The Hotel is Back and Badder than Ever!

ALBANY: Theraldson, the largest hotel corporation in the United States (sometimes known as the “Wal-Mart” of hotels) is back, asking to build a hotel on occupied Karner Blue habitat.

Yes, Save the Pine Bush won our lawsuit against the City of Albany over the re-zoning the 3.6 acre site of the proposed hotel project.

But, that doesn’t mean the developer can’t come back and ask again to have the land re-zoned. The developer has submitted an additional Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) that purports to address the issue the court identified as inadequate.

However, the Honorable Dominick Calsolaro, First Ward Common Council member and friend of the Pine Bush, discovered that the SDEIS omits a key letter from the US Fish and Wildlife Service that is a scathing denouncement of how the developer has not adequately addressed the issue of the Karner Blue.

Save the Pine Bush called a press conference prior to the Common Council’s meeting on September 17, where the Council was to vote on whether this SDEIS was complete and ready for public review. The Honorable Dominick Calsolaro spoke at the press conference, explaining that he was only given 5 days to review the 85 page SDEIS and that a key February, 2007 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service letter was missing. The Honorables Barbara Smith (4th Ward) and Cathy Fahey (7th Ward) stood with Save the Pine Bush at the press conference.

At the Common Council caucus meeting, where Council members discuss pending legislation, Mr. Calsolaro again emphasized that the Council needed more time to decide if the SDEIS was complete and wanted to know why the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service letter was omitted. He did not want to vote on the completeness of the document without more review and inclusion of the letter.

The Honorable Dan Herring, chair of the Planning, Economic Development and Land Use Committee, argued that the SDEIS should be adopted as complete.

Common Council President Shawn Morris and President Pro Tem Richard Conti (#6th Ward), carefully explained that the resolution the Council was to vote on was a determination of “completeness”, meaning was all the information needed for the public to comment on the SDEIS must be included in order for the SDEIS to be considered complete. Both Ms. Morris and Mr. Conti argued that the Common Council needed to further review the SDEIS to determine its completeness, since the letter was missing. Mr. Conti referred the legislation to committee.

Referral of the legislation to committee is a tiny victory for the Pine Bush in this massive battle against the construction of the proposed hotel.

Save the Pine Bush wishes to express sincere appreciation to the Honorables Dominick Calsolaro, Shawn Morris, Richard Conti, Barbara Smith and Cathy Fahey for their support of preservation of the Pine Bush.

Published in the Oct/Nov 2007 Save the Pine Bush newsletter