meeting Oct. 9 with an extended public hearing section. Residents could send in letters of comment for 30 days after the meeting, the last day being Nov. 9, said Deputy Mayor Stephen Hanse.

Another meeting was held Dec. 11 with a section for public comment.

“People in this town care,” resident Kathy Hanse said. Hanse is the wife of Coxsackie Town Supervisor Richard Hanse. “People come out because we care about our town.”

“The notion Coxsackie needs to be ‘saved’ by any particular project is wrong and put forth by those that would benefit monetarily,” Evans said. “Our village has existed for 150 years, and I believe the next 150 years will be even better.”