Exclusive: Court Extends Freeze On Unit Sales At Troubled Viola Development


Public Works Dpt. cites dozens of deviations; proposes return to Planning Board

The developer of the Viola Estates condominium, a defendant in a lawsuit brought by neighbors alleging illegal overdevelopment on the Viola Road property, suffered a setback in court this week when a judge refused to lift a freeze on unit sales at the embattled project.  The freeze, already in effect since last month, was extended at least until the next court appearance in two weeks.

The developer was also directed by the court to allow an immediate site inspection by plaintiffs’ engineers.  This follows the issuance of a 3-page letter by Paul Gdanski of Ramapo’s Department of Public Works (DPW) to the suit’s other defendant, Chief Building Inspector Anthony Mallia, in which Gdanski cites numerous discrepancies at the project.  The letter lists over thirty mistakes, omissions and plan deviations, including a retaining wall that “violates the zoning code,” “basements when none existed on the approved plans,” new “basement stairs and walk-outs,” changes which may require additional variances, and an encroachment onto the Town’s right-of-way.  The letter calls for revised plans that “reflect as-built conditions as it is significantly different than the approved plans on file,” a claim strongly asserted by plaintiffs.

The DPW letter also provides support for another claim made by the plaintiffs: that the developer exceeded the property’s permissible floor area ratio, meaning that the project ‘s building density is illegal.  “The lot area in the bulk table is incorrect as the plans neglect to take out the area for the public road which is at a minimum of 32,144.84 square feet of area,” Gdanski wrote.  “The development coverage and floor area ratio calculations must be placed on the plans utilizing this area as the applicant can’t count land they don’t own.”

The letter concludes that the “cumulative effect” of these issues “is significant and should be brought to the attention” of the Planning Board.

In a sign that this lawsuit is now poised to drag on for quite some time, and in a tacit admission of the strength of plaintiffs’ case, the defendants surprisingly withdrew their motion to dismiss the lawsuit.  Thus, when the current proceedings concerning plaintiffs’ motions for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction are over, plaintiffs may proceed directly to discovery, a process itself likely to last several months.