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Queen City Landing project faces new legal appeal to block it

Not so fast, Queen City Landing fans.

Developer Gerald Buchheit thought he was all set to get started on his 23-story residential tower on Buffalo's Outer Harbor after a court again last month rejected a lawsuit seeking to stop it.

With the demolition of the former Freezer Queen warehouse building completed and the site cleared of debris, officials are trying to finalize an environmental remediation plan with state regulators before crews can complete the work under the state Brownfield Cleanup Program. Then, in the coming months, Buchheit had hoped they could start construction of the $60 million glass-walled project.

When completed, the 370,000-square-foot complex is slated to include 197 one- and two-bedroom apartments, two restaurants, a nightclub, a pool, a fitness facility and a parking ramp.

But now the opponents are trying again, which could delay the start of work for months. Environmentalists and Outer Harbor advocates Margaret Wooster, Jay Burney and James E. Carr filed a formal "notice of appeal" earlier this month with the Erie County Clerk's Office.

In the document, the three plaintiffs indicated their intention to appeal the March 12 dismissal of their lawsuit by State Supreme Court Justice Catherine Nugent Panepinto. The appeal – which must be completed by mid-June – will be filed with the court's Appellate Division, based in Rochester.

This time, however, the group is proceeding without longtime environmental attorney Arthur J. Giacalone, who said in a recent blog post that he is stepping back from his solo legal practice "after decades of public hearings and court proceedings."

"It's further frustration on our part," said Queen City Landing spokesman Phil Pantano. "We have these three individuals who are trying to dictate what happens on people's private property that they don't own. It's the same argument that has been defeated in multiple courts and multiple lawsuits, and each legal action takes further time and resources away from actual development. It's almost as if their strategy is to drown Outer Harbor development in a legal sea of paperwork."

The litigation challenges and seeks to overturn the municipal approvals granted to the project by Buffalo's Planning Board and other agencies, claiming that city officials failed to follow proper procedures in their environmental and other reviews. Giacalone and the three plaintiffs assert that the proposed project would harm the environment in sensitive areas along the coastal plain by the shore of Lake Erie.

Panepinto's ruling, and previous court decisions, found that the city had acted appropriately and within its authority.

Wooster, the lead plaintiff, could not be reached for comment.

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