For years, big box retailers have tried to conquer Ithaca, New York. Wal-Mart lost a very bitter battle there, and then developers tried to foist a Target store on the same location across from the scenic Buttermilk Falls park. In a Newsflash story dated December 16, 2001, we reported that Target finally bailed out on their developer , the Widewaters Group, based in DeWitt, New York. But the developer, with Ithaca’s Mayor nailed to their mast, kept right on sailing. This week, a State Supreme Court Justice ruled against part of a citizen lawsuit, which charged that the 1999 subdivision deal that led to the Widewaters project was conducted illegally. The Judge basically said the citizens had to file their objections to the subdivision within a 30 day period, which was not the case. But the lawsuit — and three others like it — is not over yet, because the suit raises other issues that the court will hear on February 15th. But Widewaters has plunked down nearly $10,000 for a building permit, and Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen has even encouraged the developer to counter-sue his own residents. “I think that the people who are filing these suits are making a mockery of the court,” the Mayor told the Ithaca Journal, ” because they’re filing these frivolous suits with a clearly stated intent to delay. And the judge has to understand that basically he’s being used, his court is being used, in order to perpetuate the personal aims of individuals. And those aims are not to pursue justice, but simply to pursue a particular goal that they have. We as a municipality are not in a position to counter-sue. The developer is, and I’m hoping the developer is considering that as a viable option.” Apparently the First Amendment right of citizens to petition their government does not apply to the southwest area of Ithaca. Who needs a Judge when the Mayor of your community is prepared to step in and fill that role? For now, Widewaters has a preliminary permit, and no major anchor for its project.
For more background on the multi-year battle to separate Buttermilk from sprawl, search this database for “Ithaca.”