Friday, May 15, 2015

Pittsford board members quit over Westport project

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 5:29 PM

Four of the five members of the Village of Pittsford Planning Board have resigned, citing objections to the way that the village's Board of Trustees handled the proposed Westport Crossing project. 

The members are Remegia Mitchell, Meg Rubiano, Joe Maxey, and Jill Crooker. The resignations are effective immediately. 

The controversial Westport project calls for 167 apartments on the former Monoco Oil site along the Erie Canal, right where Monroe Avenue enters the village. The project has a tangled history — there is no short version at this point —  involving six lawsuits against the village and its boards, including the Planning Board. Some have been filed by the project's developer, Mark IV Enterprises, and others by a citizens group.

Tensions between some Planning Board members and the Board of Trustees have increased in recent months. First, the two boards made cross-claims against each other in an ongoing lawsuit. Then, Mayor Bob Corby appointed Justin Vlietstra to a seat on the Planning Board; Vlietstra is a member of the citizens group suing the village — including the Planning Board — over some of approvals that the project has received.

Corby and the current trustees have been extremely critical of the Planning Board's approval of the project. In 2012, the Board of Trustees approved special permits for Westport Crossing, which included general criteria for the number and size of buildings on the site. But the developer submitted a revised plan to the Planning Board, which that board approved.

Corby and the trustees have criticized both plans as inconsistent with the village's character. The buildings are too big and bulky, they say, and out of scale with the rest of the historic village.

The village has spent $270,000 on the lawsuits so far — a figure that includes the cost of providing an attorney for the Planning Board. Corby says that the Board of Trustees is trying to do the right thing by making sure that Mark IV complies with village codes. The Planning Board, he says, usurped the Board of Trustees' authority when it approved the Westport Crossing site plan.

"I don't believe because Mark IV has a lot of money and a lot of attorneys, they get a pass," Corby says.

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