A Cross River couple living adjacent to the site of the new AP Farm Athletic Fields filed a letter of complaint to the Katonah Lewisboro school district citing its violation of an implied agreement to install a five-foot earthen berm between the fields and their homes.
"We're very frustrated because it's been two years of back and forth communication about the berm being installed, and suddenly—it's gone," said Judith Beller, whose property abuts the construction site, in an interview with Patch.
She and her husband, Laurence Beller, through the White Plains law firm Zarin & Steimetz, sent a letter to the school board Thursday demanding the restoration of the berm to the construction project after learning that it was
At that meeting, Michael Jumper, assistant superintendent of business, said that the district didn't like the appearance of the berm, it crowded the fields and bathroom facility, and a gap behind the berm would pose a safety and security risk.
The Bellers and their attorneys spoke about their concerns at the Sept. 22 school board meeting, where the district accepted their presentation but did not comment. The school board released a statement Friday afternoon from Mark Lipton, school board president, via its public relations firm, Syntax. "We are in receipt of the letter from the Beller family attorney, and we respect the concerns they have shared," the statement reads. "This letter has been forwarded to our legal counsel for review, and we will follow up directly with the Beller family in the near future."
Meredith Black, an attorney with Zarin & Steinmetz, said that they first approached the school board in Oct. 2009 with their concerns about the fields, including a request for fencing, burying power lines and constructing the berm to shield the Bellers' home from sound and view of the fields.
"We have copies of letters, emails and presentations where they agreed to construct the berm," said Black. "This is a complete about-face."
A copy of their letter to the school board along with a history of correspondence is posted with this story.
It includes a March 2010 presentation by KG & D architects which outlines "features considered for neighboring properties" including a planted earthen berm, and several emails discussing the specifics of the berm from the New York City law firm of Sive, Paget and Riesel, which represents the school district to attorneys at Zarin & Steinmetz.
For example, Michael Bogin, an attorney with Sive, Paget and Riesel, wrote in a January 10, 2011 email to Black: "My client tells me that yes...the berm is in the plan." And in another email dated July 26, 2011, Bogin informs Black that Jumper confirmed that the contracter would be installing the berm.
Black said "after two years of good faith communication," the Bellers were not informed of the removal of the berm from the plan and learned of it after the August school board meeting.
"We're hopeful the district will address this in a neighborly fashion, but if not, we'll have to explore all appropriate legal and administrative remedies," she said.