‘Wal-Mart law’ may go

R’dam Town Board plans to remove ‘Critical Impact Code’ at special meeting

— A town code some say came as a response to the previous Wal-Mart battle in Rotterdam is set for termination.

The Rotterdam Town Board during its Wednesday, Aug. 10, meeting openly expressed its unanimous support to remove Article XXVIII of the town’s Zoning Code Sections 270-220 through 270-224 — the “Critical Impact Code.” The proposed 248-unit apartment complex off North Thompson Street led to the change, because Andrew Brick, an attorney representing the property owners, said it could delay turning over the little league fields. The public hearing on Aug. 10 didn’t have anyone supporting the code. Under the law, the Town Board would have the final say on whether a project is approved. The Planning Commission usually determines if a project is approved.

“The town, even though the law has been on the books for five years, has never used it even though there are projects that qualify under this … those projects came before the town and nobody choose to seek [the permit],” said attorney Donald Zee, representing the apartment complex property owners. “It would be kind of foolish if you had two engineers hired by the town and they come up with differing results.”

Ron Severson, chair the town Parks and Recreation Commission, said the town code should have been labeled differently when it was originally approved.

“If there was a fairness in labeling resolutions … that should have actually been labeled the ‘Let’s Stop Wal-Mart’ resolution,” said Severson. “I do not believe that any town should pass legislation that specifically targets stopping a particular developer or business.”

After a lengthy legal battle between the town and Wal-Mart, the plan for a super center was dropped by the company in late September 2006. The previous fall, the town rezoned the area eyed by Wal-Mart, making the Burdeck corridor off-limits for the retail giant, according to a previous Spotlight report. Wal-Mart sued, arguing that reclassifying the area was wrong because the area had been zoned for general business use initially. State Supreme Court Justice Vincent J. Reilly Jr. agreed, overturning the town’s zoning change. In the meantime, the town approved a 12-month building moratorium along the Burdeck Street-Route 7 corridor.

The Town Board didn’t adopt the Critical Impact Code until about a month after Wal-Mart dropped its bid.

Brick and board members have stated the code neuters the planning commission. Deputy Supervisor Robert Godlewski had asked for the planning commission to vote on if they want to overturn the code, which it unanimously did during its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

“This is a slap in the face to the planning commission,” said Brick.

The Town Board is holding a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 29, at which it is expected to formally abolish the code.

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