The Brighton Planning Board’s decision this week to approve plans for a Whole Foods grocery store on Monroe Avenue apparently won’t stop a community organization that is suing over the project.
“They had a good inning,” said Howie Jacobson, the Brighton resident and public relations consultant who is the spokesman for Brighton Grassroots organization. “We’re a little sad, they scored a couple runs. (But) we’ve got the top of the lineup next. We’re energized.”
Jacobson said Grassroots will continue to press its suit in federal court to require a new traffic study for the project. He has long argued that there was a flaw in the previous study, which concluded that traffic from the grocery store and adjoining businesses will have a minor impact on traffic. Grassroots is arguing that use of the parcel rather than simply square footage of the businesses on it should be factored into the study.
“We think we’re going to win on this, mainly because of the New York DOT. The developer doesn’t have the proper permits from the DOT yet,” Jacobson said.
The project promoted by the Daniele Family Companies includes a 50,000-square-foot grocery store; a 22,000-square foot plaza; a drive-through Starbucks replacing the one at the corner of Clover and Monroe; and potentially two additional restaurants.
Jacobson called the planning board members “unanimously irresponsible to the town residents of Brighton. They totally exceeded their power in helping this developer.” Among his charges are that the town didn’t create a basis to deny opening of a separate Whole Foods restaurant or pub, or prevent using the site as a package delivery site for Whole Foods’ new owner, Amazon, both of which would cause additional traffic.
But the town’s planner, Ramsay Boehner, said the board put 42 different conditions on the project, which either the developer or Whole Foods would have to address if they change things.
“If and when a restaurant or pub is proposed a conditional use permit shall be obtained from the planning board,” Boehner said. “That’s not what they’re proposing,” he said, but the conditions put the citizens, developer and business owners on notice that if changes are made, the changes have to be brought back to town officials for approval first.
“There are other town reviews and approvals if you want to do these things,” Boehner said.
The restaurant/pub condition does not apply to prepared food bars that Whole Foods might operate within the grocery store, Boehner said.
He categorized developer’s next steps as procedural ones to clear the way for construction.
Members of the Daniele family were not immediately available for comment.
Included in the project, which was given incentive zoning status, is two “give backs” to the town. One is extension and improvement of a walking trail along the north edge of the property. The other is funneling traffic from eight businesses on the south side of Monroe Avenue through a single entranceway at a new traffic light, eliminating a Frogger-effect for people traveling to and from those businesses, including some owned by Daniele Family.
Boehner has said in the past that opposition to the project is based on residents’ dislike of Amazon. Jacobson contends it’s only the additional traffic Amazon’s practices would bring to Whole Foods that is the issue.
Jacobson said Amazon has been adding package lockers to all of its new Whole Foods stores, which is part of its plan to make the stores more profitable. “They have seen an 11 percent increase in traffic already.” If that’s going to happen at the Brighton store, he said, “just tell us up front so it can be factored into the traffic.”
A March 2018 article in Business Insider about Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods stores listed these changes that took place at Whole Foods as a result of the change in ownership.
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