DURHAM — A lawsuit filed Oct. 14 in New York State Supreme Court for Greene County alleges the town of Durham allowed the Blackthorne Resort to illegally expand its recreational vehicle park.
The suit was filed by Albany attorney Conor Brownell of Lippes Mathias Wexler and Friedman on behalf of plaintiffs Michal M. Peczek, Anais Merle, Kevin Lillis, Patricia Schiller, Michael Lillis and Thomas Lillis.
The town of Durham, the Blackthorne Corporation, Dale and Roy Handel and the New York State Department of Health are named as defendants in the suit, which aims to reverse the town’s August and September determinations that approved Blackthorne’s request to construct two bathhouses and one dump station that are intended to serve the existing and proposed recreational vehicle sites at the East Durham RV park.
Greene County Legislator Patricia Handel, R-Durham, is one of the co-owners of the Blackthorne Resort property. Calls to Handel and Durham Town Supervisor Shawn Marriott requesting comment on the lawsuit were not immediately returned.
The lawsuit also seeks to void the Department of Health’s July 21 decision to conditionally approve the proposed bathhouses. The plaintiffs are also seeking to “enjoin any further site plan consideration of the proposed bathhouses, as well as any clear cutting or construction activities on the property related to the proposed bathhouses.”
The suit is attempting to stop all construction activities at the site for the proposed bathhouses until there is compliance with the state environmental review, the town’s mobile home and RV ordinances and the town’s site plan review law.
The lawsuit alleges the town of Durham and Blackthorne schemed to bypass the environmental review and the state’s Open Meetings Law.
The lawsuit claims that the “Town’s actions are precipitated by blatant favoritism shown to the Handels, due to the Handels’ political connections and the Blackthorne’s perceived economic impact on the Town’s economy.”
The suit claims that due to the town’s alleged favoritism toward the company in the last 15 years, the town has allowed Blackthorne to clear land and construct and operate hundreds of RV sites on the property “without proper permitting, and importantly, the legally mandated level of environmental review.”
The lawsuit further claims the location of the RV sites near the plaintiffs’ property has resulted in an unbearable situation and that the town has failed to “enforce its own ordinances, rules and prior resolutions on Blackthorne.”
The parties are due in Greene County Court for a hearing on the lawsuit Dec. 3. Judge Adam Silverman, a jurist for the New York State Court of Claims, will preside.
The site of one of the proposed bathhouses at Blackthorne is located immediately adjacent to Peczek’s property. The suit claims that the construction of the new bathhouse “will significantly worsen the already negative impact (trespass, noise pollution, illegal use of Sunside Road) of the Blackthorne’s RV Park.”
The resort company proposed in the spring to add 30 new campsites to its property and three public hearings were subsequently held where residents expressed concern that existing RV sites on the property had not been approved.
At a public hearing in February, Lillis told the town board that he was concerned about RV park guests driving their all-terrain vehicles on his private property.
The Durham Town Board then signed an agreement in May that allowed Blackthorne to temporarily use the campground sites that had yet to be approved by the town.
The lawsuit also alleges that the town “has no intention” of complying with a temporary restraining order that the plaintiffs were previously granted that was designed to prevent any further construction of RV sites on the Blackthorne property.