Save the Pine Bush Wins the Hotel Case

ALBANY: NYS Supreme Court Judge Thomas J. McNamara handed a win to Save the Pine Bush over the proposed Residence Inn hotel development in the Pine Bush adjacent to the Karner Blue Butterfly Hill.

Judge McNamara found the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed hotel was deficient because the EIS failed to evaluate the impact of the proposed hotel may have on any of the rare plant and animal species known to be present in the Albany Pine Bush particularly those specifically identified by the NYSDEC and Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission.

This win means that the zoning change given by the Common Council to the developer is null and void. The land remains zoned residential. Now, if the developer wants to pursue the hotel project, the developer must ask again to have the land re-zoned to C-2, Highway Commercial. The developer for this proposed hotel is Theraldson, the largest hotel corporation in the US.

The site of this proposed hotel is located completely adjacent to “Butterfly Hill” owned by Crossgates Maul. Butterfly Hill is a very important site occupied by Karner Blue butterflies.

It is Save the Pine Bush’s position that should the developer wish to pursue this proposed hotel, that the developer will need to begin the entire process over, from square one. The State Environmental Quality Review Act process should be carefully followed. New information obtained from the US Fish and Wildlife Service indicates that a large portion of this site is occupied by Karner Blue Butterflies and that constructing the hotel could involve a “take” of Karner Blues. A “take” is defined in part to “harass, harm, wound, or kill” a Federally-listed species.

Should the developer come back with a proposal, the Common Council will need to begin by holding a scoping session to determine the topics the developer needs to include in the EIS. Then developer will need to write a new EIS after which extensive public hearings will be held.

The Common Council of the City of Albany will need to decide how important it is to protect endangered species that live within the boundaries of the City.