Lawsuit is intimidation attempt by arrogant company

To the Editor:

Stewart’s has once again shown its complete disregard for the wishes of a clear majority of Voorheesville residents [The Enterprise, May 7, 2019 “Stewart’s threatens to sue Voorheesville if village adopts new zoning”].

Hundreds of hours were spent in surveys, workshops, committees, and public hearings to develop the Village Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted last year.

A Creekside Commercial District, which includes the area in which the Stewart’s proposed to build its new store, was created as part of that plan. The plan calls for that district “To promote human-scale land uses that:

— 1) create a gateway to the Village;

— 2) extend the traditional streetscape character and aesthetics of Maple Avenue to this area and promote adaptive reuse of existing structures;

—  3) address the critical pedestrian (bike and walk) and safety needs here and promote development oriented to a walkable environment; and

— 4) minimize adverse impacts on an already heavily trafficked road.”

The Stewart’s proposal fails to meet every one of those standards.

Two large gas stations/convenience stores side by side with 18 hours a day of vehicular traffic at an already busy intersection might be appropriate for Delaware Avenue or Wolf Road but not for Voorheesville. Even less so, given the site of the proposed store is 400 feet from the elementary school and in an area that has had serious flooding problems.

Now Stewart’s is threatening to sue the village, claiming it has vested rights in the property it purchased for the new store that would insulate it from any changes in the proposed new zoning law.

Stewart’s was well aware of significant community opposition and legal obstacles to its proposal before it bought the subject property. More to the point, it’s interesting to note that page 14 of the Pace University Law School Beginner’s Guide to Land Use Law states “The doctrine of vested rights protects property owners from changes in zoning when they have received a valid building permit and have completed substantial construction and made substantial expenditures in reliance on the permit.”

The guide goes on to say: “The cost of the land, demolition of existing structures, processing and consultant fees, and excavation work in preparation for construction is not enough to vest rights.”

Stewart’s never received a building permit and, of course, has not spent one dime on construction. The lawsuit should be seen for what it is, an intimidation attempt by an arrogant company that couldn’t care less for the wishes of the people of Voorheesville.

Steven Schreiber


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