Even with a state-level law suit finally at an end, real estate developer Acquest has yet to find out if it will be able to turn property in the Town of Amherst into a new office park.
Acquest purchased land at 2220 Wherle Drive in 1997, but plans to develop were put on hold after it was discovered that the town had agreed to a development moratorium with the EPA in exchange for grant money to build new sewer lines in 1983. Attorney Matthew Miller of Rupp Baase Pfalzgraf Cunningham said the agreement and the restrictions were never recorded by the town.
“Anybody who was looking to purchase a parcel of property in the areas where the sewer was going to be would have no way of knowing that it was encumbered by a development moratorium,” said Miller.
The town initially tried to help Acquest gain a waiver with the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, but that assistance – along with the entire development plan – was ultimately terminated after a change of town leadership in 2006. Acquest alleged the move was unconstitutional and took the town to court.
In the course of years of litigation, a 2013 jury awarded Acquest more than $3 million. The Town of Amherst appealed the decision, first to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in Rochester, and then to the State Court of Appeals. The first appeal was successfully defended by Acquest, and the latter was dismissed by the court without review.
“What the high court has now said is essentially, ‘This case is over. Town of Amherst, you’ve exhausted essentially all your appeals, barring some miraculous effort to convince the Supreme Court of the United States to take on this case,’” said Miller.
Acquest can now enforce collection of $3.94 million in damages from the town.
“I’m glad that after almost two decades of time fighting this issue with the Town of Amherst, and the Town of Amherst never having really recognizing what it did here, that it can finally get a little bit of justice and hopefully put this in his rear view once and for all,” said Miller.
As for the property, it still remains untouched.
“Unfortunately the town has never withdrew its resolution that it passed, prohibiting the development and terminating our client’s project,” said Miller. “So there is still a development moratorium in place.”
Whether or not Acquest plans to try and move forward with the development remains to be seen. Miller said ideas for the site are still percolating.