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Judge orders Pamelia, townhouse developer to mediate dispute

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A federal judge has ordered mediation in an attempt to resolve a dispute between the town of Pamelia and a Watertown developer who is looking to complete a 53-unit project on Route 37.

AYDM Associates Inc., whose principal is Guy H. Javarone, filed a $3.5 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, in October against the town and its supervisor, Lawrence C. Longway, claiming, among other things, that Mr. Longway has used his elected position to undermine completion of the Emerald Acres project because Mr. Longway owns a competing 46-lot single-family home development off Route 342. The town and Mr. Longway have filed a response denying the allegations.

AYDM Associates contends that it has met all of the conditions required by the town to complete the project, but that the town has been slow to reciprocate and refused to issue any more certificates of occupancy for buildings under development. The company maintains that its project is being held to different standards than others underway within the town, including Mr. Longway’s.

The town and Mr. Longway submitted blanket denials of each of the allegations in the response and asked that the suit be dismissed. They also requested that any requests by Mr. Javarone for declaratory or injunctive relief be denied. The suit is seeking declaratory judgment finding that the town’s action violates AYDM Associates’ rights under the U.S. Constitution, including alleged selective enforcement and violation of due process claims, and a claim under state law for interfering with a contract.

According to the suit, while 19 townhouses were under construction, the town tried to stop the project, claiming that its water and sewer systems were installed improperly. The town’s building inspector, Walter H. VanTassel, examined the work and determined that it was done consistently with approved plans and building codes and issued certificates of occupancy for three completed townhouses. It is alleged that at a Sept. 30 Town Council meeting, the board, at Mr. Longway’s direction, “retaliated” against Mr. VanTassel by eliminating his position, which he has held for 15 years.

Mr. Longway said shortly after the meeting that having Jefferson County take over Mr. VanTassel’s duties at the end of the year would save the town money, which he cited as the reason the position was eliminated, not because of any personal vendetta over Emerald Acres.

Since the suit was filed, the Town Council has voted to restore Mr. VanTassel’s position and lifted a mandate that he not issue certificates of occupancy for the project. The move was made after town officials determined families couldn’t legally be prevented from moving in because of concerns about infrastructure.

In their response, the town and Mr. Longway maintain, among other things, that they have acted in good faith in dealings with Mr. Javarone and have not infringed on any of his rights.

U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Therese Wiley Dancks ordered Dec. 19 that the sides enter into mandatory mediation as part of a two-year pilot program instituted in November in U.S. District Court for the Northern District for New York requiring civil cases to attempt mediation as a quicker and less costly means of resolution than continuing litigation. The mediator will assist the town and AYDM Associates in reaching a settlement, but cannot force the parties to settle. The mediator reports progress to the court.

Judge Dancks has ordered the two sides to select a mediator by Jan. 16. The deadline for completion of mediation is June 30.

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