Board puts off Nxivm plan

Planning panel says applicants contradict each other on proposal for former Romano's

Albany Times-Union/October 24, 2006
By Dennis Yusko

Halfmoon -- A failure by Nxivm representatives to provide specifics on how members plan to use the former Romano's restaurant prompted the town Planning Board on Monday to adjourn taking action on the proposal.

Attorney Sarah Biscome and Dan Morelli of Morelli Design and Construction are seeking a change of tenant designation for the property on behalf of their clients, high-level Nxivm member Pamela Cafritz and Nxivm Regional Vice President Barbara Bouchey.

Bouchey bought the 4,056-square-foot restaurant on Route 9 for $650,000 in June and filed plans with the town to divide the property into four offices, a public office space, a reception area and cafe.

"It is essentially going to be an Internet cafe," Biscome told the board Monday.

But under heavy questioning from board members, Biscome and Morelli contradicted each other about intended uses for the site.

Biscome ultimately acknowledged three operations planned for the property: an organic cafe, a conference room that can be rented out for seminars and training, and a spot for an unidentified commercial tenant to rent.

He also said the operation would have an open cafe for people who need to send faxes and make photocopies, and multiple Internet connections that could be used for teleconferencing.

The responses surprised board members.

"You've also changed the concept since we last saw you," board member Rich Berkowitz said.

"We've got four different answers to the same question," an exasperated board Chairman Steve Watts told Biscome.

The board unanimously agreed to adjourn the proposal, which angered Morelli. He accused the board of twisting their questions "1,000 ways."

"Let's let Romano's just sit there, waste away and get overgrown," Morelli told the board after its decision. "This has been a total waste of my time."

Nxivm, a human development company based in Colonie, claims its self-auditing courses and personal coaches help professionals reach their full potential. Its founder, Keith Raniere, known as "Vanguard" to followers, and its president, Nancy Salzman, known as "Prefect," live in Halfmoon.

Nxivm tried to build a headquarters in Halfmoon a few years ago off Woodin Road, not far from Romano's, but the project faced overwhelming opposition from town residents, who were afraid the company would hold its much-maligned classes in the center.

Class participants, former company officials and others have called Nxivm cultlike, and the classes an expensive form of brainwashing.

Nxivm is embroiled in several federal lawsuits against their detractors. Bouchey, formerly the owner of Barbara J. Bouchey Asset Management in Saratoga Springs, and Cafritz are part of a federal lawsuit against Albany businessman Joseph O'Hara. They and nine others allege O'Hara cheated Nxivm out of $2.5 million in payments and loans while acting as its adviser in 2004.

O'Hara has denied the allegations and said he ended his working relationship with Nxivm after being asked to perform illegal acts.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.