Appeals Court Ruling Puts Brighton Whole Foods Project in Serious Jeopardy
In a decision issued this afternoon, the New York State Appellate Division, Fourth Department reinstated a claim against the Town of Brighton that now places the Whole Foods Plaza Project in serious jeopardy.
The ruling involves an area of law known as the “Public Trust Doctrine,” which requires municipalities to receive permission from the state legislature, and to hold a permissive referendum, before they can transfer an interest in public parkland to a private developer. In this case, groups opposing the supersized Whole Foods Plaza Project argued that the Town of Brighton failed to follow these requirements of the Public Trust Doctrine when they voted to allow the Project developers to build over the public Auburn Trail that runs through the proposed Project site. The Town Board did not seek or receive the required permission from the state legislature and did not hold the referendum.
For years, the public Auburn Trail has been enjoyed by runners and walkers throughout the greater Brighton area.
A lower court had previously ruled that the Doctrine did not apply. But today the Appellate Division reversed that ruling, holding that the opposition groups stated a valid claim against the Town, and that the claim can move forward. The case was remanded to the lower court for further proceedings, including a potential hearing or trial on the issue.
If the court ultimately determines the Town violated the Public Trust Doctrine, it would annul the Town’s approval of the Project and require the process to start again. The ruling was lauded as a victory for the community groups who have long opposed the size of the Project.
“This ruling could be a game-changer. We’re extremely pleased with it,” said Charles W. Malcomb, an attorney for one of the opposition groups, Save Monroe Avenue. He also represented several outdoor recreational organizations that had asked the Appeals Court to reverse the previous decision.
“This claim is a perfect example of why the Project is too big,” Malcomb added. “The developer literally needs to pave over a popular public trail—and encroach into a residential neighborhood—just to make enough room for it. You can’t do that without permission from the state and without a permissive referendum. They didn’t do that here.”
The February 28 Public Hearing regarding Incentive Zoning and proposed Whole Foods' "supersized" project was held in a venue, too small to accommodate the attending public. People were directed to an overflow room, where they could use their cell phones to view the meeting. Many turned away in disgust. Messages of right-sizing Whole Foods within zoning limits, keeping our trail natural, and ensuring a fair and transparent Town government were proclaimed by the speaking public.
The Town needs to reduce the size of the traffic generators – grocery store and Starbucks. Whole Foods should not be supersized under an incentive zoning deal.
Check out the results of a recent poll confirming that a significant majority of Brighton is opposed to Whole Foods Plaza!
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READ THESE IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
- Letter to Brighton Town Board
- Our letter to the Town Board regarding draft environmental impacts
- Our letter to the Town Supervisor and Town Board
- Comments on Draft Environmental Impacts
- Traffic Study from independent Traffic Engineering Firm
- Download Clover Area Neighbors United comments on SDEIS
- Poll results of Brighton's response to Whole Foods Plaza
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This is the planned area of development. Plans for buildings are over 150% bigger than what's allowed by zoning laws. This will create problems for other businesses, commuters and especially those who live and pay property taxes in the area. Please join our cause and let your voices be heard - say NO to any “supersized” zoning for this Developer that would worsen the traffic conditions in this corridor.