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Colarusso countersuit in limbo

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A view of the dock on the Hudson River waterfront in Hudson.
January 11, 2019 10:06 pm

HUDSON — Construction of a contentious haul road in Hudson may be held up if the state Supreme Court fails to rule on a countersuit filed by A. Colarusso & Son Inc. against the city.

City planning board members asked for an update from their attorney, Mitchell Khosrova, on the lawsuits involving the Planning Board and Colarusso’s projects at the meeting held Thursday at City Hall.

Two lawsuits were in play. One was dismissed last week.

The first is the lawsuit filed by the city of Hudson against the Greenport Town Planning Board over the haul road project’s environmental review process, which city officials said was not thorough enough. This action was dismissed Jan. 2.

Colarusso, which owns and operates a quarry on Newman Road in the town of Greenport that supplies road building materials, filed the suit in State Supreme Court in Albany on Sept. 15, 2017. Colarusso owns 8.8 acres of land that includes the haul road, which runs from Colarusso’s quarry and asphalt plant on Newman Road and crosses Routes 9 and 9G over the South Bay Causeway to the Hudson River waterfront where the company operates its industrial dock.

The haul road spans about 2.3 miles, with much of the project located in Greenport. The town was the lead agency on the environmental review process.

In response to Hudson’s lawsuit against Greenport, Colarusso filed a countersuit against Hudson, claiming the city began a second environmental review of the erosion repair project at the Hudson River waterfront dock in the city in violation of the state’s Consolidated Laws, Civil Practice Law and Rules.

“The city of Hudson planning board wants to redo SEQRA and we felt that that is not appropriate,” company President Paul Colarusso said Sept. 22.

The dock project was deemed necessary after Colarusso did an assessment of the dock after the company purchased the property in 2014. The company found one area south of the bulkhead contained extensive river erosion. On the north side of the property, the bulkhead was found to be sinking into the river, Colarusso said.

“We repaired that only because we thought it was unsafe,” Colarusso said Sept. 22, 2017. “It had nothing to do with our business operations. It was just preserving what was there, especially in the little inlet there. That little ferry slip. There are a lot of kayakers and fishermen that use that, and, you know, I am sure we would have been liable if something bad happened.”

Colarusso has denied the claim that the bulkhead repair project was part of a plan to expand its business.

“If that happens, we would have to apply to expand,” he said. “Right now what is there services our needs and future needs. Twenty years down the road, if we feel we need to expand, we would have to go through the process of site plan approval and that whole thing just like we are going through with the haul road.”

The city is waiting for the state Supreme Court to decide on the Colarusso countersuit. No Colarusso projects can be reviewed by the city Planning Board, pending the decision, Khosrova said.

“We are evaluating and reviewing the decision with our attorneys and awaiting the decision regarding the Article 78 action brought against Hudson by Colarusso,” Mayor Rick Rector said in a statement Tuesday.

Khosrova said Thursday that usually a decision on an Article 78 lawsuit and countersuit is handed down at the same time. Khosrova called the year-and-a-half it took to render a decision “outrageously long” and “very unusual.”

Most expected the city to lose the suit against Greenport, Khosrova told city Planning Board members Thursday.

“It was an uphill battle,” Khosrova said.

But Colarusso “jumped the gun” when the company filed a countersuit in a move that surprised city attorneys, but was also to the city’s advantage, Khosrova said Thursday.

Khosrova said he thought the city would win the verdict in the countersuit filed by Colarusso.

“And when we do [win], then we are going to be able to ask all the questions that you’ve been asking,” Khosrova said. “And if they don’t submit the documents that we ask for, I believe, as I have said publicly, that we’ll have a basis for a denial [for site plan approval]. And if they want to sue again, they can.”

Khosrova called Colarusso’s argument “ridiculous.”

The Planning Board has requested a number of documents related to the dock and haul road, including traffic counts, Planning Board Chairman Walter Chatham said.

The state Supreme Court must decide whether the environmental reviews of the haul road project and the dock, which was done by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, would be sufficient to prevent the city Planning Board to continue its own review of the dock project. The Planning Board review is pending although the project has been completed.

Colarusso announced Tuesday that the company plans to go ahead with the haul road project this year, but there is no timetable for the start of construction. The project was approved by the Greenport Town Planning Board in August 2017.

City permits for construction of the haul road will be put on hold until the Code Enforcement Office gets approval from the city attorneys, Code Enforcement Officer Craig Haigh said.

“No decisions are being made by my office until I speak to our attorneys,” Haigh said.