The battle over large hotels in Amherst isn’t ending anytime soon.
A group of homeowners who live near the proposed Hyatt Place hotel said they would fight the town’s approval of the controversial project, and now they’re following through.
Members of the Livingston Parkway Association will be in State Supreme Court next week to kick off their legal challenge to the project and to ask a judge to stop it before it begins.
“The residents are very upset, and they want their legal rights to be vindicated by the court,” said Richard G. Berger, an attorney for the residents.
Edward J. Butler Jr., Karen Butler, Jeff Genrich, Raymond Paolini and James Reynolds have filed suit against the town Planning Board and Iskalo Development, which plans to build the six-story hotel behind the Lord Amherst Hotel on the northwest side of the Main Street-Youngmann Highway interchange.
They say the project will dominate the area around their homes and erode their privacy by allowing hotel guests to peer into their windows and yards.
Much of their formal complaint centers around environmental concerns about the project and its impact on a sprawling pond area behind their homes.
They contend that the area, known as “Mike’s Pond,” would be damaged by salt and fuel from the hotel’s parking lot, which would also destroy the animals living there while causing traffic backups and other environmental concerns.
“It cannot be denied that this towering hotel will have significant and adverse effects upon the community character and neighborhood,” they stated in court papers.
Attorneys for the town and Iskalo Development rejected those claims and others that were made against the town, citing procedural grounds.
“I don’t think there’s any legitimate environmental concerns whatsoever,” said Deputy Town Attorney Philip B. Abramowitz.
Residents also take issue with an Iskalo study, referenced by the Planning Board, that stated there was no evidence to suggest large hotels like the Hyatt Place have a negative effect on surrounding property values.
But they note in court papers that while the homes in that study were valued at around $100,000, the Amherst homes are valued at $500,000 or more and that “people who wish to purchase extremely expensive homes are not going to want to live next door to a large hotel and parking lot.”
The residents’ attorneys have also asked State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski to consider recusing himself from the case, given his previous position as deputy town attorney for Amherst in the mid-1990s.
Next week’s court proceedings will likely focus on that and other scheduling matters. A separate challenge to town zoning variances is also pending.
The case could drag on for months, although Iskalo officials – with a $15 million development plan on the line and plans for construction this summer – hope that is not the case.
“We’re confident that we’re going to be successful,” said attorney Sean W. Hopkins, who is representing Iskalo.
“We’re not going to wait until they exhaust all of their legal options before we begin,” added Iskalo Vice President David Chiazza. “It will be very soon.”
The residents, meanwhile, aren’t going away anytime soon.
They have made regular appearances outside Town Hall before each Town Board meeting, dressed in red and waving “For Sale” signs at passing vehicles.