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The 78-home expansion of the sprawling Eagle Heights subdivision in Orchard Park apparently isn't going to slide through government approvals on a fast track.

A state court ruling has thrown up a roadblock to the planned expansion of what would be the eighth part of Eagle Heights off Jewett-Holmwood Road, sending it back to the town Planning Board for failing to comply with a full-blown environmental review of the project.

State Supreme Court Justice Rose H. Sconiers cited the Planning Board's failure to comply with procedures mandated by the State Environmental Quality Review process for a development of such magnitude.

In her decision, she cited several environmental issues with the project that required a more thorough review instead of ignoring them or leaving them to be resolved later.

Sconiers' decision favored the petition from the Orchard Park Residents for Smart Growth and its president, Anne Marie McManus, and annulled the negative declaration that had been granted by the Planning Board in June 2000. Many of the families fighting the issue live in Eagle Heights.

The Planning Board had unanimously ruled that the housing development didn't have to face full environmental review and gave it preliminary approval a year ago.

The expansion is planned for an area described as mature upland forest in the southeast corner of Eagle Heights, south of Knob Hill Road. The 78 new homes would start at $300,000 each and be spread over 85 acres, bringing the hilly Eagle Heights subdivision to about 570 homes.

"We're delighted," McManus said on behalf of the organization that fought to have the Planning Board's decision overturned. "It speaks to the issue of how the town approves developments and the way the Planning Board approaches projects. The Planning Board completely overlooked the larger quality-of-life issues."

Overall, McManus said the court decision "should send a very strong message to the Town of Orchard Park that there has to be much more substantive analysis of the cumulative effects of development."

The Planning Board has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the decision. Planning Board attorney Jeffrey J. Abate did not return telephone calls.

Meanwhile, a developer in the project is reviewing its next course of action. "We're meeting with partners and attorneys to evaluate our options at this point. We're not pulling out of it," said David DePaolo, executive vice president of Marrano/Marc Equity, a partner in the project with Cimato Brothers.


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