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Oct 3, 2008 1:21 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Developer declines to make presentation to village

Oct 3, 2008 1:21 PM

A Blue Point-based developer who filed a $25 million federal civil rights lawsuit against Westhampton Beach officials refused to make a presentation to village trustees during last week’s board meeting to answer why his proposed 39-unit condominium development should receive a special permit.

Robert Muchnick said on Monday that he refused to file an application for the permit, or to explain his intentions to board members, in order to make a point about how poorly he feels he has been treated by the village in regard to his condominium project, which targets 6.6 acres on the west side of Old Riverhead Road. He said that even if he made a formal presentation to the trustees last week, they would have done whatever they wanted in regard to his application without taking the law into consideration.

Westhampton Beach Attorney Bo Bishop and Village Clerk Kathy McGinnis both said they were expecting Jim Hulme, the Westhampton Beach-based attorney representing Mr. Muchnick, to make a presentation during the meeting to explain why the developer needs a special exception permit. Mr. Muchnick’s condo project requires the permit because his land is located in the hotel district but is considered a multifamily development. Multifamily developments are allowed in the village’s hotel district with a special exception permit that can be obtained only from the Village Board.

Mr. Bishop stated that Mr. Muchnick should hire a lawyer familiar with not only his proposed project but the process of obtaining a special exception permit.

“I don’t feel like making an application,” Mr. Muchnick told board members during last week’s meeting. “I want the board to do what it wants to do.”

Mr. Muchnick filed a $25 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the village last spring, alleging that it purposely delayed his condominium application with the adoption of a building moratorium. Since then, Mr. Muchnick has received site plan approval from the Westhampton Beach Planning Board for the project, but he has noted that the approval contains several provisions that prohibit him from completing the project.

Mr. Muchnick noted that if he secures a special permit from the village, it could be used against him when his lawsuit is heard in court. He also said on Monday that he refused to make an presentation to make a point.

“It doesn’t matter what I say,” Mr. Muchnick said, adding that the Village Board, in his opinion, has broken the law when reviewing his application.

David Arntsen, an attorney with Smithtown-based Devitt Spellman & Barrett, LLP who is representing the village, is in the process of trying to have the courts dismiss Mr. Muchnick’s lawsuit, according to Jeltje DeJong, another attorney at the firm who is familiar with the case. Ms. DeJong said Mr. Arntsen is trying to have the suit thrown out on the grounds that the village did not violate Mr. Muchnick’s civil rights.

Also at last week’s meeting, Beach Bakery owner Simon Jorna explained that he has been trying to expand the size of his Main Street business for several years and has been repeatedly roadblocked by village government. He said he has submitted five formal plans detailing his expansion plans over five years, but village officials keep asking him to meet different requirements each time. They made the entire project no longer feasible, he said.

“I have a scar on my mind,” Mr. Jorna said about his experience with the village during the meeting. “And I lost $100,000. I could have sued.”

Mr. Jorna does not currently have an application before any of the village boards; he said on Friday that if he does submit another plan, the village will just find a way to deny it. “I will submit another plan after the village tells me what I can do, and how I can do it,” Mr. Jorna said.

Village Building Inspector Paul Houlihan explained during the meeting that the village’s new master plan—and its emphasis on providing ample parking for Main Street shops—could “benefit Mr. Jorna.”

Mr. Houlihan said, additionally, that he is not sure that Mr. Jorna will be able to get everything he wants for his building.

Mr. Jorna said he wanted to donate two properties—one on Glovers Lane and another behind the Schwartz building on Main Street—to the village. The donation, Mr. Jorna said, would allow the village to create a large parking lot just north of Main Street, running from Sunset Avenue to Mill Road.

“There would be no garbage trucks on Main Street, no Fed-Ex trucks, no delivery trucks,” Mr. Jorna said in a separate interview on Friday. “The telephone cables could have been moved.”

In exchange for the donation, Mr. Jorna said, he wants permission to construct 2,000-square-foot additions onto both the Beach Bakery and another retail building that he owns on Main Street.

In other news, the board members decided not to conduct a second round of environmental testing at the village’s former Department of Public Works yard, located on Old Country Road in Quiogue, due to budget constraints.

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Let me guess - Mr. Jorma's civil rights are being violated too.
What a travesty! What ever happened to home rule and self determination. If a civic entity decides it wants to maintain a certain community atmosphere and environment - so be it - just look up island at all the over development - is this what we want?
Development at Gabreski? good thing - get some good paying year round jobs - expanded bakery? sure - but on Main Street?
Condo's on Old Riverhead Road? On the face it doesn't ...more
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Oct 9, 08 4:56 PM
Little Bobby Muchnick is acting like a whiny little punk. Like everyone else, he and his dad got caught in the housing (construction) switches and now that their project is on the verge of being fully approved, they are looking for a way to recoup their investment costs to date without actually proceeding!

Man up Muchnicks... the worst thing that could happen to you now is for Westhampton Beach to give you all your approvals. What would you do then?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Oct 11, 08 9:36 AM