Off the Northway: Clifton Park warehouses going forward

Some readers may remember a lawsuit that the Save the Pine Bush brought back in 2006, trying to prot

Some readers may remember a lawsuit that the Save the Pine Bush brought back in 2006, trying to protect some of the last remaining habitat of the rare Karner Blue butterfly in fast-growing Clifton Park.

With all due respect to Save the Pine Bush’s lawyers, if the butterflies had represented themselves in court, the final result would have been the same.

In a series of rulings that wrapped up in 2008, a trial court judge and then an appeals court found that a well-organized and respected environmental group like Save the Pine Bush — or any average citizen, for that matter — doesn’t have the legal standing to sue in most municipal environmental review cases. Basically, the courts concluded that no one can sue a town for doing a lax environmental impact study unless they can show specific harm to their own interests; in other words, they can’t speak for the butterflies or other critters that can’t speak for themselves.

At issue in the case were plans by DCG Development of Clifton Park to build warehouses on some sandy open land on Wood Road, in a rural corner of Clifton Park just south of Round Lake. Historically, some Karner blues have been found there.

The town did an environmental study and gave the project a green light, if one acre was set aside as promised butterfly habitat.

Save the Pine Bush has a long-standing commitment to protecting the Karner blue’s presence in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve and brought legal and financial support to the Clifton Park case, which was also joined by Clifton Park environmental activist William Engleman.

Their argument was that the town’s approval conditions didn’t do enough for the butterfly. But having been denied standing to sue, they never got to make that argument in court.

Three years and a deep recession later, DCG’s plans are moving forward.

Building permits for the first four warehouses were issued on April 15.

Engleman, who has waged a lonely fight as a local environmental watchdog in a place where local officials are unanimous in their pro-growth attitudes, has been keeping tabs.

“This week at the site, foundations for these huge warehouses are being poured. Trusses and steel frames have been delivered to the site and presumably will be erected as soon as the construction crew [Bast-Hatfield] deems appropriate,” he reported with dismay.

Mountain floods

Thursday was an interesting day to be driving through the heart of the Adirondacks, as I was.

The sky alternated driving rain and glimpses of sun. Whatever the sky was doing, we’d find water sluicing across the state highway and have to drive through it. Sometimes people were taking pictures while we did it.

We weren’t around the worst Adirondack flooding — and we were just passing through, so we can’t claim huge hardships — but from the Hudson lapping onto Route 28 in North River to Long Lake’s rise past the steps of the Adirondack Hotel, we saw sights we’d never seen before.

The flooding in Long Lake is on YouTube, if you want to see it, set to Johnny Cash’s “Five Foot High and Rising.”

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