In March, Verizon abandoned plans to build a massive $4 billion dollar data center in my hometown of Somerset, NY due to a local landowner’s legal challenge. Mary Ann Rizzo owns 117 acres of agricultural land adjacent to the property, but lives in Amherst, NY – over 30 minutes away. Rizzo’s challenge is that the Somerset Town Board failed to take the “hard look” required by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”). The Town Board issued a “negative declaration,” meaning that a full, complete Environmental Impact Statement was not required. The original case, linked below, has a decent discussion of some of the issues of standing contemplated by the Act.
While her initial case was dismissed as meritless, her legal persistence has clearly paid off – Verizon has abandoned the plans (and with it, the ~200 jobs it claimed to generate). Senator Maziarz had not problem throwing Ms. Rizzo under the bus, saying “”It shows you how one person, who owns property across the street, doesn’t even live on the property, but just owns property across the street, has killed this up to a $5 billion project, would have brought hundreds of jobs. It’s a very sad day for western New York.” It’s interesting to think about how the actions of one person managed to grind this to a halt and convince Verizon to search elsewhere for business opportunities (tax breaks!).
…and if anyone is feeling adventurous on Westlaw:
31 Misc.3d 1206(A), 929 N.Y.S.2d 202 (Table), 2011 WL 1238823 (N.Y.Sup.), 2011 N.Y. Slip Op. 50505(U)