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Opponents claim court decision may end Brighton Whole Foods project; proponents dismiss claims

Opponents claim court decision may end Brighton Whole Foods project; proponents dismiss claims

June 28, 2019 04:49 PM

BRIGHTON, N.Y. (WHEC) — A court decision handed down in relation to the long-gestating Whole Foods Plaza project in Brighton is being interpreted in vastly different ways by people on the two sides of the debate.

The decision handed down Friday by the New York State Appellate Division ruled that those behind the Whole Foods Plaza project, including the Daniele Family Companies, the Town of Brighton and the Town Board of Brighton, had properly followed Open Meetings Law. However, it said that a decision made by a lower court about the project as it relates to the public trust doctrine was premature and that the lower court would have to commence further proceedings on the question.

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What exactly the decision means depends on who is discussing it.

Opponents of the Whole Foods project, including the group Brighton Grassroots, say that the decision will delay or even cancel the project. 

"The Appellate Court agrees that it would be illegal for the Town of Brighton to convey public lands to the developer of the Whole Foods Plaza without New York state legislative approval in order to oversize this project outside of the established zoning process," said Brighton Grassroots in a statement. "The developer will have to start again and properly size this project."

The group Save Monroe Avenue went even further, saying the entire project was now in "serious jeopardy", as the entire process would have to restart again if the court finds that Brighton had indeed violated the public trust doctrine.

Proponents of the project are not worried, however, with both Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle and Daniele Family Companies President Danny Daniele saying that ultimately the project remains on track and that opponents' victory was not nearly as big as they were saying.

"We are delighted to hear the Court agrees these lawsuits are baseless and only intended to stop or delay new grocery competition in Rochester," said Daniele in a statement. "Although there was some confusion regarding if all the sidewalks and trails are to be considered state parkland, it will have no effect on the project since the site plan does not affect those areas."

"Obviously the competitor’s spokesman has tried to spin the ruling in a desperate attempt to garner attention from his wealthy donor," he said.

Moehle, meanwhile said that Brighton Grassroots' statement was "An absolute misstatement, and you can quote me on that."

He says that the court had found the town completely in the clear in regards to the Open Meetings Law and that he was "really confident" that ultimately the issue over the public trust doctrine would be found in the town's favor. 

The project, if built, would be an 83,000 square foot plaza at the site of the former Mario's Restaurant in Brighton. 

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