Judge rejects apartments, Costco in Guilderland; developer to appeal



ALBANY — The operator of Crossgates Mall said Monday it will appeal a state judge’s ruling blocking an apartment complex and Costco mega-store planned near the mall.

State Supreme Court Judge Peter Lynch in Albany County on Friday ruled that the town of Guilderland’s site plan approval was arbitrary and capricious and therefore null and void.

Mall owner Pyramid Management Group LLC and two associated limited liability companies have been working on the plan for years. It would place the region’s first Costco warehouse store just south of the mall and a 222-unit, five-story apartment complex just west of the mall. It would also clear the way for a potential third project, with apartments, retail and office space, next to the Costco.

Neighboring residents, a retailer and the retailer’s landlord sued to block the project. They, along with numerous other entities, have opposed it for its impact on traffic in the already congested area; on the fragile Pine Bush ecosystem; on wildlife; on the surrounding community; and on a historic district just over the border in Albany.

Lynch lambasted Pyramid’s application and the town’s review of it in a 77-page ruling peppered with strong language:

  • “Remarkably misleading response”
  • “Patently false”
  • “Seismic failure”
  • “It does not!”
  • “Absurd on its face”
  • “Really?”
  • “Startling and false”

Guilderland Town Supervisor Peter Barber did not return a request for comment for this story Monday.

The would-be developer said via email:

“Pyramid Management strongly disagrees with the decision. We are very confident that we will have success in our appeal. We intend to take all appropriate actions to complete and finalize the governmental approval process for each project.”

The two couples, gas station owner and gas station operator sued in September to block the project by challenging the town’s review of its likely environmental impact.

Lynch ruled that the Guilderland Planning Board did not comply with either the procedural or the substantive obligations of the state environmental quality review process.

Noise, light, traffic and density impact on wildlife, ecology, neighbors and the community were not properly assessed, Lynch said.

He noted that the town of Guilderland was ignoring the Transit-Oriented District it created, where alternatives to cars would be encouraged and supported, to allow construction of a Costco store with heavy reliance on cars.

Lynch placed particular emphasis on Albany’s Rapp Road Historic District, where a group of settlers from Shubuta, Mississippi, arrived in 1930 as one of the first waves of the Great Migration of Southern Blacks seeking opportunity and freedom in the North.

A few of the small houses those settlers built by hand remain intact, and some of their descendants still live in the neighborhood today. The district’s significance can’t be overlooked, the judge ruled, but the project’s impact on it, from traffic and glare of light to density of five-story apartment buildings near the little houses, was minimized by the developer and accepted by the town.

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