Bloomingburg, NY – Developer Shalom Lamm is suing the Mamakating Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and two residents after the board reversed the decision to build a mikvah in the town.
The lawsuit, filed in Sullivan County Supreme Court on Dec. 22 by Winterton Properties, LLC, says the board made its decision to not allow construction of the mikvah based on an “irrational and illegal interpretation of the zoning law.”
It also states the board not only showed a misunderstanding of what a mikvah is, but that it does not allow for its construction in any town zoning districts.
The mikvah was meant to accompany Shalom Lamm’s controversial Hasidic community consisting of 396 homes and others in Bloomingburg.
Mamakating Building Inspector, Mary Grass, considered the neighborhood an area of worship and soon after approved site plan approval by the Mamakating Planning Board on June 24.
The conflict of the Mikvah construction was brought about by two residents, Donna Matland and Hilmar Maier, when they appealed the choice before the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. In November the board agreed it was not permitted and not a place of worship.
Lamm’s lawsuit says the board’s description of the mikvah as an “accessory” to a synagogue was incorrect. It also says board member Stephen Prall’s likening the mikvah to a “swimming pool” was “particularly demeaning to adherents of Orthodox Judaism.”
Michael Fragin, spokesman for the corporation and for Lamm, says the board’s ruling violates the right to worship freely, violating citizens’ rights to Freedom of Religion. “It’s not consistent with American values,” Fragin said.
The lawsuit asks for attorney’s fees and that the ZBA’s decision is invalidated.
Supervisor Bill Hermann said both the planning board and the ZBA made decisions based on “facts and evidence” presented to them, and that now it’s merely a “parsing of words.”
Hermann said he doesn’t comprehend why the lawsuit names Matland and Maier because they were simply two residents who went through the normal appealing process, questioning whether the lawsuit was brought up on malicious intent.
According to Hermann, Lamm is simply suing people who don’t agree with him and labeling them “anti-Semitic.”
Fragin said that when a government discriminating against a particular religion, there aren’t many options other than to go to court.