WILTON — That ubiquitous fixture of suburban life and trail marker for modern-day commerce — the shopping plaza sign — is the focus of a lawsuit in Wilton.
The owner of the land where a Walgreens pharmacy sits at Old Gick Road and Route 50 is suing the operator of a retail plaza next door, saying it placed the sign on the Walgreens property without permission many years ago.
The Walgreens landlord, W/G 3040 Route 50 LLC, is seeking $10,000 a year for each of the roughly 20 years the sign has been in place.
The owner of the neighboring shopping plaza whose tenants appear on the sign is The Benchmark Group, a Buffalo-area real estate developer and manager whose retail portfolio totals nearly 4 million square feet in 11 states.
Benchmark did not return a call seeking comment for this story.
The lawsuit filed June 7 in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County states and alleges that:
- In late 1999, Benchmark sought and received approval from town government to erect the sign on the land it manages at the entrance to its shopping plaza, which is anchored by Lowe’s.
- In 2000 or later, without any agreement between the parties, Benchmark built the sign without permission on W/G’s property, where it would be much closer to the busy Route 50 arterial used by tens of thousands of motorists per day.
- The “massive” sign, which never received final approval from the town after completion, “stands like a monolith” on the Walgreens lawn, roughly 20 feet tall, 10 feet wide and 5 feet thick, with its own electric meter.
- Benchmark has ignored repeated demands by W/G to remove the sign or pay for use and occupancy.
- Benchmark employees have trespassed repeatedly on W/G’s property over the past three years to perform maintenance.
W/G seeks removal of the sign; eviction of Benchmark from the property; $10,000 a year for use and occupancy; and reimbursement of costs and legal fees.
The case was filed by attorney Joshua Bleichman.
The only specific dates mentioned in the court papers are quite recent or, in the matter of the alleged trespassing, fairly recent. But Bleichman said Tuesday that the matter has been a point of contention for years.
He also said it’s not a case of adverse possession — in which one party occupies and cares for the property of another for long enough to have a claim of legal title to that property.