TOWN OF CORTLANDT — December 29, 2015 –The Hudson Ridge Wellness Center (“Hudson Ridge”) filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Town of Cortlandt (“Town”) yesterday alleging violations of its constitutional rights and the rights of its patients under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)
Hudson Ridge is seeking to establish a specialty hospital to treat persons suffering from substance use disorders on the 20-acre site of a former hospital located in Croton-on Hudson. The project required a special use permit from the Town. In July of 2015, Hudson Ridge filed an application for a special use permit with the Town’s Planning Board. While many of the Town’s residents and neighbors supported the proposal, some opponents contacted Town Board members in an effort to stop any consideration of the proposal. On July 31, 2015, Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi replied to an email from one of the opponents and stated, “I will do everything I can to not only mitigate it, but to fight it as well.” When Ms. Puglisi wrote her email, the Hudson Ridge application for the special use permit was not before the Town Board on which she serves.
In an effort to stop the process from moving forward at the Planning Board, on August 18, 2015, the Town Board scheduled a meeting on a proposed moratorium that would block any consideration of the Hudson Ridge special use permit application. Without properly notifying Hudson Ridge, the owner of the 20-acre site proposed for the specialty hospital, the Town Board at a meeting on September 15, 2015, unanimously approved the moratorium that stopped any consideration of the Hudson Ridge proposal by the Planning Board. At the time of the adoption of the moratorium, there were no other applications pending before the Planning Board for a special use permit. On December 15, 2015, the Town Board denied Hudson Ridge’s application for a variance from the moratorium that would have permitted its project to be considered by the Planning Board.
In the lawsuit, it is alleged that the Town Board enacted the moratorium in order to stop the development of a specialty hospital for disabled persons. Hudson Ridge alleges that the actions of the Town Board in response to some local opposition was discriminatory and violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the ADA. The lawsuit also alleges that by failing to provide proper notice of the hearing on the moratorium and the impact that it would have on Hudson Ridge, the Town violated the right of Hudson Ridge to due process. The suit seeks damages and an injunction annulling the moratorium.
Commenting on the suit, Hudson Ridge Vice-President Steven Laker, said, “Hudson Ridge is dedicated to serving our disabled patients in a state of the art facility in a bucolic setting. We believe our hospital will be an asset to the community and would welcome the opportunity to present our proposal to the Planning Board. Unfortunately, the moratorium has stopped us from doing so.”
Randolph M. McLaughlin, of Newman Ferrara, LLP, said, “Hudson Ridge is entitled to a fair and transparent process. We believe the actions of the Town Board denied Hudson Ridge notice and an opportunity to be heard on its project. Those concepts are the bedrocks of due process.”