A State Supreme Court justice has ruled that Acquest developer William L. Huntress can move forward with his lawsuit contending that the Town of Amherst illegally interfered with his ability to develop property on Wehrle Drive.

Huntress was branded a "tree killer" by neighbors and a lawbreaker by town and federal Environmental Protection Agency officials for removing thousands of trees on the 26-acre property without permission.

The lawsuit, however, refers to actions taken by the Town Board prior to these activities. It is one of five outstanding suits – four civil and one criminal – involving Huntress and his Amherst properties.

In a decision issued by State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek last week, Huntress has grounds to move forward to trial regarding his contention that the town illegally interfered with his ability to develop the site and essentially robbed him of his rights as a property owner.

"[Michalek's findings] are finally a recognition of some court that there are not only legitimate, but actual, reasons why Acquest was significantly wronged," said Matthew D. Miller, a lawyer for Huntress.

Michalek's decision stems from a case dating back to a suit filed in 2006 by Huntress in federal court, where Huntress contended that his Wehrle properties were unconstitutionally taken from him and rendered not developable by town and federal officials. The case was dismissed in 2009.

Huntress then filed a revised and expanded version of the suit in State Supreme Court six months later against the Town of Amherst and individual Town Board members.

Huntress had bought two adjacent parcels of land on Wehrle in 1997, when both he and town officials were unaware of a 50-year moratorium dating from 1983 that prevented prospective developers along the stretch of Wehrle from tapping into the sewer line.

The town initially agreed to help Huntress seek a waiver from the EPA to let him build an office park on the property but changed its mind in 2006. Many lawsuits followed. Huntress is now battling suits for the Wehrle property and a parcel at Millersport Highway and Transit Road.

Michalek said Huntress has grounds to sue former Supervisor Satish B. Mohan and former Council Member Daniel J. Ward personally for punitive damages.