Court Halts Trump From Working on North Castle Road

The Journal News. April 7, 2008

A Westchester County Court judge Friday issued an injunction that prevents Donald Trump from doing maintenance on a part of Oregon Road that he wants to use as access to potential luxury housing he would build on his Seven Springs estate.

Neighbors and the Nature Conservancy, which owns part of Oregon Road through the Meyer Nature Preserve, objected last month when Trump's workers cleared and graded part of the road, which was closed to the public in the 1990s and has overgrown into a hiking path. Lawyers opposing Trump challenged the real estate mogul's claim that he has an easement over the road that gives him access to Seven Springs.

Trump has been pursuing a 2006 lawsuit that seeks a court declaration that he has an unfettered right to use the road. Friday's order by Westchester County Court Judge Rory Bellantoni in White Plains halts maintenance on the road until the lawsuit is decided.

Bellantoni was prepared to issue a preliminary injunction March 18, but after objections by Trump's attorneys, issued a temporary restraining order and decided to allow more time for arguments. After listening to more than three hours of arguments Friday, he said vehicular traffic on Oregon Road would damage property and the "nature" of the conservancy.

"There would be irreparable harm by opening the street," Bellantoni added.

"I think it's great news and we're pleased that the injunction was decided in our favor," said Katie Dolan, executive director of the Nature Conservancy.

Before the decision, Nature Conservancy attorney Leonard Benowich said, "Altering the natural state of the land can't be compensated for (with) money."

Bellantoni said the law required him to have the Nature Conservancy post a bond to "consider actual damages by the injunction." The judge set the amount at $100,000 after Trump's attorneys requested $1 million and the Nature Conservatory's attorney requested $1,000.

Alfred E. Donnellan, one of Trump's attorneys, said afterward that he was disappointed and that they would be "trying to move the case forward."

Oregon Road resident Amy Fenno celebrated the decision, but said she and her neighbors would be wary about what subsequent action Trump might take.

"We know that with Mr. Trump it takes forever for it to really be over," she said. "We won't rest until we know he has no intention of pursuing this road."

Trump filed a $300 million lawsuit in March in state Supreme Court accusing North Castle officials of impeding access to the road and of trying to delay his housing plans. In this latest lawsuit, he charges that the town has infringed on his "right" to use the road because of a gate on the path that the town maintains.

Trump once planned a 17-home subdivision in the Bedford and North Castle portions of Seven Springs. The 213-acre estate runs through those two towns as well as New Castle.

Bedford officials had said that given the size of the plan, he needed to have a second emergency access road. Trump in 2006 sued to get a ruling that he had a right to use Oregon Road, but state Supreme Court Justice John R. La Cava ruled that the road had been shut down long ago and the time for challenging its closure passed.

Trump then dropped his proposal to put homes on the North Castle side of Seven Springs, but continued to pursue building seven luxury homes in Bedford, a plan currently under review.

The Appellate Division Second Department in February overturned La Cava, saying abandoning a public road doesn't extinguish private easement rights on it, and returned the case to the lower court. Amid the appellate ruling, Trump is again talking up plans to put housing on the North Castle side.

Court Halts Trump From Working on North Castle Road

The Journal News. March 19, 2008

NORTH CASTLE - A county judge temporarily ordered Donald Trump to stop doing any more work on a disputed road that he hopes to use as access to potential luxury housing he would build on his Seven Springs estate.

Neighbors and the Nature Conservancy, which owns part of Oregon Road through the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Nature Preserve, reacted angrily earlier this month when they discovered that Trump's workers had apparently cleared and graded part of the road, which was closed to the public in the 1990s and has overgrown into a hiking path. Trump has been pursuing a 2006 lawsuit that seeks a court declaration that he has an unfettered right to use the road.

"What are they trying to do other than to tweak everyone here, including the court," said Leonard Benowich, the Nature Conservancy attorney about Trump doing work on the road whose fate is being litigated.

Yesterday's temporary restraining order came just days after Trump filed a $300 million lawsuit in state Supreme Court accusing North Castle officials of impeding access to the road and of trying to delay his housing plans.

Yesterday's order by County Court Judge Rory Bellantoni stops any further work until April 4 arguments on a preliminary injunction, which would halt any maintenance on the road until the underlying 2006 lawsuit is decided. Bellantoni was prepared to issue a preliminary injunction immediately but after objections by Trump's attorneys, decided to allow more time for arguments.

Katie Dolan, the executive director of the Nature Conservancy, said in a prepared statement that the work appeared to be in preparation to pave the road.

"Seven Springs LLC has degraded the Meyer Preserve with potentially long-term ecological and environmental consequences and (that) is bad news for nature-lovers who use the Meyer Preserve," she said.

Alfred E. Donnellan, Trump's attorney, said he has been told that maintenance workers at Seven Springs did some "light maintenance" on the road such as removing weeds, sticks and rocks. But Donnellan denied the work was done in preparation of paving and said none of it occurred off the road. "They (the Nature Conservancy) greatly, greatly exaggerated what was done," Donnellan said yesterday.

The Nature Conservancy, North Castle and two couples who live near the closed section of Oregon Road have been fighting in court over whether Trump has an easement over the road that gives him access rights to Seven Springs.

In the mega-developer's latest lawsuit, Trump charges that North Castle has infringed on his "right" to use the road because of a gate on the path that the town maintains.

"They've used improper techniques ... to delay the inevitable," Trump said this week. "The biggest beneficiary is going to be them, because they're going to get tax revenue (from new housing). Now they've delayed it into a bad real estate market."

North Castle Supervisor Reese Berman this week scoffed at Trump's claims that the town isn't interested in garnering added tax revenue, calling it an "outrageous statement." North Castle is interested, she said, in revenues from a "limited" development on Seven Springs but has to balance that with other issues, such as preserving open space.

"Mr. Trump is acting as if he has the right to the road," Berman said. "Our feeling is that has not yet been determined."

Trump once planned a 17-home subdivision in the Bedford and North Castle portions of Seven Springs. The 213-acre estate runs through those two towns as well as New Castle. Bedford officials had said that given the size of the plan, he needed to have a second emergency access road. Trump in 2006 sued to get a ruling that he had a right to use Oregon Road, but state Supreme Court Justice John R. La Cava ruled that the road had been shut down long ago and the time for challenging its closure passed.

Trump then dropped his proposal to put homes on the North Castle side of Seven Springs but continued to pursue building seven luxury homes in Bedford, a plan currently under review.

The Appellate Division Second Department in February overturned LaCava, saying abandoning a public road doesn't extinguish any private easement rights on it and returned the case to the lower court.

During a break in yesterday's court proceedings, Donnellan walked over to the other side's attorneys and said he might have a solution. Trump would be prepared to swap a large piece of Seven Springs for a part of the Nature Conservancy land, he said.

"There could be some areas that could be very valuable as a nature preserve," he said later.

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