Bloomingburg, NY - Questions are swirling around Bloomingburg Mayor Mark Berentsen after it was revealed that guaranteed water access for private land owned by the Berentsen family was included in the controversial 396-unit housing deal developer Shalom Lamm struck with the village of Bloomingburg.
RECORDONLINE.com reports that, according to Sullivan County property records, Berentsen and his parents purchased a parcel of land from Shalom Lamm’s Sullivan Farms just two months prior to Lamm’s deal going before Bloomingburg’s planning board for approval.
Language in the deal between Sullivan Farms and the Berentsens clearly states that Lamm’s housing development deal will provide water access to Berentsen’s new properties.
According to records on file and notarized by Bloomingburg lawyer John Kelly in May of 2010, it states, “As part of the project, SF (Sullivan Farms) will develop a water supply and construct and install a water delivery system to serve the improvements at the Project site.
In addition, upon receipt of the Project approvals….SF will cause the Bloomingburg Water Transportation Company to include in its service the area the Village residences located at 68 Winterton Road, and to certain parcels located on Market Street known as (....) which parcels are located in the Village but outside the project area.”
The omitted addresses, indicated only by tax map numbers, are the exact addresses of the properties purchased by the Berentsens.
Mayor Berentsen signed off on Lamm’s 360-unit housing a mere two months later, followed by the planning board.
Local watchdog groups say, at the very least, Berentsen’s actions in the deal should be investigated for ‘conflict of interest,’ while legal experts suggest his actions may have been more severe.
Holly Roche, leader of the Rural Community Coalition, said, “In my opinion it’s a conflict of interest according to the New York State Ethics Code. He (Berentsen) signed off on the developer’s agreement at the same time he was involved in a business deal with the developer. Problem.”
A spokesman for the New York AG’s office, which is currently investigating the matter, said only that it “wouldn’t dispute” charges that the Berentsen’s deal was “improper.”