Awards 2018

Founders’s Award

The Theodore W. Kheel Center on the Resolution of Environmental Interest Disputes was launched in April 2008 to train lawyers and local leaders in environmental and land use dispute resolution. Located at the Land Use Law Center on the Pace Law School campus in White Plains, New York, the Kheel Center aims to promote the use of non-traditional forums to resolve environmental and land disputes. To further this mission, the Kheel Center bestows an annual Founder’s Award upon an individual or municipality that has worked collaboratively with a community and reinvented democracy to make change happen.

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Richard L. O'Rourke, Keane & Beane P.C

The Land Use Law Center is pleased to honor Richard L. O’Rourke with the 2018 Founder’s Award to recognize his work as a land use attorney who has negotiated diverse and varied interests to achieve approval for complex projects without the need for litigation. Throughout his career, Rick has exemplified the type of collaboration and spirit that this award, given in the name of Theodore Kheel, celebrates. For many years, he has served as the attorney for a diverse group of clients throughout Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess, and Ulster Counties. Rick has counseled his clients to accommodate the interests of local land use officials who represent the full range of interests implicated in land development. Recently, without litigation, he obtained all approvals in Dutchess County for a $1.675 billion electric manufacturing facility using natural gas that will generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity, These recent accomplishments are only the latest in a series of campaigns led or significantly supported by Rick that have benefitted the people, economy, and quality of life of communities in our region. He has successfully challenged and defended decisions of municipal boards in zoning and land use matters, including procedural compliance and substantive determinations of zoning boards of appeal, planning boards, and legislative bodies. On behalf of Keane & Beane, from 1986 to 1989, Rick served as the Town Attorney of the Town of Southeast, New York. He was also a member and Chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals for the Town of Southeast from 1985 to 1986. He is currently the Village Justice for the Village of Brewster New York, an elected position he has held since 1992. Rick is a member of the New York State Bar Association’s Special Task Force on Eminent Domain, the New York State Magistrates Association, the Putnam County Bar Association, the Putnam County Magistrates Association where he previously served as President and Secretary/Treasurer, the Westchester County Bar Association where he was an Articles Editor for the association’s Journal, the Westchester Bar Foundation where is also the current Treasurer. He is also a member of the Pace Law School Board of Visitors and on the Executive Committee as Secretary of the Board of Directors of Pattern for Progress.

Distinguished Young Attorney Award


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Noelle C. Wolfson, Hocherman Tortorella & Wekstein, LLP

The Land Use Law Center is pleased to bestow its first Distinguished Young Attorney award on Noelle C. Wolfson, an Associate Attorney at the firm of Hocherman Tortorella & Wekstein, LLP in White Plains, a graduate of Pace Law, and a former Land Use Law Center Honors Fellow. Through her work, Noelle has demonstrated the type of service and commitment to the industry, region, and people that the Land Use Law Center celebrates. In her practice, Noelle represents both private and municipal clients in land use matters and related litigation, and purchasers and sellers in real estate transactions.  She has published numerous articles in the New York Zoning Law and Practice Report and The Municipal Lawyer, a publication of the Local and State Government Law Section of the New York State Bar Association. Noelle is a long-time resident of Westchester County and a 2006 graduate of Pace Law School, where she was a Research and Writing Editor for the Pace Environmental Law Review. As a student associate and Honors Fellow with the Land Use Law Center, Noelle, among other things, contributed to the Gaining Ground Database and served as an editor of the practice guide Reinventing Redevelopment Law. Noelle is a member of the Executive Committee of the United Way of Westchester/Putnam Emerging Leader’s Alliance (ELA) and Co- Chair of the ELA’s Volunteer Committee.  This year she was a recipient of the Westchester/Putnam United Way’s 2018 “Rock Star” award.  She is also a member of the Westchester Women’s Bar Association’s Real Estate Committee and the New York State Bar Association’s Local and State Government Law and Real Estate Law Sections.

Groundbreaker’s Award

Councilwoman Emily Svenson and Planning Board Chairman Michael Dupree, Town of Hyde Park

The Land Use Law Center is happy to announce that this year’s recipients of the Groundbreaker’s Award are Emily Svenson and Michael Dupree from the Town of Hyde Park. The Groundbreaker’s Award is given to a graduate or a group of graduates of the Center’s Land Use Leadership Alliance (LULA) Training Program who have done exemplary work in a community or a region using the types of land use and decision-making tools and techniques taught in the LULA program. Councilwoman Svenson and Mr. Dupree were selected from a prestigious group of other past LULA graduates nominated for this award.

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Emily Svenson, Town of Hyde Park

Emily Svenson is serving her fourth term on the Hyde Park Town Board, after getting her start on the Town’s Conservation Advisory Council.  A believer in infill development as both an economic and environmental strategy, Svenson worked with Supervisor Aileen Rohr to launch the Hyde Park Downtown Initiative.  As councilwoman, she has striven to bring collaborative problem solving to issues ranging from neighborhood flooding to remediating an abandoned gas station.  She is currently active as the Town’s representative to the new Hudson River Drinking Water Intermunicipal Council.  After beginning her career in the conservation field, Councilwoman Svenson graduated from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in May 2018.   She works as a law clerk at the Law Office of David K. Gordon in Poughkeepsie, New York, which focuses on land use and environmental law.  She also recently joined the Board of Directors of the Hudson River Watershed Alliance.

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Michael Dupree, Planning Board Chairman, Town of Hyde Park

Celebrating his 13th year as the Chairman of the Planning Board for the Town of Hyde Park, Michael Dupree has dedicated his career to guiding the community to function more efficiently and sustainably.  Through his leadership of the “Hyde Park Walks” committee, the Town produced a pedestrian plan that enabled it to capture numerous sidewalk grants. With genuine care for the town and its people, Michael works tenaciously to integrate developers’ interests with the community’s needs to ensure new architecture contributes to a sense of place for residents. Thanks to his constant efforts, Hyde Park is in the process of reviewing multiple solar farms to produce green energy, and the town has continuously been attracting businesses from around the globe.    An active volunteer, Dupree also serves on the Dutchess County Planning Board and the Board of Trustees of Dutchess Community College.


Under the leadership of Supervisor Aileen Rohr, the Town of Hyde Park launched the “Hyde Park Downtown Initiative” (, aimed at redevelopment of the town center from a corridor of strip malls to a modern main street.  They recently completed an intensive planning process, which integrated market analysis, community visioning, zoning updates, and infrastructure design.  The Town has secured approximately $3 million in grants for sidewalks, with construction steadily underway. The Town is currently working toward bringing a much-needed sewer system to the commercial district as well, with $5.3 million in grants already committed to construction. The Town Board recently adopted a solar law, which has resulted in several solar farm projects, as well as a food and beverage manufacturing law that supports a new Japanese sake distillery coming to town.