Croton Mayor Leo Wiegman came under the fire of Croton residents at the June 6 board of trustees meeting in regards to statements he made regarding lawsuits against the village.
In a recent letter printed in a local newspaper, Wiegman explained his opinion of why village property taxes for the 2011-12 fiscal year were going up by 4 percent. He stated that one way to keep property taxes down was to generate more commercial development in the village. “We did adopt zoning legislation to encourage property owners in Harmon to improve their properties,” he stated. “Unfortunately for all of us, a very few residents have chosen to fight these changes in court, rather than at the ballot box.”
“The litigation is preventing many commercial property owners in the village from beginning renovations that would improve the commercial ratables, while costing thousands in litigation expenses,” Wiegman wrote.
At the meeting, Roseann Schuyler, an attorney and Croton resident, was one of the residents who addressed the mayor’s letter. “I’d like to know who these commercial property owners are? Who is being prevented from expanding their businesses because of the law suits? I simply don’t see that,” she said. Schuyler said people had the legal right to sue the village and were not the cause of the property tax increase. She added that excessive development would lead to increase in school taxes. Statements in the mayor’s letter were “false and misleading,” she added.
“It’s not a question and answer session,” Wiegman said. “I have a number of property owners who are simply not acting because of the litigation,” he said. “There are some previously that got permits and proceeded and some were able to lease property, but they are not expanding their commercial square feet,” he said. Wiegman refused to identify the property owners he was referring to.
Schuyler commented that lawsuits were not preventing property owners from developing their business projects. However Wiegman contends that there is “a chilling effect” on some developers because of the litigation.
The village’s policy on settling the litigation should not be answered by the mayor, said Jim Staudt, a village attorney.
Staudt was wrong to advise the mayor to not answer her questions regarding the lawsuits, Schuyler said.
Staudt clarified that he was only advising the mayor not to discuss the village’s policy on settling the lawsuits.
Schuyler said the mayor was “blaming people” who are using their civil rights to challenge the village legally for the tax increase. “You letter was false and misleading,” she told Wiegman.