Last Tuesday, Residents Protecting Montgomery and Lerner Pavlick Realty Company filed an Article 78 proceeding in Orange County Supreme Court to vacate State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) approvals the Town of Montgomery Planning Board and Town Board gave the site developer for a proposed one-million-square-foot warehouse Project Sailfish, which enabled rezoning of the site.
In the lawsuit, petitioners contend that the rezoning of the 187.7 acre parcels violate the town’s 1988 comprehensive plan and that the inconsistency was never studied nor sufficiently explained by the applicant or either town board. They claim that rather than confronting the actual adjacent land uses, the applicant misrepresented the nature and character of the area as well as the environmentally-sensitive nature of the site.
Residents Protecting Montgomery (RPM) and Lerner Pavlick Realty note that the environmental reviews done of the proposed project failed to consider cumulative impact of this project and others currently being proposed in the town and failed to review critical socio-economic effects of adding 1,100 new employees to the town’s 4,100 person workforce.
Several important members of this case spoke at a press briefing at Sussman & Associates in Goshen on Friday. This included Don Berger and Beth Hoeffner of RPM, Barbara Lerner of Lerner Pavlick Realty Company, Chris Miele, Chair of Concerned Citizens for the Hudson Valley and Michael H. Sussman, the petitioners’ lawyer.
Berger explained that rather than approve such a massive project, the new town board should declare a moratorium on such large-scale development while it develops a new comprehensive plan with public participation.
“We are presently pushing a moratorium in the Town of Montgomery until we do update our comprehensive plan, which is 30 years old,” Berger said.
Currently, there is a six-month moratorium before the town board on the construction of warehouse/distribution facilities larger than 100,000 square feet. There is a possibility for extensions to that moratorium. Berger noted that the town board is discussing the inclusion of all warehouses in that moratorium.
Barbara Lerner, the principal of Lerner Pavlick Realty Company, joined the suit because she feared that the project will cause substantial flooding to a vacant parcel her company owns next to the development and congested traffic for tenants in a building it owns at the corner of Routes 747 and 17K.
“They lack the understanding that they need both an inventory of existing work and an overlay that would show what the pending projects will have on the entire town,” she said regarding Montgomery’s town board and planning board.
Michael H. Sussman, the petitioners’ lawyer, was upset that the identity of the end user of the huge warehouse was never revealed during the SEQRA process. He believes that state law should be altered, allowing every community in the state to know early in any review process who the end user of the development will be. Sussman noted that knowing the end user of the development allows for intelligent discussion of the site plan as well as requests for government subsidies associated with mega-developments.
Currently, Amazon, the end user of the more than one-million-square-foot warehouse and the developer of Project Sailfish has an application pending for substantial subsidies before the Town of Montgomery’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA). RPM has opposed this, arguing that the IDA should not be subsidizing one of the world’s richest companies and that if its project is ultimately permitted to proceed, Amazon and the developer should pay its full and fair share of all taxes and fees.
Chris Miele, Chair of Concerned Citizens for the Hudson Valley, applauded the petitioners for protecting three of the Earth’s most precious resources: our lands, soils and resources. Beth Hoeffner, co-chair of RPM, added that further testing must be done before developers consider building Project Sailfish.
“Water is life. We can’t unpoison the water. When it’s gone, it’s gone,” she said. “So we need to pay attention, do our homework now. We have the science, we have allies, we have reports that we can use. There’s been some testing done, we need to do more to have a baseline to protect the public health. And that’s the bottom line.”
Supreme Court has set a return date on the Article 78 action for Feb. 18. Petitioners were expected to serve their papers to the developer and town last week.