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Lewisboro Likely to Appeal Wolf Center Ruling

LEWISBORO – A State Supreme Court decision last week that would ban the Wolf Conservation Center from using eight acres of the 370-acre Leon Levy Preserve to expand its operations will likely be appealed by the town.

Lewisboro bought the 370-acre preserve in 2005 for $8.3 million. The Westchester Land Trust (WLT) contributed $5.5 million to the purchase in exchange for an easement from the town that would ensure that the property remain in an undeveloped state in perpetuity. When the town made an agreement with the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) to use eight acres of the preserve, the WLT file a lawsuit in September 2010.

In his ruling, Supreme Court Justice Emmett Murphy said that despite the WCC’s contention that the expansion is for educational purposes and that it would not be overly intrusive, the intent of the easement is clear and prohibits such development.

However, Lewisboro Supervisor Charles Duffy doesn’t see it that way.

“It was a matter of a few chain-link fences and nothing permanent in our opinion,” he said. “I still think the town has a strong case and will probably appeal. We are of the mindset that it is a valid use.”

Duffy said the community has been extremely supportive of the WCC and said that people are perplexed by the land trust’s objections and the court’s ruling.

“The support we have from the community is tremendous,” he said. “What I’ve been hearing from citizens is, ‘Why would this (expansion) be held up?’ The WCC is a thriving entity in Lewisboro and we need to support it.”

Duffy said the town’s legal costs to support the WCC during its court battle were minimal. The town let the WCC’s attorney, who worked pro bono, argue at case, while the town attorney acted as an advisor.

“Our legal costs for the whole case were around $6,000,” he said.

In a statement issued by the WLT, the group said it was supportive of the Wolf Conservation Center’s mission, but that the stipulations in the easement are clear.

“We are pleased that the court agreed that the intent of the easement language is clear and important,” the statement read. “WLT supports the educational purpose of wolf habitats and the mission of WCC. This decision is specific to the creation of a man-made habitat on the Leon Levy Preserve. With this decisive ruling, it is the hope of WLT that we can begin implementing the Leon Levy Preserve plan for an accessible, natural preserve for the recreation and enjoyment of the residents of Lewisboro and others. WLT is eager to work with the Town of Lewisboro to help find funding sources and to create a true partnership in the spirit of the community’s love of its natural environment.”

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