Cortlandville residents sue town, Suit-Kote over trash hauler's project

CORTLAND, N.Y. — Three Cortlandville residents have filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against a local trash hauling company and the town of Cortlandville, alleging that several town boards violated local and state law in their decision to grant variances and permits for the company's expansion project.

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Pamela Jenkins, Cheri Sheridan and Olga Smith are listed as petitioners in the Article 78 proceeding filed Friday, which is used to challenge the decision of a state or local agency. They argue that the Cortlandville Zoning Board of Appeals, the Cortlandville Planning Board and the Cortlandville Town Board violated local and state law when they granted variances or permits for the proposed expansion by Leach Properties, LLC.

Leach's Custom Trash Service, based in Cortland, is looking to build a secondary access road to its business on Route 13 that would allow the company to store parking equipment and large containers used to haul and transport trash. The business owner, Greg Leach, who also serves on the Cortlandville Town Board, is acquiring the roughly 10-acre parcel from Suit-Kote Corporation, which had not been using the vacant land.

The lawsuit alleges the following:

– The Cortlandville Zoning Board of Appeals violated New York Town Law and the State Environmental Quality Review Act when it granted a Use Variance for the project.
– The Cortlandville Planning Board violated town and state law when it granted a Subdivision approval and Conditional Permit for the project.
– The Cortlandville Town Board violated state law when it granted an Aquifer Protection Permit for the project.

What are the concerns with the project?

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Don Armstrong, attorney for Greg Leach, addressing the Cortlandville Town Board during a public hearing on Leach's expansion project Nov. 18 (Peter Blanchard/Cortland Voice)

The petitioners in the lawsuit state that the expansion of the solid waste management operation on Route 13 could could lead to contamination at the Cortlandville-Homer-Preble Aquifer System, which provides drinking water to local residents.

The residents also argue that the project could exacerbate existing flooding problems on the land, which is located within 500 yards of several of her properties, the lawsuit reads. The petitioners all reside, own or use property in the immediate vicinity of the proposed expansion project, according to Douglas Zamelis, the attorney for the petitioners.

The Cortlandville Zoning Board of Appeals did not fulfill its statutory obligations when it failed to identify relevant areas of environmental concern in connection with the proposed expansion project, the lawsuit states.

“The records in this case indicate that this was a rubber stamp approval,” attorney Douglas H. Zamelis said in a phone interview Monday.

Greg Leach's position on the town board has intimidated some people from speaking their minds, according to one resident who spoke out against the project during a public hearing last month. Members of the town board are responsible for appointing members to the town's planning board and zoning board of appeals.

The petitioners in the lawsuit are requesting that all variances and permits granted for the project be nullified. The defendants listed in the petition have until Jan. 3 to respond.

Notice of Petition against Leach's Custom Trash Service and Cortlandville Town Board

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