Litigating a boundary line dispute between homeowners and a developer has cost the Town of Rotterdam $85,000 so far.
The Rotterdam Town Board on Wednesday, Jan. 23, approved two separate resolutions relating to litigation brought against the town by Christopher and Claudine Hodge claiming Pigliavento Builders wrongfully assumed property consisting of all or a portion of their driveway, which is an extension of Ghents Road. The board approved up to $70,000 to be paid to attorneys representing the town and up to $15,000 for work done by Blackstone Land Surveyors.
A decision from Judge Vincent J. Reilly is forthcoming after parties made their cases last month. Town Attorney Kate McGuirl said Rotterdam officials have continued to search for ways to resolve the lawsuit.
“We are hoping to get this resolved in litigation to come to a finale on this,” Town Supervisor Harry Buffardi said.
Christopher and Claudine Hodge reside at 2265 Ghents Road and have owned it since 1998. The couple also purchased the lot holding 2277 Ghents Road in January of last year. The couple claims the developer wrongly extended his lot into an existing gravel drive, which they claim has been used as their private driveway. The developer has approval to construct a single-family home on the neighboring parcel, but if the Hodges win their lawsuit that Brookview Court home would likely become landlocked.
The Hodges point to a survey commissioned by the town in which Mark Blackstone confirms the boundary line asserted by the Hodges is correct.
“The Town is fighting over a 1,000-square-foot piece of land at the end of a dead end that has for at least the last 60 years been owned and maintained by the Hense family and the Hodge family, not the town,” Claudine Hodge said in an email. “This is a waste of taxpayer money, nothing is to be gained and we think it should stop.”
McGuirl contests the survey didn’t confirm the Hodges own the contested parcel and the town continues to assert ownership over the road, which the Hodges describe as partially being their private driveway.
“Blackstone only agrees the farm line exists, but disagrees with the remainder of the Hodge survey despite the Hodges’ assertions to the contrary,” McGuirl said.
The Hodges first sued the town to permit a fence to be placed across Ghents Road in August, according to McGuirl. Later, the Hodges requested the town join an Article 15 lawsuit over who owns the property. In return, the Hodges discontinued their lawsuit against the town.
Dennis DiGesare, the new homeowner within the disputed parcel, said he is looking forward to litigation ending.
After a building inspector walked through the completed house, he said a “verbal” certificate of occupancy was given. The actual official certificate has yet to be awarded.
“Myself along with my father-in-law built the house and had all the necessary inspections and had completed the house as of December,” DiGesare said. “We are not able to get a temporary, a conditional or a permanent (certificate of occupancy). I know it has been going back and forth for quite a while.”
About two week ago, DiGesare said the town provided documentation on what needs to be done before any certificate is awarded. He has to cap the four corners of the property, with two corners in the direct pathway of the driveway.
“We can’t do these things that are right in the middle of the driveway,” DiGesare said. “It has been very difficult on my wife and we have two small kids.”
An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated how long the Hodges have owned 2265 Ghents Road, which is since 1998. The Spotlight regrets this error and apologizes for any confusion it may have caused.