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Town is sued over rezoning of 67 acres

The owners of a 67-acre parcel off Millersport Highway have filed a lawsuit against Amherst, alleging that the Town Board illegally rezoned the property to prevent the development of a proposed Wal-Mart superstore on the site.

The lawsuit against the town and six members of the board, filed by attorneys for developer Anthony Cimato, the landowner, seeks to have the "spot" rezoning and the environmental review performed by the town declared invalid.

"The town's action constituted a severe abuse of discretion, and its ultimate decision was reached in an arbitrary and capricious manner," attorney Jeffery D. Palumbo said in a statement.

Town Supervisor Satish B. Mohan on Thursday confirmed that the town had been served with the lawsuit. "It's not the first one," Mohan said. "It happens whenever we rezone. We get a lot of people who don't like it, and they go to the court of law."

Palumbo could not be reached to comment Thursday, but a news release from his firm, Renaldo & Palumbo, said the lawsuit seeks in excess of $3 million in damages.

Town residents and the developer had for months been battling each other for control of the parcel at 4300 Millersport soon after Wal-Mart early last year announced plans for a 200,000-square-foot superstore along Millersport between Smith and New roads. Representatives of the developer had argued that the store did not need zoning approvals because the site had long been properly zoned for a shopping mall.

However, the town Planning Board later recommended that the property be rezoned to bring that area into compliance with the town's Bicentennial Comprehensive Master Plan, which calls for lowering the density of development in the area.

Opponents of the proposed Wal-Mart, many from the nearby Ransom Oaks development, also expressed concerns that a "big-box" development such as the proposed superstore would exacerbate flooding problems in contiguous neighborhoods.

In September, the Town Board heeded the Planning Board's recommendation and voted, 6-1, to rezone the parcel. Councilman William A. O'Loughlin cast the lone vote in opposition and is not named in the suit.


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