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  • Rich Klein

EDITORIAL: Town of Thompson Facing Back-To-Back Lawsuits Over Hamaspik, Avon Commercial Park

Over the past two weeks, the Town of Thompson Planning Board has been slapped with a pair of Article 78 actions in State Supreme Court/ Sullivan County.

The first suit, in which the town's Zoning Board of Appeals is also a defendant, alleges that the board illegally granted Hamaspik Resort (on the site of the former Sullivan hotel) a permit to operate as a sleep away camp. During the application process, the New York State Hamaspik Association kept changing its narrative about how the facility would operate, which caught our attention. But that was just fine with Thompson officials. As part of the suit, it's alleged that the Planning Board rescinded its own referral to the Zoning Board, which plaintiffs believe was illegal.

The second suit, filed on Thursday, is asking the State Supreme Court to vacate and annul the Planning Board's June 8 negative declaration that was issued to Glen Wild Land Company, aka Avon Commercial Park, to build two massive warehouses in the heart of Rock Hill.

The green light in the form of the negative declaration came despite steady, significant community opposition. The principal of Avon Commercial Park is Robert Berman, the former president and CEO of Empire Resorts, who continues to wield significant influence in Sullivan County.

It's arrogant for the Planning Board to vote in favor of a sleep away camp permit or to issue a negative declaration on a warehouse/distribution facility - especially when the people who will be most impacted by those decisions bring you facts that require further due diligence.

Instead, it appears that this Planning Board took the word of very wealthy and influential applicants and their legal/engineering teams. Both these decisions by the Planning Board don't pass the smell test.

On the Avon Commercial Park Project alone, how is it rational to issue a negative declaration for a warehouse/distribution facility when the Planning Board doesn't even know -or doesn't care to ask - what company will occupy the warehouse or what will be produced there? How can any government agency accurately assess impact on wildlife and quality of life without knowing that basic information?

We hope that the court takes a hard look at both these actions and reverses the permit for the so-called "sleep away" camp and orders the board to vacate and annul the negative declaration for Avon Commercial Park.

But even if the plaintiffs in both these cases do not prevail, it's our hope that discovery reveals how this Planning Board operates when the people are not present and the videotape is not running.


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