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2002-05-14
Mount Vernon, NY. Court Rules Against Home Depot in "Visual Character" of Town

In late April, the Journal News of Westchester County reported that a four judge panel of the State Supreme Court's Appellate Division in Brooklyn unanimously overturned a decision by a lower court, and affirmed a decision of the Mount Pleasant, New York Planning Board's rejection of Home Depot. The judges agreed with the town that the proposed Home Depot was out of character with the surrounding area. According to the town, the site plan "ignored the carefully planned, attractive 'campus style' development that characterized much of the (local) zoning district." Mount Pleasant said Home Depot's plans involved the "irretrievable removal of a forested hillside into a nearly level terrace with steep slopes (45-60 degrees) and areas of exposed bedrock within 50 to 80 feet of the eastern border of the site." The town also objected to the "massive lengths" of retaining walls up to 20 feet high along the western side of the project. The town said that this "destructive and constricting development pattern" was "caused by the selection of an insufficient project site area that does not accommodate (Home Depot's) proposed project." Home Depot acknowledged that the design was "shoehorned" onto the site. The Court found that "In light of the petitioner's acknowledgment that the project is 'shoehorned' into the proposed site, and the (town's) specific findings that the project is not in keeping with the surrounding area, the denial of the site plan approval was not arbitrary and capricious, and was supported by substantial evidence. The record indicates that the project would bring about "a noticeable change in the visual character" of the area, and further that that change would be irreversible. The town's findings that the proposed site plan is not desirable at this particular location is not based upon general objections or conclusory findings."

What you can do: This is an example of how a town can stop a development -- even if the land is already commercially zoned. In this case, the project's design and scale had adverse impacts on the surrounding area, and would harm its visual character. The Court has once again affirmed that impact on surrounding area, and impact on visual character are proper reasons for rejecting a site plan -- even on commercially zoned land. A similar New York case against Wal-Mart in North Elba, NY was decided in 1999, also in favor of the town. For a coy of the decision, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
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