ALBANY — The proposal for a large apartment complex and a very large Costco store adjacent to Crossgates Mall are back on track.
In a ruling issued Thursday, a midlevel appeals court overturned a lower court decision that had vacated the Guilderland Planning Board’s site plan approval for the projects on the grounds that the board did not comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
The Appellate Division, Third Department countered that the Planning Board’s review was proper and the proposal could go forward through the review process.
Mall owner Pyramid Management Group LLC and two associated limited liability companies have been working on the projects for years. They would place the region’s first Costco warehouse store just south of the mall and a 222-unit, five-building apartment complex up to five stories tall 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.
Nearby residents and businesses opposed the plans on several grounds, including environmental, traffic and visual impact, and charged that the Planning Board wrongly granted approval.
They attempted to block the Planning Board approval in federal court in April 2020, then filed a similar complaint in state Supreme Court, Albany County after the federal case was dismissed.
In November, Albany County Supreme Court Judge Peter Lynch issued a strongly worded ruling declaring the Planning Board’s site plan approval arbitrary and capricious, and therefore null and void.
Thursday’s Appellate ruling picks apart Lynch’s decision point by point as either incorrect or beyond the proper scope of review.
It is not, however, a green light for construction, only clearance for the developers to resume their progress through the town review process.
Because the Appellate ruling was unanimous, the right to appeal to the state’s highest court is not automatic — the Court of Appeals must grant leave to appeal.
The 160,000-square-foot Costco store and its gas station would sit on 16.5 acres at the corner of Rapp Road and Western Avenue. The two five-story and three two-story apartment buildings would sit on 19.7 acres off Rapp Road and would include 4,300 square feet of commercial space.
Among the concerns raised in court papers were the project’s impact on wildlife; the height of the buildings relative to the nearby one-family homes; new traffic being generated on a congested stretch of Route 20 that already sees tens of thousands of cars pass daily; and encroachment on the Rapp Road Historic District in Albany.
The Appellate court ruled that “the Planning Board did not simply rubber stamp the project as compatible because it was a permitted use.”
Instead, the ruling stated, a number of concerns were identified, scoped, discussed at length and addressed.
The Planning Board, the ruling stated, took a hard look at the adverse impacts of the proposals and imposed multiple remedial actions in an attempt to reduce those impacts.