The developer of the stalled Loudon House condominium project is suing the Town of Colonie over zoning changes that would force quick action on the stalled project.
Developer BCI Construction has filed a notice of claim and now an action to sue to reverse the town’s decision that effectively forces the project to be completed within an 18-month window.
In 2007, BCI Construction proposed to build 24 luxury condominiums with underground parking spaces at the corner of Menands and Schuyler roads. The 2.6-acre parcel was supposed to look like George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, sitting next to single-family home residences. Yet after working for 18 months on the project, in 2009 construction came to a halt on the $11 million project as the economy stumbled.
With only the elevator shafts and the foundation complete, the site has been sitting dormant for three years. Town Attorney Mike Magguilli said residents have taken to calling it “Stonehenge.”
At the Town Board’s July 26, 2012 meeting, the board voted to rescind the 2007 Planned Development District (PDD) approval to revert the property back to a single-family resident zoning status. Magguilli said the practical effect of the zoning changes was to establish the timeline for the completion of the project.
“(The change) converted that planned development district into a pre-existing, non-conforming use,” Magguilli said. “We started to receive quite a few complaints from the neighbors. (The developers) had started working, got to the point where they have the elevator shafts up and the foundation, and then just stopped and walked away from the project. And there hasn’t been any construction on the project I believe since about 2009.”
Mary Elizabeth Slevin, who is BCI’s litigation attorney, said the developer was preparing to move forward with the construction again in June 2012, a month before the town’s decision to change the zoning. Now, with the future up in the air, work remains stalled.
“We’re seeking to overturn the Town Board’s decision and reinstate the PDD’s zoning,” Slevin said.
Slevin said the developers had stopped working on construction because “there were such significant economic changes in the country” that cause them to “reevaluate finances of the project.”
She said the developers have already invested $3 million in the Loudon House project, including for water, sewer, gas and stormwater work. She said at the July 26 meeting, BCI President Michael Benson had asked the Town Board to hold off on taking action because he wanted to have “a more direct conversation with the lenders on moving forward with financing the construction.”
“Now, the first conversation with lenders is that the zoning doesn’t permit the completion of the project,” Slevin said. “They’ve made it much more difficult for him to complete (the project) because of change in zoning.”
But Magguilli argued even with the zoning change, Benson still has a valid building permit and “could start working tomorrow” if he wanted to.
“The ball’s in his court,” Magguilli said. “What the Town Board would like to see is the thing completed. That’s their only intent in this. Although we can’t force him to build it, we couldn’t continue to do nothing in light of the residents’ responses.”
Magguilli said the town doesn’t receive too many notice of claims annually, and rarely do they turn to action. He said he’s “not at all” worried about this suit.
“We’re defending it. We have a very good record here,” Magguilli said.
Slevin said the firm is hoping to have resolution by mid-2013.