Opponents have won the latest round in a year-long battle to stop a proposed 23-story apartment complex on Buffalo's Outer Harbor.
Opposition attorney Arthur Giacalone said he is pleased about the decision by state Supreme Court Justice Catherine Nugent Panepinto, allowing their fight against developer Gerald Buchheit's Queen City Landing project to continue. QCL would be a mix of apartments, restaurants and fitness activities on the city's waterfront.
Giacalone's petitioners are opposed to the height of the complex and contend that, despite an effort to push through the project, it did not receive all the necessary approvals in time to come under the city's old development code, which would have allowed for the project's height.
"What the [new] Green Code says is, if you have a project that has received some, but not all of the approvals you need before the effective date of the Green Code - and for this site, that would have been early in April of this year - that your project falls under the Green Code and not the old code," he said.
Buffalo's new Green Code allows for only six stories. He said another issue is the site's soil content, a remnant of the old Freezer Queen's manufacturing era.
"As you may be aware, Queen City Landing was fined $50,000 by the DEC a couple months ago. There were two issues," Giacalone said. "One of them was the wall falling in and them not picking it up. The other was the DEC said to the Queen City Landing folks, 'You need to do testing of the wall and the material at that site,' which QCL wanted to crush onsite and use as fill. The DEC said, 'We know that there's lead and mercury in that material.'"
Giacalone said QCL did testing on September 29, 2016, but withheld results from the DEC, the public and the Buffalo Planning Board until January 17, 2017 - after all approvals had been received. He said his petitioners have been saying all along, "We don't know what's toxic out there, leaching into the soil and the adjacent Lake Erie water.'"
Giacalone said the judge ordered Buchheit to respond to the opposition's petition within five days, with an airing of unresolved issues - to include soil content - to come soon after in court.
"This isn't the first attempt to try to stop this once-in-a-lifetime development project," said QCL Spokesman Phil Pantano. "Their first attempt went through the court and we were successful and the approvals that we were provided for the project were upheld. So we'll review this latest decision and we'll move forward."
Pantano said the developer is "meticulously working through the remediation portion of the project right now" and will continue.
"Again, this has been over a year of attempts to try and handcuff development on our Outer Harbor," said Pantano. "We are excited about this project. We're committed to this project and we're looking forward to moving ahead."