By JACKSON CHEN
After a New York State Supreme Court lawsuit against the Village of Mamaroneck’s controversial Hampshire Country Club was dismissed recently, a neighborhood coalition is staying vigilant by intending to file an appeal.
Enveloped in a few lawsuits, Hampshire Country Club, located on 1107 Cove Road, was served with an Article 78 proceeding in June 2014 by the Mamaroneck Coastal Environment Coalition, a group of neighboring residents who aim to halt the development proposals of the country club.
According to Celia Felsher, president of the coalition, the Article 78 was filed to appeal the decision of the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals that granted the country club a special permit that allowed them to run non-member events. Felsher said their case was that the board was acting in an “arbitrary and capricious manner in granting the special permit.”
The zoning board’s special permit for Hampshire allowed them to run several non-member events, like fundraisers for other non-profit organizations, weddings or bar mitzvahs, according to Thomas Nappi, the club’s senior project manager. Unhappy with the decision, the coalition moved to annul the permit from the zoning board.
After moving slowly through the legal system, state Supreme Court Judge Linda Jamieson decided not to grant the petition on May 18 and dismissed the coalition’s lawsuit mostly on the basis that the claims of the coalition were largely unsupported by facts. The coalition claimed that the non-member operations of the club were not benefitting the members and shouldn’t be held.
“This is a victory for Hampshire, its members and for the wider community because this small group should not hold sway over the future of the club and how the club operates,” Nappi said of the court decision.
On the other hand, Felsher said that the dismissal was just a lower court’s opinion and that the Article 78 was based solely on the zoning board’s granting of the special permit. The coalition president added that the dismissal had no bearing or effect on whether or not Hampshire was acting appropriately. Felsher said the coalition is planning to file an appeal of the state Supreme Court’s decision.
Keeping involved in the legal matters that surrounded the country club, the coalition also wanted to intervene in a hefty $55 million lawsuit between the club and the village in late 2014. The coalition sought to provide opinions supporting the defense of the village’s claims, but was ultimately turned down.
Nappi said that it seems the coalition’s goal is to prevent development in the waterfront area. However, in regards to the Article 78 against the zoning board’s granting of a special permit, he said he couldn’t see the link of how that affects development.
The controversy with Hampshire Country Club began as far back as 2010 when the majority of neighbor complaints revolved around the argument that the club has hosted numerous non-member events like wedding receptions, golf outings and dinners. Since Hampshire operates as a non-profit club in the village’s marine recreation zone, certain impositions were in place due to the village code.
Similar to not being able to run non-member events, the controversy’s blaze grew stronger as the club proposed the construction of 121 condominium units on its 116-acre property. To be able to hold non-member events and move forward with development, the club requested a rezoning which was denied by the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees in February 2014. Shortly after, the village also filed two injunctions on the country club that prohibited them from holding non-member events. The rebuttal from Hampshire and its team of lawyers was a $55 million lawsuit, which is still currently moving through the federal court system.
However, with the most recent dismissal of the coalition’s Article 78, Felsher said the coalition has 60 days to file their appeal, which would eventually come before the New York Court of Appeals.