LEWISTON – State Supreme Court Justice Mark A. Montour has given the green light, at least for now, to a plan to build a $12.3 million, four story 138-unit Bridgewater Estates senior citizens housing complex on Ridge Road in the Town of Lewiston.
The senior citizen housing complex already had been approved, but a lawsuit called into question whether everything was done properly.
The complaint is that the property, owned by Marjorie Reiter, mother of former Supervisor Steven L. Reiter, was rezoned improperly and was given unfair consideration while he was supervisor.
Jennifer Dougherty, of the law firm Phillips Lytle, presented the plan to the Planning Board on Thursday, saying, “There was a lawsuit filed to say the permits were improperly granted, so we went through this with a fine-toothed comb.” She said that because of “an overabundance of caution,” they went back through the process to obtain a special-use permit.
The town’s Zoning Board of Appeals had a public hearing last week on two variances and a special-use permit for the project, but adjourned the matter because of the litigation. The Planning Board, which met Thursday, also tabled the request for a special-use permit, noting that its decision should be made after the Zoning Board has made a decision.
Montour said the boards should go forward before the case is heard in court and denied a motion Wednesday for a restraining order on the project, calling the motion premature.
His decision puts the project back into the hands of the Planning and the Zoning boards and the Town Board.
“I want them to finish their work first,” Montour said at Wednesday’s hearing. He said that he was denying the balance of the motion but agreed that the case could be resubmitted after the boards make their decisions.
“If they deny the project, then the point would be moot,” Montour said.
The suit was filed last month by Lewiston International Business Park, an industrial park adjacent to the property, and by Modern Disposal. Both are owned by Modern Corp. and its president, Sonia Washuta.
Charles D. Greico, of the law firm Jaeckle, Fleishmann & Mugel, representing Lewiston International Business Park, told the Planning Board that his client is concerned about high-density housing next to their property and said this may cause them concerns in using their industrial property.
Greico said in court that Bridgewater has also asked for an easement for sanitary sewers across his clients’ project.
Montour questioned whether Reiter had made clear any conflicts of interest from the beginning and asked whether he had signed the environmental assessment form and participated directly in the State Environmental Quality Review.
Alan J. Bozer, of Phillips Lytle, representing Bridgewater Estates, said Reiter signed off as an administrative act.
“The supervisor is usually the one who oversees it. If so, there could be some appearances of impropriety,” Montour said.
Bozer denied that Steven Reiter has a legal interest in the property or the plan for senior citizen housing, saying:
“This record does not have anything in it that says that Mr. Reiter has any interest in Bridgewater Estates. Marjorie Reiter owns the property, and he has no interest in it. If there is a deal between the mother and son, I am not aware of it. He certainly has no interest in Bridgewater Estates.”