Chris and Claudine Hodge claim a land survey commissioned by Rotterdam proves their case against the town and a local home builder they’ve accused of encroaching on their private driveway.
The Ghents Road couple say they own the land that Pigliavento Builders is using to serve as a driveway for a single family home the company built as part of Brookview Court, a subdivision of the massive Helderberg Meadows development. In a lawsuit filed in June against the town and several parties associated with the developer, the Hodges accused the town of wrongly approving plans for the home because it doesn’t meet the necessary setbacks outlined in Rotterdam’s building code.
At issue is a boundary line in a 1853 deed that shows the Hodges own land later used to access the driveway to Lot 126 of the subdivision. Mark Blackstone, an independent engineer hired by the town, indicated in a November survey that the boundary line cited by the Hodges and disputed by the developer appears to be accurate.
“Why burden and torture yourselves, us and the court with this issue,” Chris Hodge told members of the Town Board during their meeting this month. “You spent public funds to get an answer to this question. You now have an answer, and it is time to act.”
Michael Moore, an attorney representing the Hodges in their legal claim, sent a letter to the town demanding that all the project’s approvals be rescinded immediately. He also demanded the town withhold any certificate of occupancy for the nearly completed home and that the developer submit a new plan for Lot 126 reflecting the accurate boundary.
But attorneys representing the town believe the Hodges are wrongly characterizing Blackstone’s survey. Mike Murphy, a private attorney contracted by the town, characterized the Hodges as working retroactively to stop a development that was approved by the town and failing to produce documentation that shows they own the property in dispute.
“The letter from the Hodges’ attorney vastly oversimplifies the dispute the Hodges started, omits important parts of Mr. Blackstone’s affidavit and ignores the fact that the Hodges still do not own the portion of Ghents Road that they claim is theirs,” he said.
If the Hodges are successful in their lawsuit, the home constructed on Lot 126 could ultimately be landlocked. The town has not yet issued a certificate of occupancy for the home, Murphy said.
Town Attorney Kate McGuirl said the Hodges are trying to claim ownership of a town-owned road. The area in dispute once had a gravel drive that leads to the Hodges’ residence, which was set back into a forested area beyond the neighborhood on Ghents Road.
“Unfortunately, there is nothing cut and dry about this case other than the fact that the town of Rotterdam owns its roads,” she wrote in an email.
The Hodges, however, claim the gravel roadway beyond a dead-end sign where the paved portion of Ghents Road ends is their private driveway. They claim the developer has no right to use this driveway to access Lot 126.
The development at the end of Ghents Road has remained a source of ire for residents in the neighborhood. Since June, residents have regularly approached the town complaining about the builder and other conditions that have resulted from the development.