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Brighton Town Supervisor: Whole Foods Plaza project will move forward

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Ongoing litigation can still halt project, but DOT's findings a victory for developers

BRIGHTON, N.Y. (WROC) — The New York State Department of Transportation has ruled that the proposed Whole Foods Plaza development in Brighton can move forward following the release of their traffic impact study.

Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle announced Thursday that the DOT’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) findings concluded that the project “minimizes environmental impacts to the maximum extent possible.”

“The DOT’s role is simple. Their role is traffic safety,” Moehle said. “They conduct environmental review, but also study traffic impact, which goes to the heart of the issue for many people.”

The proposed grocery store is slated to go on Monroe Avenue near Clover Street in Brighton. Moehle pointed to the benefits of this project, saying competition in an essential industry like food commerce will benefit consumers and residents alike.

“This project will benefit the town and its residents in many ways,” Moehle said.

The DOT’s findings, however, are not the end of this development’s long back-and-forth legal saga as an ongoing court ruling still hangs in the balance to determine the project’s fate.

“There is litigation pending, but I don’t believe there is merit to that litigation,” Moehle said.

Back in June, an Appellate Court made a ruling related to the Whole Foods development. The ruling pushed a dismissed lawsuit on the project back to adjudication.

The ruling involved an area of law known as the Public Trust Doctrine which requires municipalities to receive permission from the state legislature before they can transfer an interest in public park land to a private developer.

The developers then had to provide more information regarding their plans and proposals. Should the court ultimately decide that the Town of Brighton did, in fact, violate the Public Trust Doctrine, it would have require the developers to start the whole planning process over again.

One of the groups opposing the development, Save Monroe Avenue, released a statement Thursday regarding the DOT’s findings:

“The DOT’s determination is fatally flawed and unlikely to survive a court challenge.  The Department completely contradicts its earlier findings on the project’s traffic problems.  In particular, the DOT had previously found that the Developer must either open the rear access points to the site, or significantly reduce the size of the project, to avoid more traffic gridlock on Monroe Avenue.  The final plan does neither, and will subject area drivers and businesses to miserable traffic conditions.”

Another group opposing the development, Brighton Grassroots, also released a statement Thursday about the DOT’s findings, saying in part:

“Supervisor Moehle has overstated the significance of the DOT’s routine environmental determination. The DOT earlier stated that the project would cause gridlock and needed to be reduced in size. Without any reasoning, it has arbitrarily reversed itself. We doubt it will survive judicial challenge.

The oversized Whole Foods Plaza still faces a long judicial challenge to the town’s improper and illegal approvals. In addition to other errors, the project needs state legislature approval and the permissive referendum vote by residents to proceed.”

Full report from NYS DOT:

SEQRA Report on Whole Foods — August 29, 2019 by Matthew Driffill on Scribd

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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