Save the Pine Bush Sues the Town of Clifton Park over Development Approval

SCHENECTADY: On behalf of Save the Pine Bush and 11 individual petitioners, Peter Henner, Esq, filed an Article 78 against the Planning Board of the Town of Clifton Park. On August 8, the Town of Clifton Park approved a “flex-space” industrial warehouse complex on top of Karner Blue habitat. Save the Pine Bush has filed suit to stop the development by requiring a Supplemental Environmental Impact Study to be prepared, thus causing the Planning Board’s State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA) “Negative Declaration” claiming this project has no significant adverse impact on the environment to be thrown out.

In January, 2005, members of Save the Pine Bush went to the Town Board of Clifton Park and asked, “What is the Town of Clifton Park’s policy was on extinction of species?” SPB members were met with stoney silence from the Board and no answer was forthcoming, except that Town Supervisor Barrett claimed it was the Town’s policy not to let “any species” go extinct.

All of the known sites of Karner Blue butterflies are located in areas zoned “light industrial” in the Town. Later that year, at a hearing on proposed changes to the light industrial zoning, SPB member Lynne Jackson raised the issue of the Karner Blue and extinction and was told by the Town Supervisor to sit down, that discussion of species extinction was not appropriate for the hearing. It was the only time in her long career of advocating for the Pine Bush and Karner Blue butterfly that Ms. Jackson was ever told to sit down and shut up by a public official during a public hearing.

Needless to say, the current Clifton Park Town administration appears to have no interest in preserving and protecting its Karner Blue butterfly habitat or in listening to concerned members of the public on this issue.

The basis of the lawsuit is that the Town flagrantly ignored its own Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and Findings Statement prepared for the Wood Road section of the Town. DCG, a large local development company, has proposed to build “flex-space” light industrial warehouses on Wood Road. The Findings Statement, completed in 1991, has specific requirements for developers to protect the Karner Blue. The Findings Statement specifically states,

“. . . the Planning Board finds that any disturbance or impacts to the known endangered species habitats will not be allowed and that no site plan proposal will be approved if such would involve the destruction or for disturbance of known Karner Blue habitat.” [emphasis added]

Additionally, the Findings Statement also requires:

“A plan to introduce Karner Blue Butterflies to the preserve area if the species is not present at the time the management plan is implemented.” [emphasis added] and

“Site specific management techniques which will be used to ensure the long-term viability of the Karner Blue Butterfly habitat. [emphasis added]

From reading the 1991 GEIS and Findings Statement it is clear that preservation of the Karner Blue sites in Clifton Park was a top priority. However, the Planning Board’s votes for approval of these industrial warehouses in 2006 violate the GEIS.

The Town of Clifton Park has been bragging recently about purchasing  land for open space preservation.  Most of the land that has been purchased so far is in the Western part of town, and all of it is on landscapes unable to support the Karner blue butterfly and the rare ecosystem it is found in. Though known Karner Blue habitat along Wood Road is in imminent danger of destruction through a combination of neglect and inappropriate land use planning, the Town has made no moves to purchase or meaningfully protect and preserve these historically well-documented, known Karner Blue sites.