Court Dismisses Property Owners’ Lawsuit Against Sagaponack Board

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The Sagaponack Village Board has won a legal battle in State Supreme Court over a contentious development proposal targeting a property on Daniels Lane.

Three joint property owners, under Sagaponack Ventures LLC, had filed the lawsuit against the village, accusing the Village Board of bias and taking unreasonable steps to thwart the applicants’ efforts to carve out a single 2.5-acre building lot on the northwestern portion of a property off Daniels Lane, where they wanted to build a 12,000-square-foot home.

State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Santorelli dismissed the lawsuit last month.

Village officials had denied the application, arguing that they had already endorsed an earlier proposed four-lot subdivision at the southern end of the larger oceanfront estate property encompassing the 2.5-acre lot, emphasizing their desire to keep the remaining land open and visible from the road. In voting against the application, the board also accused the applicants and their representatives of dishonesty and deception throughout the pitch for the single-lot subdivision.

In the lawsuit, Sagaponack Ventures alleged that the board’s review of the application was “often antagonistic and unfairly prolonged as a result of the board’s repeated unreasonable, untimely and onerous requests of the petitioner.”

However, Justice Santorelli wholly disagreed. “The court finds that the January 12, 2015, determination of the board was not arbitrary or capricious, was not illegal, and had a rational basis,” he wrote, ultimately dismissing the case.

“The village is obviously very pleased that the judge upheld its action in rejecting this application,” Sagaponack Village Mayor Donald Louchheim said on Tuesday. “We’re particularly pleased because it was quite a lengthy decision based on a very thorough review of the facts and of the rationale of the village for its rejection.”

Attorney David Eagan, with Eagan & Matthews PLLC, is representing the applicants, Marc Goldman, Michael Hirtenstein and Milton Berlinski. “We think that the judge erred in his decision,” Mr. Eagan said on Monday. “We think the record, in this case, is replete with evidence that we have met the site plan standards for placing the house on the northwest corner [of the property].”

They have up to eight months to file an appeal, but “we intend to do it much quicker than that,” Mr. Eagan assured.

It’s a move the Village Board has been anticipating—but Mr. Louchheim added, “We do not believe this appeal will be successful.”

Mr. Goldman purchased the larger 43.5-acre oceanfront estate in 2000 for $15 million. In 2005, he sold two shares of the land, each about a third of the total property, to Mr. Hirtenstein and Mr. Berlinski for $15 million apiece, keeping the remaining third.

The three partners had pledged to the Peconic Land Trust to keep about 25 acres undeveloped, maintaining scenic views of the property’s farmland from Daniels Lane.

However, following the denial of the proposed subdivision in January, Mr. Goldman ruffled feathers by planting thousands of sapling Christmas trees in May. They are screened by a perimeter of larger evergreen trees, which trace the outline of the easement’s boundaries, save for the 2.5-acre stretch where the house had been proposed, blocking the view.

The move appeared to have violated the terms of the easement, but upon review, the trust concluded that the plantings were acceptable, noting that scenic vistas do not trump agricultural production.

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