ALBANY—The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court has upheld a trial court decision and dismissed the action brought by the Granger Group against the Taghkanic Zoning Board of Appeals . The decision gives official approval to the three-story structure where Alan Wilzig houses his collection of motorcycles.
The Granger Group and some individuals had appealed the decision of the town’s zoning enforcement officer to issue a permit for the construction of the 12,000-square-foot building to house the extensive motorcycle collection of Mr. Wilzig, a wealthy banking heir and town resident.
Mr. Wilzig is also petitioning the town for permission to pave the mile-long, private motorcycle track he built without a permit starting in 2006, but his opponents have asked the court for a temporary restraining order on that project, and a lawyer for the group challenging the track said last week the order is currently in effect.
The Granger Group, which describes itself as an association “for the purpose of insuring fair and reasonable enforcement of land use regulations,” was formed in response to concern about Mr. Wilzig’s track on his Post Hill Road property. Neighbors have complained about the noise produced by dirt bikes already being ridden on the property, and the Granger Group says that its sound study suggests the Ducati motorcycles Mr. Wilzig plans to ride on the track if it is paved will produce even more noise.
The building, now finished, houses the motorcycles and a machine shop for maintaining them. Although the structure, which rises well above a standard two stories at the top of its arched roof, might be called a storage building or museum, some opponents see it as an accessory to the track, in part because it is located just a short distance downhill from the track. An asphalt road runs from the track to the new building , which holds 60 Ducatis among about 100 bikes. The Ducatis are designed to be ridden only on paved surfaces.
The Granger Group hoped to stop construction of the storage building/museum, but the group contends that the town Zoning Enforcement Officer Dennis Callahan, who issued original permit, told group members that the initial permit was only for a foundation. The group requested a copy of the building permit under the Freedom of Information Law in September 2006, but members say they did not receive the document for two months. The Grangers contend that Mr. Mr. Callahan told them the final permit would not be issued until the town approved Mr. Wilzig’s final plans, though Mr. Callahan has denied making such a statement.
The Granger Group then went to the town Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to try to stop the building, but the ZBA ruled that the deadline had expired for challenging the permit, so the Granger Group took its case to state Supreme Court and was once again denied. State Supreme Court Judge Christian Hummel ruled that the group should have filed for an injunction to stop the building before it was complete.
The appellate court ruling, issued May 14, upheld that denial, saying that the Granger Group failed to seek a preliminary injunction to stop construction of the building, even though the group knew it was being built and that Mr. Wilzig was under no obligation to stop construction.
“They made a mistake,” said Victor Meyers, one of the attorneys who represented Mr. Wilzig in this case. “You can’t sit on your hands without making an effort to try to stop the project.” But he also noted a potential downside to seeking an injunction, which helps explain why the Granger Group did not pursue an injunction. “If you lose, then the owner can get compensation for the lost time. You have to get insurance,” Mr. Meyers said.
“They should have filed as soon as they found out about the building permit and that construction was ongoing,” said David Everett, also an attorney for Mr. Wilzig.
When asked why the group did not seek an injunction barring further construction, Granger attorney Warren Replasky said, “You pick your fights. We consider the track to be the main focus of our attention.”
By the time the Judge Hummel heard the case, the building was finished at a “significant cost” to Mr. Wilzig. The appellate panel decision mentions that factor in affirming the judge’s decision.
As for the track, this year it has morphed from its previously unsuccessful designation as an accessory use connected to Mr. Wilzig’s home and is now described as a club for recreation. Under that designation it is once again under consideration by the ZBA, having received approval by the town Planning Board in February.
In a new twist in the convoluted road of legal proceedings, the Grangers may have learned from their unsuccessful legal strategy in the storage building/museum case. Last month the group sought a temporary restraining order “prohibiting the track from being used” Mr. Replasky said. That order is still in place, according to Mr. Replasky . “It’s a declaratory judgment action that this is an illegal use,” he said.
The Taghkanic ZBA was scheduled to meet this Tuesday, May 19, at which time members may decide whether to allow Mr. Wilzig to proceed with his plan to pave the track.