by Jeremy Moule
The developer of the proposed Westport Crossing project in Pittsford — better known as 75 Monroe Avenue — is now suing the Village of Pittsford to stop it from applying a section of its local laws. Although the suit deals only with this development, it could ultimately have a broader effect, preventing village residents from appealing Planning Board decisions through the village Board of Trustees.
The village has a law on the books that lets any "applicant or interested person" appeal a Planning Board decision via the village board. And that's just what the Friends of Pittsford Village and two village residents, Justin Vlietstra and Michael Reynolds, did on July 17, challenging the Planning Board's July 10 preliminary approval of the project's site plan.
Vlietstra, Reynolds, and the Friends group said that the site plan failed to meet criteria set by the village board in a regulating plan. That plan, which the village board approved in December, basically sketches out the allowed number and size of the buildings as well as the approved footprint of the project.
Earlier this week, the project's developer, Pittsford Canalside Properties LLC — an affiliate of Mark IV Enterprises — filed suit against the village challenging the law that permits the appeal by Vlietstra, Reynolds, and the Friends.
Ultimately, the company wants the court to rule that the section of law permitting the challenge is invalid. In its court filings, it argues that the local law conflicts with state law, which allows residents to challenge government decisions in court. It also argues that the local law conflicts with a state statute that says a village board can't overturn site plans properly approved by a designated planning board. (In response, Mayor Bob Corby says the village's law predates the state law and is grandfathered in.)
In its filings, Pittsford Canalside Properties says that it's spending millions of dollars to clean up the property, which was polluted by the former occupant, the Monoco Oil asphalt plant. The company has spent $3.2 million on the project, a total that includes reimbursements for consultants hired by the village to assist with the project review, says the filings.
The company also argues that it will suffer "irreparable injuries" if the appeal is allowed to continue and the project is halted.
Pittsford Canalside Properties is also asking State Supreme Court Justice John Ark to require two village board members, Lili Lanphear and Frank Galusha, to recuse themselves from any matters relating to the 75 Monroe Avenue project. It says that Lanphear and Galusha have made public remarks indicating that they believe the project is inappropriate for the village and that they object to its size and scale.
The Village Board is holding a public hearing on the challenge by Vlietstra, Reynolds, and the Friends at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 18, says Corby. Pittsford Canalside Properties had asked Ark to temporarily halt the challenge proceedings, but he denied that.