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Willow Street Again

SPB Sues over Sewers Built in the Preserve

DEC Caves in to Developer

by Lynne Jackson

Ten months after filing a ground-breaking suit that forced a developer to remove water lines from the Preserve along Willow Street in Guilderland, Save the Pine Bush has filed a second suit against the same defendants, this time seeking removal of the sewer lines. Lewis B. Oliver, Jr., attorney extraordinaire for SPB said, "We were successful in getting the developer to remove his water lines from the Preserve, now we intend to get the developer to remove the sewer lines." Named as defendants in the suit filed in NY State Supreme Court are the Albany Pine Bush Management Commission, Town of Guilderland, City of Albany, and developer Edward J. Pigliavento, Jr.

The suit centers around the proposed luxury housing development, Tera Court. This 6 house subdivision (each house costing in excess of $250,000) is located at the end of Willow Street at one of the entrances to the State Preserve. The Albany Pine Bush Management Commission has designated this property as "full protection," which means that the Commission believes it should be acquired and added to the Preserve.

Tera Court which is located north of Willow Street was approved by the Guilderland Planning Board in 1990. But, the developer did not start construction of the sewer and water lines on Willow Street until the fall of 1997. Last December, SPB filed suit over the construction of the water lines in the Preserve. Tera Court is located north of Willow Street. Original research conducted by John Wolcott, determined that the Preserve boundary was along the center line of Willow Street, meaning that the Preserve went from the center of Willow Street south. Pigliavento built the water lines south of the centerline of Willow Street in the Preserve.

Last January, the New York State Attorney General asked for and received an injunction from construction while their office took time to research the issue. As far as we can tell, the Attorney General did no research, but John Wolcott continued to research the issue of who owns Willow Street.

Wolcott's research showed that the State owns all of Willow Street. The developer, Pigliavento, put the sewer lines for this development north of the centerline of Willow Street, which is inside the Preserve.

The suit became even more complex. In June, the Town, Pigliavento, and the Commission all got together to sign an agreement to end the suit &emdash; as if defendants in a suit can just get together and decide how to settle it! At any rate, the defendants came up with a stipulation, one of the terms being that the developer Pigliavento would apply to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to get a water permit to build water lines.

Pigliavento then applied for the permit. DEC then did the right thing and stated that before DEC could grant the permit, the developer would have to write a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) because the effect of this development on the Pine Bush would be significant.

DEC's letter emphasized the importance of the Pine Bush and the potential impact caused by this development by stating. "If developed as currently proposed the project [Tera Court] will impact existing native Pine Bush species on the site and will limit the Commission's ability to achieve minimum protection goals for the Pine Bush Preserve and future potential for managing the Preserve."

At this point, Pigliavento said, Oh, then forget the water lines. Its too expensive to prepare and EIS. I will put in wells instead. (Do you know anyone that would pay more than $250,000 for a house in a developed area only to have the water come from a well? Ridiculous.) Pigliavento then applied to the Guilderland Planning Board to change his subdivision approval to allow the use of wells. The Planning Board immediately, without any thought about the Pine Bush at all, approved the construction of wells.

Then, DEC totally wimped out. DEC retracted its requirement for a full environmental impact statement and said that well, since the Town said it was OK to build wells, that, "well, Pigliavento didn't have to write an environmental impact statement for a water permit". The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) requires an EIS to be prepared on any construction (such as wells) that will significantly impact on the environment. It is irrelevant to SEQRA how water will be supplied to a proposed development. DEC is allowing the developer to circumvent SEQRA.

SPB's lawsuit includes many significant points besides just the construction of the sewers. At issue also is that the Town approved the construction of wells without complying with SEQRA and requiring the preparation of an EIS. And finally, the original approval of the development in 1990 is null and void because the developer did not file his approved plans with the County in the required 90-day limit (he waited more than six months to file the plans).

published Dec98/Jan99 Newsletter

Read about our first Willow Street lawsuit

See Photographs of the Water Pipes Being Removed!!!


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