If at first you don’t succeed, go to court. On September 16, 2005, Sprawl-Busters reported that town officials in Rotterdam, New York had rezoned land in the Burdeck Street area from “general commercial” to “corporate commercial”, which would prevent its use for big box retailing, thus killing a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter in that location. Rotterdam already has a Wal-Mart discount store, which would likely be closed if the larger format store is built. The landowners, who are local business people, appealed the rezoning in court, and a judge in the state’s Supreme Court ruled that the town had not properly filed an amended map with the county, and had relied on an old environmental review of the parcel. The rezoning was overturned. By February of this year, Wal-Mart had returned for a second time with plans to construct a 208,411 s.f. superstore. Town officials continued to push for a building moratorium to give the community a chance to rewrite its comprehensive land use plan, and use this land to attract technology spin-off companies. At one point during the debate, Steven Tommasone, Town Supervisor, announced an agreement for zoning property located in the I-88/Exit 25-A corridor. Tommasone said, “Rotterdam Town Republicans are 100 percent in support of preserving and protecting Rotterdam’s quality of life. To protect that quality of life, we have reached consensus in preventing big box retail development along the I-88/Exit 25-A corridor.” He noted that officials had “consistently heard the outcry of residents concerned with overdevelopment and protecting our town’s quality of life.” Tommasone explained that the Corporate Commercial Zone would ” provide a broad range of uses from parks and green space, to office parks and technology hubs. However, this does not allow for big box retail development.” As a result of the litigation, Rotterdam spent $15,000 in the first court case, and an appeal would add to that. If the town board issues a 12 month moratorium on large developments, it would give Rotterdam the time needed to update its land use plan, and properly design the rezoning. Local residents in Rotterdam gave Sprawl-Busters the following update this week: ” A year ago April, the PR people from Wal-Mart met with the residents of Rotterdam New York to discuss a proposed super center in the most rural area of town. It would be located on a “triangle” as we call it. On the corner of Burdeck St. and Princetown Road, very near an elementary school, a church and just a few hundred feet away a railroad track that crosses Burdeck St.. Our town can barely handle the traffic now — not to mention all of the other negative effects Wal-Mart brings with it. Last year we marched, had lawn signs and were at every town meeting, which was packed to over capacity. The two land owners who are selling the land to Wal-Mart are long time small business people, who have also lived in this town forever. It became a political matter as well. It was an election year. We were promised “no Wal-Mart”. Well, we elected the “promise” and the landowners took Rotterdam to court and won. Rotterdam is appealing….and we are just waiting. Rotterdam already has a smaller Wal-Mart, which we know will close if the super center comes in, so that will leave an empty building.”
The Rotterdam rezoning was rejected by the court on what one newspaper called “a technicality.” The rezoning itself was legal, but the process the town used was flawed, the courts said. The town disagrees, and may pursue its legal rights. At least two strong citizens’ groups have been fighting this plan. For more information, go to www.RotterdamNY.info, or www.saverotterdam.org.