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2005-07-27
North Greenbush, NY Court Overturns Rezoning Vote

For those who wonder if its worth it for citizens to go to court to stop big box sprawl, consider the case this week from North Greenbush, New York. A state Supreme Court judge has ruled that town officials in North Greenbush erred in rezoning land for a retail project because they failed to consider a petition that had been submitted by residents in the Defreestville section of town who abut the project. The lawsuit was filed by the Defreestville Area Neighborhood Association (DANA). Some states have zoning laws which require a "super majority" of votes to be cast by the permit-granting board if a certain number abuttors file an objection to the plan. In this case, a three-fourths majority was needed to rezone this property, or 4 out of 5 of the North Greenbush town board members. The town argued that the petition was invalid because the petitioning properties were on the far side of a buffer, putting them 400 feet from the construction. The rezoning was approved on a 3-2 vote -- not a super majority. The judge ruled that the Town Board worked in league with the property owner to ensure that the petition would not have merit. They created a buffer zone around the site that would ensure no other neighbors were within 100 feet of the property to be developed, and thus would not have "standing" in the petition. "North Greenbush... efforts included paper land transactions, where the (landowners) deed portions of their own property to themselves and thus became their own neighbors," wrote Canfield. The developer, Frank Nigro, proposed a 233,800 s.f,.project, Van Rensselaer Square, including 15 retailers, reportedly Old Navy, Ruby Tuesday, Pier 1 Imports and PetSmart. The lawsuit by DANA prevented any work on the project, and now its future is in limbo. Nigro promised immediately to appeal the decision to the Appellate Court level. DANA is also pushing a petition to create a separate village of Defreestville to protect themselves from the North Greenbush town board, which residents say has become hungry for over-development. The North Greenbush Town supervisor told reporters, "The town worked hard to create responsible and sizable buffers between the project and nearby neighborhoods. Because of that work, we expect to appeal the decision by the judge." Yes, they worked hard to make the landowners their own neighbors to disenfranchise the real abuttors. But the scam didn't work.

What you can do: This is an impressive victory for DANA, one which will cause the developer and the town to spend more time and money defending their mistake, and ultimately could kill this project. Nigro, a prolific Wal-Mart developer, has deep pockets, but how long will tenants wait around for this case to work through the courts? The action by DANA has thrown this project off course by at least two or more years, if it doesn't kill it outright. Citizens who lose heartd and fail to litigate, lose the opportunity to walk away a victor, as DANA has done.










 
 
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