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Private Oak Hills community sues town to provide additional services

10/10/2016 6:00 AM |

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Residents of a private community in Baiting Hollow are suing Riverhead Town to expand services on its roads, alleging the town is in violation of state law by providing only snow removal services.

The Oak Hills Civic Association, which comprises 85 homes on 11 private roads north of Sound Avenue, claims that when the town agreed last year to provide snow removal services it also should have agreed to provide leaf pickup, drainage cleaning and road paving to the community.

“The defendants [the town] have erroneously interpreted and misapplied [state law] to mean that they are only required to provide snow removal and no other roadway maintenance and services, such as drain vacuuming, maintaining lighting and water lines, cleaning of tree, leaf, ranch and storm debris, roadway patching, etc.,” the lawsuit states.

Oak Hills was one of several private communities that stormed Town Hall in 2014 after residents received a letter from Highway Superintendent George Woodson stating the highway department could no longer legally provide snow plowing services to private roads, as it had done in the past.

The town reversed that policy last year, agreeing to provide services to several communities that had been receiving such services for at least 10 years. The town based its decision on a section of state highway law that says “all lands which shall have been used by the public as a highway for the period of 10 years or more, shall be a highway, with the same force and effect as if it had been duly laid out and recorded as a highway.”

But this past January, Oak Hills Association president Judy Miller and treasurer Robin Griffin asked the Town Board at a work session to provide additional services for their roads. They said in a letter that the resolutions passed by the town allowing snow plowing “are contradictory and unenforceable.”

“We deserve all repair and maintenance services as any road within the town,” they said in a letter presented to the board in January.

Town Board members did not agree.

“We’re not going any further,” Supervisor Sean Walter said at the time.

But Mr. Walter had previously sent Ms. Miller an email stating that he happened “to agree with [her] analysis.” The email was included as an exhibit in the complaint.

“I am not sure what else I can do, as the highway superintendent is an elected official,” he wrote.

Oak Hills residents filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court last month naming the Town Board, its members, the highway department and Mr. Woodson as defendants. They are seeking a “declaratory judgment,” meaning a judge would rule on whether the town needs to provide those additional services.

Mr. Walter declined comment on the lawsuit.

Photo caption: The entrance to Oak Hills in Baiting Hollow. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

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