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State Supreme Court judge tosses haul road lawsuit

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    A map shows the proposed A. Colarusso & Son haul road, which would run from the Hudson dock to Greenport.
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    File photoWith the dismissal of a lawsuit Hudson filed against the Greenport Planning Board, A. Colarusso and Son will now move forward with its haul road, which will run from its quarry on Newman Road in Greenport to the dock along the Hudson Waterfront.
January 7, 2019 07:23 pm Updated: January 8, 2019 07:56 pm

TROY — The president of A. Colarusso and Son Inc. plans to move forward with its haul road project this year after the state Supreme Court ruled the Greenport Town Planning Board issued a proper decision in its environmental review to move the project forward.

A lawsuit the city of Hudson filed against the Greenport Town Planning Board over the contentious haul road project’s environmental review process has been dismissed, according to a decision and order filed in state Supreme Court.

“The court finds that the planning board’s issuance of the negative declaration was not affected by an error of law, arbitrary and capricious, or an abuse of discretion,” according to a decision signed Jan. 2 by acting Supreme Court Justice Michael Melkonian in Albany County.

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.

The Greenport Planning Board approved Colarusso’s site plan in August 2017. With the lawsuit behind them, the company plans to move forward with the project this year.

“Our company committed to the expense of the improved haul road in order to increase public safety and enhance the community character by removing our trucks from the truck route through Hudson,” Paul Colarusso said in a statement Tuesday. “We appreciate the court’s decision and we look forward to building the haul road this year.”

When work will begin on the project was not determined as of Tuesday, attorney John J. Privitera said. Privitera, of McNamee Lochner PC in Clifton Park, is representing A. Colarusso & Son.

Company representatives submitted a site plan application to the Greenport Planning Board on May 9, 2016, to renovate and expand the haul road, including relocating, widening, paving and grading parts of the road.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation named Greenport the lead agency on the project Oct. 31, 2016. Most of the haul road, which would run from Newman Road and bypass much of Hudson’s center, would be located in the town.

On July 11, 2017, the planning board found the requirements for the environmental review were met. The board issued a negative declaration, or that the project will have no negative impacts on the environment, which would move the project forward.

In response, Hudson filed a lawsuit to invalidate the negative declaration, claiming the planning board failed to take a hard look at the significant environmental impacts of the project, according to court documents.

The Hudson Common Council authorized a transfer of $50,000 from its fund balance in August 2017 to support attorney fees for the lawsuit.

More than a year after the lawsuit was filed, Melkonian ruled Greenport properly issued the environmental review, according to court documents.

“The extensive record herein reflects that the planning board conducted a thorough analysis of the potential environmental impacts that were identified during the initial meeting in May 2016 and throughout the comment period,” according to the decision.

The Greenport Planning Board submitted a 25-page Evaluation of the Importance of the Impacts for the project, which engineer Ray Jurkowski prepared, in addition to an eight-page resolution adopting the negative declaration, according to Melkonian.

“Justice Melkonian’s decision confirms that the Greenport Planning Board’s extensive review of the project more than adequately met the requirements of SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] despite the city of Hudson’s allegations,” said attorney Corrine Smith, a partner with Hudson’s Whitbeck Benedict & Smith LLP, which represented Greenport in the lawsuit.

Sixteen meetings were held, according to the decision, including a special public information meeting, multiple consultations with state agencies, including the state DEC regarding wetlands, plants, wildlife and dust; consultation with an expert on the wildlife issues; consultation with the state Department of Transportation; consideration and response to the more than 400 comments raised during the comment period; and review of all written documentation filed with the Greenport and Columbia County planning boards.

“[This] leads to the conclusion that the planning board identified the relevant areas of environmental concern, took a necessary hard look at them and made a reasoned elaboration for the basis of its determination,” according to court documents.

The Greenport Planning Board was represented by Virginia D. Benedict and Corinne R. Smith of Hudson’s Whitbeck Benedict & Smith LLP. John Caffry and Amanda Kukle, of Caffry and Flower in Glens Falls, represented the city of Hudson.

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

Colarusso’s countersuit against the city of Hudson, the Hudson Planning Board and Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency is pending regarding its already completed dock repair project.

A. Colarusso and Son have accused the city planning board of unnecessarily conducting a second environmental review after a first review was completed.

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to apurcell@thedailymail.net, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.