ALBANY – The Port of Albany says in a new legal filing that the group of Glenmont residents that have sued to stop the port’s planned $350 million wind turbine tower manufacturing plant on the Hudson River should have their lawsuit dismissed because they failed to participate in the town of Bethlehem’s site plan approval process.
The residents, represented by Albany attorney Chris Dempf, claimed in their lawsuit challenging the legality of the decisions by the Bethlehem Zoning and Planning boards that the port and the town failed to provide written notifications to residents in Glenmont who live near the project, planned for a piece of shoreline called Beacon Island.
The residents have asserted at public meetings that the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced all town meetings online, only made it harder to participate in the approval process – especially since they say they were not aware that the port project was being considered by the Zoning and Planning boards.
The port says in its response to the residents’ lawsuit that both the Planning and Zoning boards provided ample notice on the town website and in legal notices published in local newspapers. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is currently reviewing permit applications for the port, also posted notices online.
“Despite having ample opportunity and notice to do so, petitioners did not submit a single written or oral comment to the Planning Board or (the Zoning Board of Appeals) raising any of the specific challenges they now bring before this court prior to the completion of the
(state environmental review) process or approval of the project’s site plan and area variances,” the port’s answer to the lawsuit states.
The town of Bethlehem spent several years reviewing the port’s project, before and during the pandemic.
The Glenmont residents’ lawsuit is known as an Article 78 action that asks a judge overturn decisions made by the Bethlehem Planning and Zoning boards. Successful Article 78 lawsuits are rare, as judges usually side with the government.
The residents filed the lawsuit after the port clear-cut the entire 82-acre Beacon Island site, which is located just south of the port’s Albany location. The land in is in the town of Bethlehem and is located in an area zoned for industrial use.
A nearby power plant dumped two million tons on coal fly-ash on Beacon Island, which is a man-made landfill, back in the 1960s and 70s. The Glenmont residents say that the tree-cutting let fly-ash dust, which can be toxic, into the air, endangering the health of residents for miles around. Both the port and the town have denied that any fly-ash was sent into the air.
The Article 78 was filed in state Supreme Court in Albany. Justice James Ferreira is reviewing the petition.
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