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Both sides claim win in Whole Foods court decision

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Both sides in the ongoing dispute over a proposed Whole Foods in Brighton — the developer and town in one corner and a community group opposed to the project in the other — are declaring victory in an appellate court decision.

The appellate division of state Supreme Court last week dismissed two challenges to the Whole Foods Plaza project from the group, Brighton Grassroots.

The first claimed the town broke state open meetings laws, and the second argued against the type of zoning the town applied to the project.

Brighton officials approved the project through an incentive zoning process, which allows developers to deviate from some standard zoning requirements — like size, density, and parking — in exchange for tangible community benefits.

In this case, the town is considering traffic signals, driveway modification plans, and improvements to the Auburn Trail hiking path proposed by the developer, the Daniele Family Companies, among those benefits.

But in tossing the challenges, the court sent back to the lower court another claim that the town ran roughshod over state regulations when it transferred an easement to the trail held by the town to the project.
Brighton Grassroots argued the transfer required approval from the state Legislature, which the town did not get, and be subject to a permissive referendum by voters.



Howie Jacobson, president of Brighton Grassroots, said he was “thrilled” with the ruling.

“We continue to call on the town to make the developer go back and do this the right way through the standard zoning process,” Jacobson said.

Brighton Supervisor Bill Moehle said the decision confirmed that the town acted “thoroughly and properly” in considering the Whole Foods project.

The project is the subject of at least six other lawsuits in opposition whose outcomes are pending. The litigation mostly challenges the size of the plaza, which would be roughly 84,000-square-feet anchored by a 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods.

David Andreatta is CITY’s editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.