Thursday, December 2, 2021

Their lake house at last

By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor

It’s over. After nearly three years, New York’s highest court rejected the final challenge to Steven and Jennifer Kitchen’s plans to build a 3,200-square-foot home on a landlocked, hillside double lot at Assembly Point on Lake George.

“The motion…is dismissed as academic,” wrote the Court of Appeals in a one-page May 14 ruling rejecting the opponents’ last appeal.

Foes of the project, who included Albany Times Union publisher George Randolph Hearst III, sought special permission to appeal the unanimous 4-0 decision against them in March by the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, Third Judicial Department.

That decision found that the Queensbury Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) was “rational and not arbitrary” in granting variances for the Kitchens’ summer home.

Steve & Jennifer Kitchen on their Assembly Point lot in the summer of 2013 — in front of the well they had drilled and the “No Trespassing” sign at the edge of George Hearst’s property.  Chronicle file photo/Gordon Woodworth
Steve & Jennifer Kitchen on their Assembly Point lot in the summer of 2013 — in front of the well they had drilled and the “No Trespassing” sign at the edge of George Hearst’s property. Chronicle file photo/Gordon Woodworth

We asked attorney Arkley L. Mastro, Jr., who represented Mr. Hearst and fellow neighbors Evelyn Jaeger, Shirley Mockel and Evelyn Mockel, plus engineer Dave Klein, if the case was finally over.

“I think it is,” he said.

No more appeals? “There are no more courts left to raise the issue,” he said, adding that for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, it would have to involve a federal issue, which this case does not.

“We’re disappointed the Court of Appeals didn’t see fit to accept our request for another appeal,” Mr. Mastro said. “It simply means there weren’t enough judges interested in reviewing the case.

“We believed the facts and the law supported our position, and the judges simply deferred to the ZBA, no matter how imperfect it had been.”

Attorney Jon Lapper, who represented the Kitchens in the planning process, said, “Now it is absolutely 100% over. I can’t even believe they went this far.”

He said of the project opponents, “they are stubborn and arrogant and sad, but we’re happy, because now the Kitchens can finally move on.”

Mrs. Kitchen said Monday afternoon the foundation is in, and the framing was going up.

John Wright, who argued the case on behalf of the Kitchens, said, “Thankfully for Steven and Jennifer, the appellants have no other avenues of appeal. The Kitchens are confident that they have done everything possible to protect the lake and build an environmentally friendly project.”

Mr. Lapper said the Kitchens’ foes “made every legal maneuver possible to stop the process. What their motivation was, I can’t speak to. But it never made any sense to me.

“But it’s done now. It’s over, and it’s a good result. It’s just unfortunate that it took this much time.”

The FUND for Lake George and its Lake George “Waterkeeper” participated in the initial challenge to the Kitchens’ home, but were not parties to this appeal.

Mr. Hearst did not return an e-mail seeking comment by press time.

Some neighbors strongly backed the Kitchens. They had a sign made dubbing the property “Victory Point” after the Kitchens prevailed in an earlier court ruling.

Copyright © 2015 Lone Oak Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Check Also

Merlino leads; votes found in machine

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer The Lake Luzerne Town Supervisor race flipped in favor …