Appeal filed in decision allowing ridgeline site in Amenia

AMENIA — A local farming family has filed an appeal to a New York State Supreme Court judge’s decision to allow construction of a house on scenic Westerly Ridge.

The Amenia Planning Board granted site plan approval to Cameron O. Smith and Liza Vann Smith on Oct. 25, 2023, granting a waiver of the town code.

The Smiths purchased the property at 108 Westerly Ridge Drive in Amenia in 2005. It consists of 27 acres and is located in part on a scenic ridgeline that is largely surrounded by active farmland.

Judge Thomas R. Davis of Dutchess County Supreme Court denied the petition of Barbara Meile, Joerge Meili and Arrowhead Hills Partners that sought to annul the Planning Board’s approval. The judge’s order was issued on May 14. The petitioners filed their appeal with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on May 23.

Court records show that the Smiths purchased the property for $850,000. It currently is listed for sale by Compass for $1,249,000.

In 2007 Amenia enacted a section of Town Code called “Scenic Protection Overlay District” (SPO) for the purpose of providing protection for scenic road corridors.

Judge Davis concluded that the Planning Board’s approvals and granting of a waiver of a 40-foot crestline limitation were reasonable. Town code states that site plan approval must meet a standard that is 40 feet below the crestline of any ridge and doesn’t disturb “the continuity of the treeline when viewed from a publicly accessible place.” In a 2019 review of the project, the town’s visual consultant commented “while the proposed project will be visible on the ridge, it will not substantially change the character of the viewpoints studied.”

Davis additionally wrote: “This is a recognition that the SPO’s stated purpose is not to ensure or require that there never be anything visible in scenic areas except the natural surroundings but rather that steps be taken to ensure that the character of the viewshed in scenic areas not be substantially changed by proposed projects that come within the SPD’s boundaries.”

“Lastly, there is nothing in the Code’s provisions…that would support the petitioners’ contention that the Planning Board was required to take into account the visibility of lights at night in determining whether to approve the Smith’s application for site plan approval and a waiver of the 40-foot ridge line construction provision.”

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