Feud Grows Between Resident, ZBA Chair

William Coden, standing at the podium to the right, appears before the ZBA last year to voice concerns to Huntington Zoning Board of Appeal Chairman Christopher Modelewski, sitting left.

William Coden, standing at the podium to the right, appears before the ZBA last year to voice concerns to Huntington Zoning Board of Appeal Chairman Christopher Modelewski, sitting left.

By Jano Tantongco
jtantongco@longislandergroup.com

A Cold Spring Harbor resident who recently took aim at the town zoning board chairman for alleged conflicts of interest has brought his claim to a state court after it was dismissed by the town’s Board of Ethics.

William Coden appeared before the ZBA last year to voice concerns with delivery trucks at Sandbar restaurant backing out onto Spring Street in a way that he says creates a safety hazard.

The ZBA previously approved the restaurant’s site plan and issued special use permits in 2013, allowing for the commercial driveway to operate in residential zoning. Coden alleged that the approval was the result of ZBA Chairman Christopher Modelewski’s “collusion” with Huntington-based real estate attorney John Breslin and RMS Engineering.

In March, the town’s Board of Ethics dismissed Coden’s complaint, concluding that Modelewski’s relationships with both Breslin and RMS do not constitute a “disqualifying conflict of interest” on the levels of town code, state law and case law.

Among the board’s reasoning was that the alleged conflicts were “speculative and immaterial.”

Coden, who pointed to the trio’s work outside town government, including work with applicants before the Northport Village Board of Zoning Appeals, was unsatisfied with the ethics board’s finding. He has since turned to the state Supreme Court.

On Friday, he filed an administrative challenge, seeking either a renewed ethics board investigation, or state opinion on the matter.

Modelewski, interviewed Wednesday, was confident the ethics board’s findings will hold true.

In another move earlier this year, a group of three Cold Spring Harbor residents, including Coden’s wife, Jennifer, requested an injunction from the state to prevent trucks from backing out of Sandbar’s driveway. The state has not yet responded to Coden’s request, which was made in February.

However, last week, Assistant Town Attorney Deidre Butterfield filed a motion on the town’s behalf to dismiss the request, calling it “harassment.” She added that the request is “frivolous, lacks merit” and was aimed to “harass or maliciously injure the ZBA and its chairman” and is seeking sanctions from the court.