by Joshua Maloni
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. has dismissed the case brought against the Village of Lewiston and Hastings Lewiston by PSR Press. Developer Richard Hastings is once again free to develop the property he owns surrounding the historic Frontier House.
In the summer of 2008, PSR Press agent Herbert Richardson initiated an Article 78 lawsuit challenging the affirmative grant of four variances given to Hastings by the Zoning Board of Appeals. After a pair of trips to Kloch's courtroom - in December 2008 and May 2009 - the justice issued his decision on Oct. 16.
"I knew that's what the decision would be," Hastings said on Friday.
In his written verdict, Kloch says, "In essence, the petitioners claim the Village of Lewiston ZBA failed to make proper referrals to the County of Niagara, failed to conform to SEQRA, and failed to state its findings in support of their variance grant.
"A review of the record indicates proper referrals were made to the County Planning Board, which recommended the variance be granted. The record also shows the village ZBA complied with the letter and intent of SEQRA. Finally, the record indicates the members of the village ZBA stated their findings and reasons for granting the variance. I cannot find the village ZBA acted arbitrarily or capriciously. Deference must be granted to the local governments in the regulation of their zoning laws."
On Friday, Village of Lewiston Mayor Richard Soluri said he is pleased with the decision.
"I read this very carefully. I was very elated to see that we handled everything properly," he said.
Soluri called the lawsuit a "stall project."
"I guess now (Hastings) can move forward with some plans," he said.
In December 2007, Hastings presented a proposal to build an apartment-style complex and retail shops and/or a restaurant around the Frontier House. Based on the need for variances, that plan was rejected by the village's Planning Board.
The ZBA granted the four variances in March 2008, and requested Hastings build condominium-style dwellings. The developer and the architectural/engineering firm EI Team obliged, and sought to erect 27 units.
Hastings said he is unsure what he'll do now with the Frontier House - or if he'll file a countersuit against Richardson.
"(The lawsuit) delayed me for 18 months," Hastings said. "He ought to be held accountable."
Richardson was unavailable for comment.