Saratoga County

Appeals heard in Ingersoll, Clifton Park cases

Appeals in two cases involving projects that groups are trying to stop on environmental grounds were
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Appeals in two cases involving projects that groups are trying to stop on environmental grounds, were argued today at the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court.

In one case, a developer at the old Ingersoll home site in Niskayuna was trying to get the court to overturn a lower court’s ruling that effectively stopped the project on procedural grounds. In the other, the Save the Pine Bush group argued for its challenge of the development of environmentally sensitive property in Clifton Park’s Wood Road corridor be reinstated after the case was thrown out last year.

In the Niskayuna case, John J. Henry, attorney for Highbridge Development, argued the lower court’s ruling was faulty because the developer’s project and a new adult home being built on Consaul Road are separate projects with no relation to each other.

Preservationists — hoping to save the old Ingersoll Home and its grounds from commercial development — won a ruling in September, when a state Supreme Court judge sided with them and froze the Stanford Crossings project until a town approval process was corrected, which could take months.

The lower court seized on the two projects, which are about a mile apart, arguing that they should have been considered together.

Henry argued that there was no reason to believe they would have an environmental impact together. That they’re even in the same town is just happenstance, he said.

Meanwhile, Lewis Oliver, the attorney for the group attempting to stop the project, argued the relationship between the two sites was kept secret long enough to bar any consideration of them as related projects under state environmental quality review standards.

He argued there were other options that weren’t considered and that the full relationship between the two properties was not properly disclosed until it was too late.

In questioning, justices asked what remedies there would be if the lower court was upheld. One justice asked whether the project could simply go back through the process with no impact, then have the same outcome in the end.

Oliver responded that option wasn’t given the chance to be considered originally because needed information wasn’t disclosed.

The town of Niskayuna had appealed the decision, as well, but did not appear. The Town Board last month voted to withdraw from the proceedings after a change in membership of the board.

In the Clifton Park case, Peter Henner, attorney for Save the Pine Bush, argued for reinstatement of the group’s case.

The original lawsuit claims the town’s Planning Board failed to order property owner DCG Development Co. to require an extensive environmental study of the 37 acres. But that case was thrown out because the lower judge found the group had no basis for bringing the case.

DCG plans to build seven warehouses, totaling 139,000 square feet of space, on the parcel.

Environmentalists opposing the development say the location and surrounding property contains habitat necessary for the survival of the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly.

Henner argued that if the environmental group could not bring an environmental case, then no one could.

But Henry, this time arguing for DCG Development, argued that in such cases, direct impact, like a neighboring landowner, was needed before someone could challenge.

Thomas McCarthy, attorney for Clifton Park, also attended, arguing in support of the planning board’s decision in the case.

Rulings in both cases are not expected for several weeks.

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