Story by Jennifer O’Connor
Supreme Court Justice Elaine Slobod dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Village of Warwick Planning Board and John Christison, of 16 Elm Street Realty, LLC. The lawsuit, which has cost Village taxpayers $11,000 to defend, was filed shortly after the Village of Warwick Planning Board granted final approval in February to John Christison to construct a 3,600 sq. ft. building at 16 Elm St. in Warwick, for his restaurant, Yesterdays, that is currently located at 29 Main St.
Of the seventeen homes on Elm, West and Van Buren Streets, whose backyards border the property line of the project, owners of seven of those homes filed the Article 78, which is a proceeding that is used to appeal the decision of a local agency. They are: Linda Mensch, Joseph and Patricia Burghardt, Margaret Bowes, Michael Krupin, Patrick Gallagher, Michael Gaydos, and John and Erin Maxcy.
Geraldine Driscoll, who lives across the street from the Burghardt’s on Van Buren St., also participated in the lawsuit, citing in her petitioner’s statement that, “With the noise of bar patrons, motorcycles, and delivery trucks, she predicts she will be unable to continue relaxing on her front porch in the summer and sleeping with her bedroom window open.”
Although the chief complaint by the petitioners is the potential noise the restaurant would create in the neighborhood as well as how its close proximity to their homes would impact them, the case was never heard. Judge Slobod dismissed the lawsuit because it was not properly filed against the property owners – Frank Petrucci, Lynn Crane, and Glenn Petrucci.
Christison does not yet own the property. His purchase of the property was contingent upon him receiving approval for the project and the outcome of the lawsuit. When the residents’ lawyer, David Gordon, an attorney from Poughkeepsie, NY, realized that the property owners were not named in the Article 78, he resubmitted the document but it was too late and past the thirty-days statute of limitations.
The Decision and Order by Hon. Slobod stated: “When the proceeding/action was initially commenced, the owners of the project site were not named as the parties. Although the petitioner-plaintiffs subsequently amended their pleadings and served a supplemental summons and supplemental notice of petition upon the site owners, the statue of limitations had run.”
Patrick Gallagher, a strong opponent of the project and a petitioner on the lawsuit said, “The court made a decision based on a technicality so the merits remain unargued or discussed. We plan on appealing the decision. Prior to this process I didn’t really know many of my neighbors. The good thing that has come out of this is that it has brought neighborhood unity.”
Christison’s attorney, John Capello, said that on behalf of Christison, his staff and his development team, they are grateful for Judge Slobod’s well-reasoned decision to dismiss the petitioners’ lawsuit, which sought to annul the Village of Warwick Planning Board’s site plan approval to build a new and improved Yesterdays restaurant.
“Throughout this process I have reached out to my neighbors and the community to elicit their concerns and have done my best to revise the development plan to address those concerns. My only goal is to develop a restaurant to improve service to the Warwick community who have supported me and my family for over 30 years,” said Christison.
“I did not choose to nor have any desire to engage in litigation, but when it was brought I, as I believe any other person would do, instructed my team to vigorously defend our actions. I am thankful to Frank Petrucci and his family, the owners of the property, for the patience they have shown me throughout his long and arduous process and for their long-standing support of the Warwick community. I am happy to have prevailed and hope that I can now continue to develop a restaurant that the Warwick community will be proud to support,” concluded Christison.