A long-disputed subdivision and road connection to Lori Drive in the town can go ahead, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court found that Schenectady County was arbitrary and capricious in denying permits for street connections necessary for the project. The decision upheld a lower court finding.
The developers’ attorney, Jonathan P. Harvey, on Thursday claimed a victory in the more than two-year fight to get the project built. He represents Paulsen Development and J&E Cerone for the project off Lisha Kill Road.
“The court is saying the county is wrong,” Harvey said. “We can connect to Lori Drive and build it. I never could understand, frankly, why the county took the position they did.”
Schenectady County Attorney Christopher Gardner said he disagrees with the decision. Officials are studying it to decide how to proceed. The county has 30 days to decide whether to ask the state Court of Appeals to hear the case. There is no guarantee that the appeal would be heard.
“There is a strong possibility that we will seek leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals,” Gardner said, adding later, “We think the authority of a highway superintendent presents an issue that has some importance statewide.”
In a Sept. 28, 2005, letter, the county denied access to Lisha Kill Road — a county road — if the developments were connected to Lori Drive.
But, the Niskayuna Planning Board later approved the plan with a connection to Lori Drive. Town officials were unwilling to move from that stance, citing a town policy of connecting roads.
Paulsen Development and J&E Cerone have called the situation a Catch-22 and asked the court to decide between the opposing views. The delay is on a development that could have as many as 75 homes.
The county’s decision supported the view of many on Lori Drive who feared that a connection would increase traffic and make the street dangerous.
Thursday’s court decision says that at the center of the case was a traffic report that found the subdivision would not have a significant impact on the existing road systems and no adverse impact on adjacent roads.
Lori Drive residents Thursday evening expressed disappointment with the decision. They also expressed hope that the county would ultimately prevail, or the town would have a change of heart with a new administration in office.
“I am cautiously optimistic, hoping that the new administration, the new supervisor does not feel the same way as the previous administration,” resident Michael Ambrosino said, “and that they will look at all the reasons presented for not connecting it.”
Supervisor Joe Landry, who took office just last week, declined to comment on the decision until it could be reviewed by the town’s attorney.
“There’s new people and we’ll always look at it in a new light,” he said.
Ambrosino cited traffic concerns making it unsafe for children to play in the street.
Lori Drive resident Robert Sweeney also repeated Thursday that a connection would be unsafe and would increase the amount of traffic on their now-quiet road.
“We don’t think it’s a safe situation,” he said. “The county will have to decide where to go from here, but we appreciate their efforts on our behalf and on behalf of county citizens to try and make this a safe egress for everybody.”
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