GHENT — The Village of Chatham has threatened to sue the Town of Ghent in an effort to compel the town to conduct a full environmental impact study of the proposed new Price Chopper building on Route 66.
The decision by the village to take the case to court in what is known as an Article 78 action, emerged at a public hearing held by the town Planning Board last week on water issues and the site plan for the new supermarket, a session at which town officials got an earful from village residents upset over various aspects of the project.
At the October 26 the Planning Board also heard from a lawyer and engineers hired by the Hampshire Company, which owns the plaza that now houses the Price Chopper. The two engineers, one from Clark Engineering and one from Sterling Engineering, raised questions about whether the soil at the proposed site for the new supermarket could support the proposed structure and whether the new supermarket would lead to flooding on nearby state Route 66.
Price Chopper, owned by the Golub Corporation of Schenectady, is working with the Schuyler Management Company on plans to build a new 48,000 square foot store on 7 acres next door to the plaza. The company plans to build a catch basin for water that occasionally floods the site. The company also plans to have plantings around the building and obtain approval from the state to build close to wetlands on the site.
The engineer from Sterling said the site is too small for the store and worried about where the runoff water from the catch basin would go.
Village Mayor Tom Curran also talked about that issue in his comments to the board, saying flooding is a problem all around the site. “It’s far bigger than the village can handle,” he said at the hearing. Several people at the meeting worried about liability if the new Price Chopper building leads to flooding on nearby properties. One audience member said that the town Planning Board approved the Bank of Greene County building without a detailed environmental review. That building is across the street from the proposed Price Chopper, and the bank parking lot was partly submerged during the heavy rains of late summer.
Cheryl Roberts, the special council representing the Village Board, said the village trustees reluctantly plan to file the lawsuit and hope that the town Planning Board will rescind the formal declaration that the proposed supermarket will have no environmental impact on the municipalities. The Planning Board’s decision, called a “negative declaration” of environmental impact, means the developers will not have to conduct a detailed analysis to determine how the project would affect the environment, including the communities, and what, if any, measures would be required to mitigate those impacts. Such full environmental reviews are costly and can take months or years to conclude.
Almost the entire site for the proposed supermarket lies just outside the village and the town is the lead agency for the environmental review of the project, according the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Ms. Roberts said that the village had hoped to be included in the decision the town Planning Board made on the impact. “If you rescind your negative declaration, I would advise the village to withdraw the Article 78,” she said.
But the Planning Board officially adopted the negative declaration motion at the October 26 meeting. The action means the village has 30 days to file its suit challenging that decision.
Dan Tuczinski, the lawyer for Hampshire, said the existing plaza’s owners are moving forward with expanding the space that currently houses the Price Chopper and they are willing to work with Price Chopper if the supermarket company wants to stay put.
Price Chopper has been in discussion with the village and town about the project for over two years and says the company has made many changes to its plans to address issues of community character concerning the village.
Asked by Planning Board Chairman Jonathan Walters to talk about what happened when the current plaza was built on Route 66, village Trustee Lael Locke said the Village Board fought the developers even though the village had designated that strip as commercial. The village Zoning Board of Appeals denied the permit sought by the plaza developers. But Ms. Locke said that the village was sued and the ZBA’s ruling was overturned.