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LI business group seeks pro-development law

Mitch Pally, chief executive of the Long Island

Mitch Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute, on April 12, 2013. His organization is part of a home exposition Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

A group of Long Island business organizations Thursday asked the state's top lawmakers to pass pro-development legislation before the session ends next week. One of the bills pushed by the 10 organizations -- calling themselves the Long Island Business Collaborative -- could impose financial costs on those who sue to stop housing development projects and lose.

Developers say such lawsuits cause expensive delays that can't be recouped. The legislation would make those who sue potentially liable if they lose and require them to post a bond that would be used to pay the municipality and developer the cost of delay.

"Even if the municipality wins and the developer's permits were correctly given, there's no damages on the part of the plaintiff, they have no skin in the game," said Mitch Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute, a trade group that signed the group's letter to lawmakers. "What this does is try to equalize the financial investment."

But David Gahl, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, said that making those who sue financially liable if they lose would create an unlevel playing field in the court system.

"This significantly tips the scales toward the real estate interests being able to steamroll the interests of citizens' groups and people that care about smart development in their communities," Gahl said.

Another bill would encourage towns that contain lands that are part of the Pine Barrens to move quickly to allow development in other parts of town. When the Pine Barrens were created 20 years ago, property owners whose land fell in protected areas were given development rights that could be transferred to other parts of town. However, developers complain that Brookhaven and Southampton have been slow to allow them to develop. The legislation would remove the legal protection enjoyed by towns if property owners sue over those development rights.

The business groups are also pushing for a partial repeal of the "scaffold law" that imposes liabilities on construction companies for injuries at work sites.

Kevin Law, president and chief executive of the Long Island Association, said the bills would improve the business climate in the state.

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