The Northern Westchester Examiner

Politics Alleged in Denial of Winery Use of Town Land

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Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace accused the majority of the Town Board and the co-chairman of the town’s Democratic Committee of staging an “orchestrated political stunt” following the denial of advertising a public hearing for a wetlands permit for a winery in MoheganLake.

“I am absolutely disgusted by the three board members who decided not to set a date for the public hearing. It’s an outright violation of the gentleman’s constitutional rights to have access to his local government,” Grace fumed. “If this was politically motivated it’s a sad day for everyone and very alarming.”

At last week’s Town Board meeting at John C. Hart Library, the board was faced with having to readvertise for a public hearing on an application by Tom DeChiaro for a permit to build a gazebo and parking spaces for a town park and outside dining for his establishment in the historic former St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. The hearing was originally scheduled to be held last week but was slated to be rescheduled to May 21.

However, Councilman Nick Bianco contended since the land DeChiaro wanted to build on was town-owned property, and the town’s Conservation Board and Advisory Committee on Open Space opposed the plan, the board had the option to not issue the permit nor hold a hearing.

“It’s not his land. It has nothing to do with him,” Bianco said of DeChiaro. “I voted no because I’m not interested in giving away our wetlands and open space. It is our wetlands permit and our property, not the winery. If you do it for one, you have to do it for everyone.”

Agreeing with Bianco’s reasoning were councilmen Vishnu Patel and Dave Paganelli, who outnumbered the objections of Grace and Councilman Terrence Murphy.

Grace maintained the board should have allowed the public hearing and then rule on the wetlands permit after hearing comments.

“They’re already prejudged the application before it’s been heard,” Grace remarked. “Here’s a guy (DeChiaro) trying to rehabilitate a piece of property that laid dormant for several decades. You can’t deny access to a hearing. To me, it’s a serious violation and they all need to sit down and give a little more thought to it.”

Grace also criticized Brendan Tully, co-chairman of the Democratic Committee, for thanking the board members who voted against holding the hearing and requesting Grace recuse himself from future dealings with the winery since Grace has held fundraisers in the past at the winery and DeChiaro was on his transition team after he was elected supervisor.

“Chairman Tully wanted to besmirch whoever his targets were. It was very disturbing the chairman of the Democratic Party decided to laud praise on the councilmen who voted to deny someone access,” Grace said. “For the Democrats to think that’s a wonderful thing to do is disturbing.”

Last month, it was reported that DeChiaro, who ran unsuccessfully for Yorktown Town Board in 2011 after pondering a run for Congress in 2010, was being investigated by the Westchester District Attorney for alleged state Election Law violations. Commissioners with the state Board of Elections determined there was “reasonable cause” that a political action committee DeChiaro created called “People for Honest Government” was “in violation of the election law and potentially other New York State laws.”




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