Stewart’s Shops misses appeal deadline, Voorheesville’s lawsuit win stands

— From Stewart’s Shops

Stewart’s had a very slim chance of building a new shop on Maple Avenue in Voorheesville.

VOORHEESVILLE — Stewart’s Shops neither filed an appeal nor asked for an extension in its attempt to overturn a lower court’s ruling in its first-ever lawsuit brought against a municipality, laying to rest two years of legal wrangling and six years of development drama

The company filed its lawsuit against Voorheesville in September 2019, claiming there had been a “targeted effort” to prevent Stewart’s from building a new shop on property it owns at 112 Maple Ave., site of the now-closed Smith’s Tavern. 

Stewart’s was seeking to have the village’s zoning code, adopted in May 2019, declared null and void “on the ground that it fails to conform to a properly promulgated Comprehensive Plan,” the company’s original complaint stated, and it was also asking that the zoning district created by the new code around 112 Maple Ave. be declared a case of illegal spot zoning.

In November 2020, the judge in the suit, James Ferreira, tossed the case, stating in his decision that the village’s zoning code had been “reasonably related to legitimate government interests.” Ferreira also concluded it was not spot zoning because, when the village adopted new zoning, it “changed the zoning of numerous properties in the Village, including all of those in the Creekside Commercial District,” where 112 Maple Ave. is located.

Stewart’s in January asked the state Supreme Court’s Third Appellate Division — the middle level in the state’s three-tiered court system — to overturn Ferreira’s decision and had until July 14 to file its appeal brief. The company also had the opportunity to ask the court for a three-month extension to file the appeal, but did not do that either by July 14. 

Erica Komoroske, director of public affairs for Stewart’s, declined to comment when asked why Stewart’s neither filed an appeal nor asked for an extension. 

Voorheesville’s new mayor, Rich Straut, was hesitant at first when asked for comment because, even though the time to file the appeal had passed, he was still waiting on verification. 

Voorheesville’s attorney, Rich Reilly, told The Enterprise he could not confirm an appeal hadn’t been filed because he wasn’t the attorney of record on the case; Whiteman Osterman & Hanna had defended the village. 

The case was a mandatory e-file. 

Stewart’s did not file an appeal through the New York State Courts Electronic Filing System as of July 14, according to the Third Appellate Division clerk’s office, nor did the company submit anything to the clerk’s email box.

With the understanding that no appeal had been filed, Straut said, “I’ve believed all along that we are on solid ground, and, if in fact, they have not filed an appeal, then I think that’s an indication that they believe we’re on solid ground as well.”

Straut has always been a fan of Stewart’s Shops; “I grew up with them,” he said.

And he’d welcome the company back into the village if “they can come back with a proposal that meets our comprehensive plan and our zoning and doesn’t have any unacceptable adverse impacts,” he said.


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