A Jewish developer is suing the village planning board of a small upstate New York town, arguing that their decision to vote down a proposed all-girls Hasidic private school was motivated by anti-Semitic bigotry.
The lawsuit comes at the peak of a tangled and bitter battle between the school’s developer, Shalom Lamm, and local Bloomingburg residents who fear that Lamm’s 396-home project that the school would serve will change the dynamics and character of the quiet, one-stoplight village.
The housing development and school in the 420-person village, about 80 miles north of New York City, is believed to cater towards the ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect and would likely more than double the village of Bloomingburg’s population.
Opponents of the development plans directed their fight against the school after learning last summer that it could cause their taxes to skyrocket due to spending on school busing and other services. Those revelations further enraged residents already angered by the housing plan.
“The idea that there would be [government] funding to a school that might not be open to everyone is very problematic to me,” Holly Roche, president of the Rural Community Coalition, an organization founded to combat the development plans, told The Forward.
Lamm’s development company maintains, however, that his plans would in fact generate about $3 million in additional tax revenues, generating about $1.4 million annually in new net revenue for the school district.
In a meeting last month, the board voted down the proposal 3 – 1, as a crowd of about 150 opponents to the school and housing development cheered on the decision, according to the Times Herald-Record.
Lamm, the son of former Yeshiva University President Norman Lamm, argues that the move was influenced by prejudice.
“With no legal rationale or explanation, the Village Planning Board bowed to pressure from some residents motivated by blatant and ugly religious bigotry,” Lamm wrote in a statement about the suit, published in The Times Herald-Record. “The vote went far beyond the scope of the Board’s review authority, which should have been a simple pro-forma affair, and left us no choice but to seek relief from the courts.”