City weighs appealing court ruling to resume Durkee

In February, a Clinton County Supreme Court justice’s ruling halted a developer’s multi-million dollar plan to transform a downtown parking lot into a multi-story apartment building.

PLATTSBURGH — In February, a Clinton County Supreme Court justice’s ruling halted a developer’s multi-million dollar plan to transform a downtown parking lot into a multi-story apartment building.

Justice John Ellis’ ruling said the city’s environmental impact review was deficient when it failed to evaluate how the Durkee Street project could affect habitats for the common loon, labeled a species of special concern by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and assess the risks of exposure from excavating potentially contaminated topsoil at the project’s site.

That decision reversed prior city approvals needed to move the project forward and put the development’s path to completion in question.

LOOKING TO MOVE FORWARD

The city has since signaled it would consider appealing Ellis’ decision, filing court documents in March that gives the city the option to submit an official appeal in the coming months.

Winning that appeal would mean Prime Plattsburgh’s development. which would build 109 apartments, 13,000 square feet of commercial space and an underground parking lot and garage, could move forward.

But another, although longer, route the city is considering is conducting another environmental review, reobtaining approvals from the city’s zoning board lost after the court ruling and moving forward with the project that way, possibly with a new developer.

STATE FUNDS

Partially in question are some of the dollars developer Prime Plattsburgh had previously counted on to help fund the project — $4 million received through a state grant meant to help rejuvenate underserved downtowns across New York.

Since the city was approved for the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant in 2016, $6 million has been put into opening an arts park dedicated to former State Sen. Betty Little, development toward a riverwalk by the Saranac River, a downtown grant program and the city’s harborside master plan.

With the remaining $4 million tied into a contract between Prime Plattsburgh and Empire State Development, Plattsburgh City Mayor Chris Rosenquest said the fate of that money isn’t up to the city.

“That will have to be a decision made by the state,” Rosenquest said. “In talking with our state partners at ESD, they seem to feel that it’s still available as long as there’s still movement, but nothing is really guaranteed on that.”

‘SPECIFICALLY THAT PARKING LOT’

But regardless of how the city proceeds, Rosenquest said a developer, whether it’s Prime or not, will have to address the issues raised in Ellis’ decision in some fashion and that the city is prepared to move forward without the help from the Downtown Revitalization money.

“I think the majority of the people, even those who oppose the Prime development, agreed that we needed some type of development specifically to that parking lot,” Rosenquest said. “As many people oppose the size and scope of the Prime development, including myself, they still felt like we needed some type of housing development.”

Email Fernando Alba:

falba@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @byfernandoalba

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