Grangers raise $50K bond to halt Wilzig track

TAGHKANIC–“There is to be no work performed whatsoever on the motorcycle/sporting track. Any collateral consequences to defendant Wilzig are a result of his own actions undertaken prior to the current proceeding,” state Supreme Court Justice Patrick McGrath wrote in a June 5 letter to clarify the meaning of an injunction against use of the track issued on June 1.

The temporary injunction against Alan Wilzig that prevents him from using, maintaining or completing the paving of his motorcycle track was strengthened last week when the Granger Group, a local organization formed to oppose the construction of the mile-long track, successfully raised $50,000 to pursue the case. The money is for an “undertaking,” a bond required by the court to keep the injunction in force while Judge McGrath makes his final rulings on the merits of the case.

The court order also applies to a storage building Mr. Wilzig built near the track. But the ruling has not dampened Mr. Wilzig’s enthusiasm for the track or his optimism that he will eventually prevail in court.

His opponents are also upbeat. “We actually raised more money than we need,” Granger member Chris Tallackson said. She added that the group will be refunding some of the funds raised. The Granger Group was obligated to raise the bond money within 20 business days, with a June 22 deadline, in order to ensure that the injunction would continue to stand.

If the group had not raised the money, Mr. Wilzig would have been free to pave his track, and any future litigation about its construction would have been rendered moot. With the ruling, opponents hope the track may never be completed.

The judge’s order also enjoins the town and its zoning code enforcement officer from issuing a building permit or certificate of occupancy that would enable the completion of the track.

Town Attorney Robert Fitzsimmons, speaking at the May Town Board meeting about Judge McGrath’s initial decision, characterized it as “very favorable to the Granger position.” He said it did not make a final determination but that it “somewhat insinuates the validity of the Granger position that has been advanced to date.”

Despite the temporary injunction, the town Zoning Board of Appeals has ruled that the track does meet town zoning requirements after Mr. Wilzig, a wealthy New York City resident and heir to a banking fortune, changed its description, calling it a “sporting track” not a racetrack. The town Planning Board has also granted approval for the track.

When the ZBA formally adopts its findings on the track and submits them to the Town Clerk, probably at its June 23 meeting, the Granger Group will be free to file a civil legal action against the Planning Board, ZBA and the town zoning enforcement officer.

“We are optimistic that the court will rule in our favor said Ms. Tallackson.

Mr. Wilzig’s attorney David Everett said he anticipates no change in his team’s legal tactics. “We are still confident. The town planning and zoning boards have approved the project. It has been approved by a host of other federal and state agencies. It is now fully permitted, that is a point that Grangers don’t fully understand or accept.”

Mr. Everett plans to ask the court to increase the size of the bond to cover the additional expenses that his client will incur, and [The Granger Group] should be paying for this.”

“The town has decided in favor of me completing the track by the town zoning law,” said Mr. Wilzig, who said he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses on the track.

“It was all about not letting the rich guy just go and build whatever he wants because he can afford it,” Mr. Wilzig said. “I played by the rules this is what I get for it.”

He said he has been willing to try to “make almost any adjustment to accommodate anyone’s sensitivity” over issues like the potential for noise pollution from the track. “Instead, we’re spending years in court. Just out of an abundance of courtesy, it would be impossible for me to enjoy the property if I knew I was disturbing someone else,” Mr. Wilzig said.

The bond was required to provide money to compensate Mr. Wilzig for damages in the event that he wins this legal skirmish. Damages might include any rise in the price of the asphalt Mr. Wilzig may eventually purchase to pave the track. The price of asphalt is linked to the price of a key ingredient, oil, a commodity that is currently on the rise again. That alone could “suck up that $50,000 in 15 minutes,” to Mr. Wilzig said. 

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