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Court nixes market challenge

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Judge dismisses Chatham’s supermarket suit against Ghent

CHATHAM–State Supreme Court Judge Patrick McGrath has dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Village Board against the Town of Ghent Planning Board that sought to force the Planning Board to conduct a full environmental impact review of plans for a new Price Chopper supermarket on Route 66.

It is not clear yet whether the parties will appeal Judge McGrath’s decision, but if the ruling stands, it clears a major obstacle to construction of a 45,000-square-foot store, twice the size of current Price Chopper in Chatham.

Earlier this year the village filed what is called an Article 78 proceeding. The suit asked the court to toss out a decision by the Ghent Planning Board, which determined that the supermarket would have no major environmental impact. The site for the new store is mostly in the town, although a small section of the lot is in the village.

The new store would be adjacent to the existing Price Chopper supermarket in the Chatham Plaza, and The Hampshire Company, which owns the plaza, also filed an Article 78 action, which named the Planning Board, the town Zoning Board of Appeals and Price Chopper. The judge ruled on both the village and the Hampshire Company suits together, dismissing both.

In his 31-page decision, Judge McGrath addressed each of the claims against the town made by the village and Hampshire. The petitioners cited flooding on that section of Route 66 and claimed the board had not done a full review of the plans.

The village also claimed the documentation about the project had disappeared and asked that Planning Board Chairman Jonathan Walters be deposed. Mr. Walters submitted an affidavit as part of the record in the case.

Referring to the Planning Board, the judge wrote, “Based upon a review by the Court of this record, the Board’s determination is supported by sufficient evidence and is neither arbitrary nor capricious and no basis exists under these circumstances to substitute the Court’s judgment for that of the Board.”

In an email to The Columbia Paper Chairman Walters said, “I think the court strongly affirmed the thoroughness of the planning board’s SEQRA procedure.” He told the court in his deposition that he only got rid of copies of plans for the new building and never destroyed information needed for the process. The decision mentions that Price Chopper has been discussing the project with the Ghent Planning Board for nearly three years.

“We are pleased that Judge McGrath’s ruling came down in our favor and look forward to participating in the process as it moves forward,” Price Chopper said in the statement. The supermarket chain is owned by the Golub Corporation, which is headquartered in Schenectady.

Mitchell Khosrova, a local lawyer representing Price Chopper, also said that Judge McGrath was upholding a lawful determination by the board. “It’s a commercially zoned area,” he said of the part of Route 66 where Price Chopper is proposing to build the new store.

“Obviously, I am disappointed with the decision,” said Cheryl Roberts, the special counsel for the village on this matter. “The Ghent Planning Board should have required preparation of an EIS by an independent engineering firm in consultation with the Village of Chatham Planning Board,” she said, referring to an Environmental Impact Statement, a detailed and costly review of a wide range of potential environmental impacts a project might create.

Village Mayor Tom Curran said in a statement issued Wednesday, May 2, “At this point, the village is considering its options.”

Mr. Curran met with his board of trustees Tuesday night in an executive session to discuss the case, said Ms. Roberts.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com.

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