Months of controversy over an incomplete house in the village of Round Lake has now led to a lawsuit.
Dave Blair and Josh Cottrell, who built the unfinished house at 26 Albany Ave., say the village has imposed improper conditions on their efforts to complete construction, including giving neighbors a veto over their plans.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Ballston Spa, Blair and Cottrell name the village Zoning Board of Appeals, the village and Mayor Dixie Lee Sacks. They seek to have a judge expunge two conditions set by the zoning board they say have kept them from completing construction, calling the conditions “arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, confiscatory” and violations of the federal and state constitutions.
The house Blair and Cottrell are building has been a subject of criticism in the little village for months because it is much larger than the building it is replacing. Village Building Inspector Robert Gizzi was fired by the village board in February for refusing to issue a stop-work order. A new deputy inspector issued the order, which has stopped work since.
Village Attorney Thomas Peterson on Thursday declined comment on the lawsuit.
According to the court petition filed in the Saratoga County Clerk’s office, Blair and Cottrell bought a house at 26 Albany Ave. that was “old and in very bad condition” at a county tax auction last September. They said they determined the house couldn’t be repaired and got approval from Gizzi to tear it down and build a new house on the same footprint.
The foundation was to be within one foot of the property line of neighbors Jeff and Phyllis Wildberger, but Blair and Cottrell said that’s the same footprint as the old building.
Houses in Round Lake, which grew from a 19th century Methodist campground, are typically within just a few feet of each other.
In February, when the new house was “substantially complete,” Phyllis Wildberger filed a complaint with the Zoning Board of Appeals, the petition states.
At a meeting Feb. 21, the zoning board concluded the building permit had been issued in error. Gizzi refused to issue a stop-work order, though, saying that doing so that late in the construction process was unfair.
The next week, the village board fired Gizzi.
In April, the ZBA agreed to allow the house if Blair and Cottrell reached agreements with the Wildbergers and two other neighbors, John and Jane Vallelunga.
“The condition unlawfully gives veto power over the ZBA’s area variance to two neighbors,” the petition states.
The ZBA also said an easement would be needed from the village because of a five-inch encroachment of the new building into village property along Albany Avenue.
Since then, according to court papers, Cottrell and Blair have refused to meet demands from the Wildbergers, and the village board refused to grant the requested variance.
Both conditions are improper and should be overturned, according to Donald J. Hillman of Albany, the attorney representing Blair and Cottrell. The men are asking to be allowed to finish construction, as Gizzi originally told them they could.
“Petitioners never would have started construction on the home had it not been for the village’s issuance of a building permit and its representation that the building would comply with applicable zoning rules,” the petition states.