Second Lawsuit Filed Regarding Averill Road

Second Lawsuit Filed
Regarding Averill Road


After submitting a “Partial Observer” commentary to “The Freeman’s Journal” and “Hometown Oneonta” last week regarding concerns about work being done on the Templeton Foundation’s Averill Road property, environmental lawyer Douglas H. Zamelis has filed a second lawsuit against the Village of Cooperstown Board of Trustees, the Village of Cooperstown zoning enforcement officer and Templeton Foundation itself.

On January 18, Zamelis had filed a petition in the Madison County Supreme Court on behalf of clients Michael Swatling and Carolyn O’Brien, in which they alleged that the Cooperstown Board of Trustees applied an incorrect standard when analyzing the proposed Bassett Hospital housing project’s environmental impact in light of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act. Upon review and realizing that these allegations had merit, attorneys for all parties agreed that the suit should be discontinued but with the full right of Templeton to reapply.

Zamelis contends now that the Averill Road housing project is already under construction without a special permit from the village or proper stormwater management controls.

“We assert the project also requires coverage under NYSDEC’s General SPDES Permit for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Industrial Activities because it’s physically altering much more than 1 acre, but Templeton takes the position that its work is not subject to the state stormwater permit and no stormwater controls have been implemented which are visible from the public right-of-way,” Zamelis wrote in an e-mail on Monday, March 20. “As the snow melts today, heavy equipment will disturb more soil, and more sediment, nutrients, and pollutants will make their way toward the lake. On Saturday, I observed and photographed a small discharge of petroleum at the project site entrance which today will be headed toward the ditch on the east side of Averill Road and then eventually down to Otsego Lake. This is why any project which will disturb more than one acre requires coverage under NYSDEC’s General SPDES Permit and implementation of a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.”

Last week, Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said the Templeton Foundation had applied for and received a curb cut permit from the village for that property.

“Private parties can apply for permits for various actions, which the project engineer has done for the curb cut, for instance,” Tillapaugh said.

The mayor also said that Zoning Enforcement Officer Jackson DuBois had confirmed that fewer than 30 percent of the viable trees are being cut down, in keeping with the tree code and pointed out that there are white pine trees on the property with a disease that is denuding them of needles.

“Diseased trees are not included in the tree code,” Tillapaugh said.

In an e-mail correspondence received on Sunday, March 19, Templeton Foun-dation’s attorney, Matthew E. Hamlin of Persun & Hamlin, P.C. in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, wrote: “In my opinion the limited site work undertaken by my client Templeton Foundation in furtherance of the geotechnical testing of the involved parcel complies with all applicable local and state laws and regulations.”

With regard to the new lawsuit, Hamlin replied, “When matters are either heading into litigation or are in litigation, neither my clients nor I will provide any comments.”

Zamelis officially filed the new petition on behalf of his clients with the Madison County Supreme Court on March 19, including photographs of work being done on the Averill Road site.

Statement on the Village of Cooperstown Website

In January 2023, attorney Douglas H. Zamelis, on behalf of the owner of 73 Averill Road, initiated a lawsuit against the Village of Cooperstown and Templeton Foundation relative to the Averill Road housing project. The Village of Cooperstown attorney and the Templeton Foundation attorney were served the documents on January 19, 2023.

The basis of the suit was that the Part I Environmental Assessment Form completed by the applicant indicated 1.37 acres would be disturbed on the 51.7 acre site. Based on that acreage, the Board of Trustees at the November 28, 2022 meeting declared the project to be an Unlisted Action per SEQRA. After the project was further refined (water tower access road added, project road widened to allow vehicles to exit, etc.) the actual acreage which would be disturbed exceeded 2.5 acres. Normally up to 10 acres could be disturbed for an Unlisted Action. But because the project is in the Village of Cooperstown, in an historic district, no more than 2.5 acres can be disturbed without requiring the project to be classified as a Type I action for purposes of SEQRA.

After the lawsuit papers were served, the three attorneys conferred and agreed that the project was incorrectly classified for SEQRA. They signed an agreement (Stipulation) which was filed and approved by the New York State Supreme Court of Madison County to cease consideration of the project. The lawsuit was discontinued and all actions previously taken were deemed Null and Void. The Village no longer had grounds for oversight of the private property.

There is currently no application relative to the project before the Cooperstown Village Board of Trustees.

In mid-February, Temple-ton Foundation filed a curb cut notification with the Village and paid the required $1000 fee to work within the Village right of way (Averill Road) to cut a road into their property. They also communicated with the Zoning Enforcement Officer relative to tree cutting on the heavily wooded, 51.7 acre site. Under Village law, not more than 30% of trees with a trunk diameter of six inches or more on any property may be cut …within a ten-year period; the law and percentage do not apply to diseased or unhealthy trees.

One thought on “Second Lawsuit Filed Regarding Averill Road

  1. Ellen White Weir

    The lake is in trouble. Therefore so are property values and economy. Pesticides, phosphates and septics can be regulated. Obviously global warming is a bigger problem. I hope this project will not do more to stress the lake.

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