Whether or not a person can drive on a bike path to get to his business is the central question in a lawsuit involving Scotia waterfront property.
Joseph Serth, owner of the Camp Mohawk Valley Ski School, has sued the village in state Supreme Court, seeking the right to use the bike path — referred to in court papers as Iroquois Street. Serth said he had this right for many years and it was taken away last year.
In this case, Serth was cited for driving down the unimproved bike path to get to his dock in June 2011, in violation of a village ordinance. The village later dropped this charge against Serth, after he filed his lawsuit.
Serth argued in Supreme Court Thursday that the street was never decommissioned by the village, that it legally exists on paper even though it does not exist in reality.
Serth had originally sought to call several witnesses but village officials asked Judge Vincent J. Reilly Jr. to cut the list down. One of the witnesses he did call was his brother, John Serth, an engineering consultant who had worked for the state Department of Transportation. John Serth said he had reviewed old maps from the U.S. Geological Service including one from 1930. “On that map, Iroquois Street did exist,” he said.
Joseph Serth presented a series of other maps, which brought an objection from the village’s legal counsel, Andrew Brick.
“This is the first time I’m seeing these documents,” he said.
Serth also pointed out there were conceptual plans prepared for the village on two separate occasions that showed potential uses for his property. One conceptual plan showed a lagoon being constructed where the nearby Piotrowski property is, with a housing development around it, according to Scotia Mayor Kris Kastberg.
Kastberg said those concepts never came to fruition. He said during a break in court proceedings that it would be expensive to build and the entire property lies within a flood plain zone, so development is not a good idea given last year’s flooding.
Brick said he is not disputing that Serth had been driving on the bike path for more than 10 years, but that doesn’t mean it was legal.
Serth has an easement that runs parallel to the bike path. Kastberg has said previously that Serth prefers to use the bike path because it is a nicer road. However, Serth has alleged that village vehicles have periodically blocked his right of way.
The trial is expected to continue today.
Kastberg said if the village should lose the case, it would just decommission the street.
Serth is meanwhile facing an unrelated criminal charge for allegedly intentionally driving his motorboat close to a woman’s canoe, causing water to strike her vessel. The incident allegedly took place July 31 and Serth was arrested Aug. 24, which effectively shut down his ski school for the season. That case is pending.
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