Attorneys for Potsdam toilet garden owner want several village officials removed from complaint
POTSDAM -- Attorneys for toilet garden creator Hank Robar have filed a second amended complaint with the U.S. District Court of the Northern District against the village of Potsdam regarding the municipality's order to disassemble the gardens.
Attorneys for both parties have agreed to a stipulation and order filed with the complaint in federal court on Oct. 13. The stipulation calls for removal of several village officials from Robar's complaint leaving only the municipality itself and village administrator Greg Thompson. It also states that the village and Thompson will not file a motion to have the second amended complaint thrown out and that the defendants, the village and Thompson, will file an answer to Robar's new amended complaint within 20 days of the stipulation entry with the court on Oct. 13.U.S. District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn on Monday, Sept. 21 in the Northern District of New York Court in Albany granted Robar's motion for a preliminary injunction against the village taking action and clearing out the seven properties housing the gardens, pending further orders by the court. The decision says the Potsdam businessman's toilet gardens fall under Constitutionally granted free speech and expression rights.
Robar's second amended complaint was in response to a motion filed by the village in September asking the court to throw out his initial lawsuit against the village over the municipality's demands he tear down the toilet gardens.
The amended suit demands a jury trial and damages of not less than $7 million be awarded to Robar.
His attorney, Jon E. Crain of Albany, says that Robar's rights to freedom of speech, artistic expression and political protest are being violated by the village in the matter.
The village of Potsdam has been trying for nearly a decade to force Robar to get rid of the toilet gardens, which began as a political protest after the village denied him a zoning change on his property on Market Street which would have allowed him to sell the lot to Dunkin Donuts for development. The gardens now feature prominently on seven of his properties, are the subject of documentaries, a petition, vocal support and municipal ire. This most recent legal brouhaha over the bowls was touched off when the village cited Robar under an amended junk storage law, which Robar's attorneys say unfairly targeted him. The village demanded he remove the toilet gardens by Sept. 1 or they would. Robar responded with legal action.