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Town of N. Elba rejects boathouse offer

February 26, 2013

LAKE PLACID - The North Elba town board has rejected a settlement offer from a local family that constructed a pair of boathouses without a permit more than two years ago.

At the Tuesday Feb. 12 regular meeting, town Supervisor Roby Politi asked Ron Briggs, the town's attorney, to discuss the recent offer by the Grimdich family to settle a legal dispute dating back to September 2010. The family built two boathouses to avoid new state Adirondack Park Agency rules, but in doing so may have violated the town's land-use code.

The case became a test of whether towns have jurisdiction over boathouses, built on water, as they do over buildings built on land.

The Grimditches offered to pay a $40,000 fine but be allowed to leave the boathouses in place, Briggs said. The town nixed that proposal.

"They made us an offer, and we rejected the offer," Politi said. "And that's the way it is."

"Our position is: Take the boathouses down," Briggs said.

In January, Wayne Grimditch, joined by Dennis Curtin, a lawyer from Plattsburgh, told the board his family thought it was acting according to the rules when it had the boathouses built. Briggs said the family made a similar argument in a letter accompanying the settlement offer.

"They proposed to pay us a certain amount of money for our troubles and that both boathouses would remain," he said. "That was rejected by the board out of hand - without a counter-offer."

The Supreme Court Appellate Division's Third Department ruled in the town's favor last year, deciding that it does have jurisdiction over the project. The case has since been sent back to Supreme Court for further proceedings and was recently transferred to Judge Thomas Buchanan in Schenectady County. Briggs told the Enterprise recently that after the November election, all cases that had been before acting Supreme Court justices - in the Grimditch case it was Judge Richard Meyer in Essex County - were reassigned to elected judges.

There was some confusion Tuesday night about whether the town board should discuss the specifics of the Grimditches' offer. Briggs said settlement negotiations often aren't a matter of public record.

But Politi noted that the Grimditch family made a public pitch for a settlement at a Jan. 8 town board meeting, so the public is entitled to know what the board decided.

"They made a ridiculous offer, and it was rejected," Politi said.

"It was ridiculous," Briggs said.

Board members didn't say what kind of settlement offer they would accept, since the matter is still in litigation. Briggs indicated, however, that the town won't accept an offer that falls short of having the structures removed.

Briggs said all parties involved in the case, including neighboring property owners, will appear before Judge Buchanan on Feb. 22 for a conference.

"We'll talk about the status of the case and where it is," Briggs said.



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