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Pittsford citizens group tries to block project

Cleanup work has begun for an upscale apartment and restaurant project in the village of Pittsford, planned for this site, although a citizens group is seeking to have approvals overturned. Mike Murphy

Gone is the dilapidated former Monoco Oil building that had become a canvas for graffiti.

In its place are construction vehicles tasked with cleaning up the canal-front property at 75 Monroe Ave., which is the western gateway into the village of Pittsford.

But what remains is the divide over the Westport Crossing project, as evidenced by an attempt to overturn a Pittsford Village Board decision that OK’d the upscale, 167-apartment and restaurant project.

The Village Board by a 3-2 vote in November cleared the way for work to begin.

A group opposed to the project, however, is hoping a court overturns a Village Board decision that granted developer Pittsford Canalside Properties LLC a special permit, as well as a follow-up approval earlier this month.

The Friends of Pittsford Village Inc. filed an Article 78 proceeding in Monroe County Supreme Court and names the village, Village Board of Trustees and the developer.

The group’s website makes no mention of the petition. A message seeking comment was not returned.

The Village Board’s decision to approve the special permits did not comply with applicable procedures and village and state laws and were “illegal, arbitrary and capricious,” according to court documents.

The not-for-profit corporation stated in court papers the project will “degrade” the quality of life in the village and that large buildings included in the project are out of scale with existing buildings in the village.

Pittsford Mayor Bob Corby declined to comment on the suit, although he did say much has been done to preserve the village’s character.

The project has been the subject of approximately 70 public meetings since it was first proposed. Plans also have been scaled back during the lengthy approval process.

“This project has received a lot of scrutiny,” said Corby, who was one of two to vote against the special permit in November. “It justifiably has gotten residents very, very engaged.”

Seven apartment buildings and a 125-seat restaurant were approved for the 20-acre, former asphalt plant site, which the village annexed from the town of Pittsford. The buildings are to be of varying sizes, with the highest four-story buildings taking up 28 percent of the building area.

Corby had tried to have the area reduced to 25 percent.

Although supporters have spoken in favor of the project, many residents are concerned about traffic on an already-crowded Monroe Avenue and how the project will fit in with the rest of the village.

The site in question is part of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. Rochester-based LaBella Associates P.C. has been retained for the work.

Corby expected clean-up work to continue at the site, weather permitting, despite the action. The village determined the former Monoco 1950s concrete block building was a hazard and needed to be taken down, Corby said.

The first stage of the work being done will determine the extent of contamination at the site, Corby said.