Village sues the town

Chatham asks court to reverse Ghent’s supermarket vote

CHATHAM – The village late last week filed papers in state Supreme Court seeking to reverse the Ghent Planning Board’s decision that a proposed Price Chopper Supermarket on Route 66 would have no adverse environmental impact.

The Ghent Planning Board determined last month that the proposed 45,000-square-foot store on the FairPoint property, next to the plaza that currently houses a Price Chopper supermarket half the size of the new one, would not negatively affect the environment. Village of Chatham officials then asked that the Planning Board rescind that decision and promised to sue if they did not agree. The village has now made good on that promise by filing what is called an Article 78 action, which provides a way to appeal a municipal decision. No monetary damages are involved.

Cheryl Roberts, the village’s special counsel for the Price Chopper project, filed the petition December 1, naming the developers working on the project, the Town of Ghent and its Planning Board. The suit not only states that the village wants the Planning Board to rescind its so-called “negative declaration” on the project made as part of the required state environmental review, but also asks the court to require a full Environmental Impact Statement from Price Chopper and it seeks to have Planning Board Chairman Jonathan Walters deposed in an effort to find what the suit alleges are relevant documents that were destroyed or are missing.

A “negative declaration” in an environmental review is the term used when local authorities determine that a project will not adversely affect the local environment.

Price Chopper and Chatham Associates, the developer, came to the Chatham Village Board three years ago with a proposal to build a new store and hook-up to municipal water and sewer. They also started meeting with the Ghent Planning Board on the site plan for the new building. Much of the proposed store would be on land in the town, but a small section of the property lies within the boundaries of the village.

Earlier this fall, lawyers and engineers representing the Hampshire Company, which owns the Plaza on Route 66 where Price Chopper is now, raised questions about drainage and soil quality at the proposed site for the new store.

The Ghent Planning Board issued a negative declaration on the new supermarket plan November 2, but some village residents and village trustees have continued to voice concerns over potential flooding on the site and the how the design of the proposed store would affect the village. They also questioned whether the size of the lot is large enough for new building.

A full environmental impact statement as requested by the village would “make accurate characterizations and evaluate the adverse and visual impact from the project,” according to the Article 78 action. A full environmental review would be a much more expensive and lengthy process than the review of the project conducted so far.

Price Chopper has said at Planning Board meetings that the drainage system for the site will correct flooding issues around the proposed store. The supermarket chain, which is owned by the Golub Corporation of Schenectady, also plans to plant trees and build walls to disguise the back of the store, which faces the village.

In an email to the Columbia Paper about the lawsuit, Mr. Walters said “This all part of the rough and tumble of being a public servant, and when it’s all over I look forward to working with the village on a host of issues related to planning and zoning along Route 66.”

When asked about the case, representatives from Price Chopper said they had no comment.

Chatham Mayor Tom Curran declined to comment on the suit until he had spoken to Ms. Roberts.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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