New suit filed in Brighton’s Whole Foods conflict

A group opposing the Whole Foods grocery store project on Monroe Avenue has filed a new suit against the Town of Brighton over a document request it says was improperly handled.

The suit, filed Friday in Monroe County Supreme Court, alleges that during an August public meeting, the town Planning Board chairman “made a comment that the Planning Board had several secret meetings the public did not know about,” which would be illegal.

When the Save Monroe Ave. organization filed a Freedom of Information Law request for a transcript of the August meeting, however, the town complied only with minutes of the meeting that did not provide a transcript of the chairman’s statement, while it did provide a verbatim record of other speakers, the suit said. An appeal was denied.

SMA is one of two groups – the other being Brighton Grassroots – challenging the town government by suing them. They oppose the project based on how much additional traffic it could bring to the area and other concerns. The developers, Daniele Family Businesses, have said although the town has approved their project, they cannot proceed with demolition or construction while the lawsuits are being considered in court.

SMA tried to have the court stenographer who was taking verbatim notes sign an affidavit, but neither she nor the town responded, the suit said. Further requests turned up an audio recording of the meeting, but the recording stopped before the chairman made his statement.

“Particularly concerning to SMA is the hidden agenda of the Town, which has side-stepped the law on multiple occasions to see that the project gets approved,” the suit said.

A request of town officials for comment on the suit drew no immediate response.

SMA has asked the court to grant their FOIL request within 10 days and order the town to pay for its legal and administrative costs.

The project would include a 50,000-square foot Whole Foods grocery store, a drive-through Starbucks and a small plaza or cluster of other businesses. The town approved it last year under a special permit process that allows a higher density of development than normally allowed in exchange for the developer providing amenities to the town. In this case the amenities involve a walking trail that would extend beyond the property on the north side of Monroe Avenue, installing a new traffic light, and creating a single access point for eight businesses on the south side of Monroe Avenue to streamline traffic flow.

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