The Yorktown planning board Monday suspended all activities for the , citing lawsuits involving the owner of the land where it is to be built.
Owner Sammy El Jamal, president of Best Buy Rent Properties 202, recently informed the town of a lawsuit attempting to terminate his sale agreement with Retail Store Construction, the applicant for the Costco facility.
"It is disputed that Best Buy Rent Properties 202, LLC and Retail Store Construction Co., Inc did not timely enter into an extension of the contract prior to its expiration on August 31, 2010," El Jamal's letter to the town stated.
Costco's lawyers say this is wrong, citing an extension through June.
El Jamal is also the owner of about 100 gas stations in Westchester, including the Shell gas station on Route 202 in Yorktown and the Mobil gas station across the street from the proposed Costco site. He has expressed disapproval that Costco plans to put up its own gas station and is now refusing to sell his property.
Joe Visconti, president of the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, said this wasn't about a local business owner and his concerns. It was, instead, about "Big Oil [Mobile] ... telling Yorktown residents what they can and can't do. Competition is what it's all about."
Visconti said the planning board tabling all activities going forward is a step back in the process, and that many people would be upset if Costco does not come into town.
The attorney for Retail Store Contruction, Robert M. Calica, in an April 6 letter to the town said El Jamal "falsely contends" the purchase agreement has expired, saying it was extended to June 30, 2011.
El Jamal is also being sued by his Best Rent partner Majed ("Mitch) Nesheiwat, "for wrongfully interfering with the Purchase Agreement." Nesheiwat wants to compel Mr. El Jamal "to cooperate with the pending zoning applications."
The cases are in Dutchess and Westchester courts.
"The Dutchess County Action arose by reason of Mr. El Jamal's wrongful and self-motivated efforts to trigger a termination of the Purchase Agreement because Costco's plans to include an accessory gasoline station for use of its members and because such an accessory gasoline service station will compete with Mr. El Jamal's own, unrelated retail and wholesale gasoline business," Calica wrote in the letter.
A lawyer for El Jamal, Albert J. Pirro Jr., wrote in a letter dated April 8 that his client does not want the application to be further processed.
"While this matter could have been settled awhile ago if the gas station component was dropped, it is now irrelevant—that ship has sailed," Pirro said.
Al Capellini, the Yorktown lawyer representing the Retail Store Construction, said El Jamal claims he never agreed to a plan for a gas station at the proposed site. Approximately six months after the contract was signed, the lawsuit was brought up, according to Capellini.
"My client has expressed to me that plans were known to all parties involved," he said.
"[Costco] has been put on hold because of the suspension of the processing of the application by the planning board. Delay doesn't breathe success. The lawsuit is an unfortunate occurrence for Yorktown because Costco would be a wonderful addition, but I am hopeful it will eventually come in," he said.
Supervisor Susan Siegel said the town is concerned there are no approvals.
"[Costco] is a potential for a significant source of revenue for the town of Yorktown," she said. "We have a lot at stake. We'll keep abreast with it. The town board has no official position on this."
The only issue that can come up in front of town board members would be Costco's gas station, which would require a special permit approved by board members, Siegel said. Everything else is reviewed by planning board members.
The nearly 19-acre that once housed a hotel and nursery lies about 40 feet below the Taconic State Parkway overpass on Route 202.