CHESTER—A sports club has encountered a legal challenge seeking to block its move to Chester.
Attorney Michael Sussman filed a lawsuit on Dec. 4 contending that Primo Sports does not have an area variance to develop a 25-acre parcel optioned in the Town of Chester—that the variance has become null and void.
Primo is currently based in the nearby town of Florida. It says it has outgrown its facility there, which offers indoor turf fields, an indoor court, and outdoor grass fields. Primo provides instructional and recreational programs in several sports, and hosts events, teams, and leagues, etc.
The site of the proposed $10.6 million complex is next to the Chester industrial park on Route 94. According to The Chronicle, residents who live near the proposed site have expressed concerns about light, noise, and sewage.
Sussman filed the suit on behalf of Chester resident Leonard Germain, whose property is adjacent to the proposed site. The suit names the Chester Planning Board and Primo Sports as defendants.
Under the town’s zoning law, 50 acres is required for Primo to create a membership club for athletic purposes on the property. Sussman says Primo did not make every effort to find land that meets Chester’s zoning laws, but purchased the 25-acre parcel and applied for an area variance—an exception granted by a municipality to its zoning laws.
Sussman said it is unusual for the planning board to grant a 100 percent exemption. “That’s pretty unheard of.” When the planning board referred Primo to the zoning board of appeals in June or July of 2014, the zoning board of appeals denied the variance.
Primo appealed a second time several months later. Sussman said Chester’s Supervisor Alex Jamieson pressured the board to approve the variance, “claiming that Primo Sports is going to provide significant tax benefits.” The board agreed to re-hear the application. Jamieson “caused them to believe that this was in the community’s best interests.”
In October of 2014, the zoning board provided Primo Sports with an area variance. With the variance, the company was required to begin construction within six months. “Six months came and went, and they did not use the area variance, they did not begin construction as the statute explicitly requires, and in my interpretation, they lost that benefit,” Sussman said.
The planning board approved the project on Dec. 2, 2015. Sussman said the planning board did not have the right to approve the project. “[The variance] is not resuscitated by the approval of the planning board,” he said.
Chair of the Chester Planning Board, Don Serotta, said his attorney has not had an opportunity to review the lawsuit at the time this report went to press. “It’s what you call an Article 78 procedure. They are challenging the planning board decision. We stand by our record, I can tell you that,” Serotta said.
Jim LaGarde, a co-owner of Primo Sports, declined to comment on the suit, saying his company was not involved, although Sussman confirmed that Primo Sports’ principals were duly served.
The planning board’s approval on Dec. 2, 2015 met with the crowd’s approval, according to The Chronicle.
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