The fight to bring Whole Foods to Brighton took another turn Thursday. The State Department of Transportation released the results of its environmental review of the project and said that traffic and other impacts have been minimized.
Since the project was announced in 2015, opponents have maintained that the proposed grocery store and the plaza around it are too big and will cause more congestion on Monroe Avenue, one of the busiest areas in Monroe County.
Brighton Supervisor Bill Moehle said the town and the Daniele family, which is developing the project, listened to criticisms from residents in last summer’s public hearings and that the current version of the project is 10,000 feet smaller than the original proposal. One key change cuts off access from the project to Clover Street and Allens Creek Road to address residents’ concerns about traffic.
“The project has evolved, the traffic management has evolved, and you bet we listened to folks in the neighborhood, who came out and spoke at public hearings,” said Moehle. “We’ve listened. We’ve addressed the concerns. The state has weighed in. It’s time to proceed.”
Citizens groups Save Monroe Avenue and Brighton Grassroots say the changes aren’t enough, and they are suing the town in hopes of stopping or further shrinking the project. Aaron Saykin of Buffalo law firm Hodgson Russ represents Save Monroe Avenue. He called the DOT’s decision flawed.
“The determination from the DOT is unlikely to survive a court challenge because it contradicts the DOT’s prior findings,” said Saykin. “As currently sized, it will take what is already a very bad traffic situation and make it horrible.”
Many legal challenges remain, including one in the State Supreme Court. That court is expected to weigh in on one of Brighton Grassroots’ challenges as soon as October. The group’s founder Howie Jacobson says Moehle is in for a fight.
“We’re not backing down,” said Jacobson. “This project has a long way to completion. And we’re hoping it does not become an oversized plaza when it is rebuilt.”
Jacobson said this project should be up for a public vote and that Brighton Grassroots will continue to fight every point of the project that it finds objectionable. Save Monroe Avenue plans on doing the same.