Buffalo's plan to sell property it owns in Perrysburg to a logging company has been voided by a state appellate court.
The 649-acre site, once home to Buffalo's tuberculosis hospital, has been the focus of a three-year dispute. Preservationists have battled plans by Buffalo and the state to allow Trathen Land Co. to acquire the former J.N. Adam Developmental Center.
Trathen has promised to manage the woodlands "responsibly" through sustainable logging.
But a ruling handed down by the Fourth Department of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court voided the Common Council's vote of 2005.
Lawmakers had given up Buffalo's reversionary rights to the site in return for receiving 90 percent of the land's sale price from the state -- or nearly $334,000.
The court decision also voided the state's land sale contract with Trathen, siding with opponents that the state failed to perform valid environmental studies and historic preservation reviews.
Council President David A. Franczyk, one of only two city lawmakers who opposed the sale, said he feels vindicated by the ruling.
"The state broke the laws, and laws are there for a reason," he said.
Michael Kuzma, a Franczyk aide and attorney who heads the group Friends of J.N. Adam, called the ruling "a big win."
Thomas S. Trathen, president of the Livingston County-based logging company, said he is disappointed with the ruling, which he thinks was based on misinformation. Trathen plans to meet today with state officials to discuss backup strategies. He wouldn't say whether he plans to ask the state's highest court to hear an appeal.
"But we're not looking to give up our rights on the sale because of some obstructionists. That's just not going to happen," Trathen said.
"We have a right to obstruct bad projects," countered Richard Lippes, an attorney who represents Friends of J.N. Adam.
When Council members delayed action on the land sale in 2005, they faced criticism from the city's control board, which said lawmakers should be more concerned about conditions on Buffalo's Forest Avenue than with a forest 35 miles south of Buffalo. Franczyk never supported the sale, but he said it makes even less sense now, given Buffalo's improved finances.
"We were more desperate to take anything back then, even if it meant chopping down beautiful forests and destroying historic buildings."
Nearly 40 structures that were once part of the hospital still stand. But Trathen said delays in transferring the site have taken a toll on the buildings' conditions.
"The campus is in worse shape now than ever," he lamented. "I don't know what [Friends of J.N. Adam] think they're accomplishing."
Franczyk said other entities expressed interest in acquiring the site. For example, he said one local not-for-profit agency had considered opening a nature retreat at the site.