Town of Woodbury sues Village of Woodbury over 2017 land transfer

Town claims the property swap was not vetted or authorized

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— The Woodbury Town Board this week filed suit against the Village of Woodbury, seeking to invalidate two deeds that were signed by former Supervisor David Sutz.

Last August, Sutz proposed that the Town Board convey the town’s highway garage property (8.6 acres) to the village in exchange for the village’s Earl Reservoir Park (113 acres).

Woodbury Supervisor Frank J. Palermo said that Sutz was not authorized to swap the properties, nor to file the deeds with the Orange County Clerk’s office.

He also said the matter had not been properly vetted by the town’s attorney. He also said town and village officials never met to discuss the matter.

The lawsuit was filed in State Supreme Court in Goshen. The Town Board vote authorizing the suit was 5-0.

The town and village share the same municipal boundaries and are almost completely co-terminus, except for a small portion of the Village of Harriman that is located within the town, but not the village. The town and village also share services: the village has the highway department; the Earl Reservoir is open to all residents in the two municipalities.

Palermo said the highway property has value - as much as $2 million. But with the property under deed to the village, the town has limited opportunities to use the land for a new town hall, Palermo said.

Woodbury Village Mayor Mike Queenan questioned the necessity - and cost - of taking the matter to court.

“Why didn’t he call me?” the mayor asked. “This is not my property. It’s the taxpayers’ property. If we have to move the highway department, the cost would be mind-boggling.”

Two votesThe Town Board voted 4-1 on July 10, 2017, to authorize Sutz to proceed with the review of the proposed property transfer.

The Village Board voted 5-0 to do the same a week later.

Palermo, who was then a town councilman, cast the dissenting vote.

Palermo defeated Sutz in a Democratic primary in September, then unseated him as supervisor in November. Sutz ran on the Common Sense party line.

'No determination was made....'In a press release, Palermo said that while the Town Board did discuss the proposed property transfers during several public meetings, “no determination was ever made as to exactly what property or properties would be conveyed to the Village. There was no further discussion of the property transfers after the Town Board’s July 2107 meeting.

“The Town Board never authorized former Supervisor Sutz to deed those properties to the Village. Although former Supervisor Sutz remained in office for more than four months after he deeded the properties to the Village, he never notified the Town Board members that he had done so.”

Sutz could not be reach for comment.

In the press release, Palermo wrote that the town board “just recently ... learned, for the first time” that Sutz recorded the deed in August 2017 that conveyed the property behind town hall to the village.

The lawsuit claims that “because former Supervisor Sutz rushed to execute a deed conveying the town’s property within 29 days, the town board never had the opportunity to discuss or authorize the preparation of a subdivision application or lot-line change application to the Village Planning Board ... and the impact of the boundary change on the town’s ability to construct new facilities on the Library and Senior Center parcel in the future.”

The Town Board has referred the matter to the New York State Comptrollers’ Office.

However, Palermo said he would be willing to drop the lawsuit if town and village officials could meet and discuss the matter.

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