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Canterbury Woods sues Montante Group over Gates Circle dirt pile

The owner of the Canterbury Woods retirement communities in Amherst and Buffalo has sued the developer of the former Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital for failing to complete a promised roadway and leaving an enormous pile of dirt and debris that disturbs nearby Canterbury residents.

Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Buffalo against Montante Group and Gates Circle Holdings – the limited-liability company that owns the remaining Gates Circle properties. Gates Circle Holdings is owned by Montante and Morgan Communities of Rochester, but Montante is trying to buy out the Morgan family, whose legal woes have stalled the redevelopment project.

The suit seeks to enforce the contract under which Canterbury bought a 1.37-acre parcel from Montante for $5 million and built the 58-unit senior complex on part of the former hospital site.

A mound of dirt and concern as Gates Circle redevelopment stalls

Under the contract, Montante agreed to "build and finance" all other infrastructure for the project, including a road connecting Delaware Avenue and Lafayette Avenue that would provide access to the new Canterbury Woods, according to the lawsuit. The road was to be completed by May 1, 2017, but is still not yet finished, more than 18 months later, the suit noted, and the developers have not committed to a completion date.

Meanwhile, the delay in construction of the larger redevelopment project at Gates Circle has left "an enormous mass of loose debris" on the site across from the back of Canterbury Woods and "just yards away" from the building's main entrance, the lawsuit continued. The pile is uncovered and exposed to the elements, so wind and rain bring dust onto Canterbury's property and into the outdoor living space of residents, according to the legal documents. The pile is visible from Delaware Avenue.

Besides "intruding on Canterbury's land" without permission, the "sheer size and unpleasant appearance of the debris" is "an ongoing hardship to Canterbury's senior residents and a blunt deterrent to Canterbury's potential clients," the lawsuit said. Residents are already complaining to politicians and others, as The Buffalo News reported this week.

But the developers have "ignored and refused Canterbury's requests to remove or relocate the debris," even after Canterbury sent a final warning on Nov. 16, according to the documents.

Canterbury is seeking completion of the roadway, removal of the debris, and more than $500,000 in damages.

Earl Wells, a spokesman for Montante, said the company does not comment on litigation matters.

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