Apellate Court rules in favor of Lewis Family Farm

ESSEX - A New York State appeals court has upheld the decision that three houses built for farm workers on Lewis Family Farm are exempt from Adirondack Park Agency regulation.

All five justices on the Third Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court ruled July 16 in support of a lower court that said the houses did not require permitting from the APA.

The decision brings an apparent resolution to a legal battle that began in 2006 when Salim B. "Sandy" Lewis constructed three two-story modular homes on his 1,100-acre organic farm.

Lewis obtained building permits from the Town of Essex, but did not seek an APA permit because he deemed the houses agricultural-use structures, which are not considered principal buildings and do not require APA permits.

The APA disagreed, however, and issued a cease-and-desist order.

Construction on the houses continued until March 2008 when The agency's Enforcement Committee issued a determination that the houses were to be treated as single-family homes; the equivalent of three principal buildings. Lewis Family Farm was ordered to pay $50,000 and seek an APA permit as the homes were sited on resource management land.

In November 2008, Acting Essex County Supreme Court justice Richard B. Meyer found in favor of Lewis Family Farm. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's Office, on behalf of the APA, appealed the decision.

Both sides presented oral arguments to the appellate court in late May. Less than two months later, the court issued its unanimous decision, stating, "We further agree with the conclusion reached by the Supreme Court that the disputed housing units on the farm are "agricultural use structures" within the meaning of the APA act."

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