Rare butterfly could kill Costco, apartment project

Dispute over development site next to Crossgates Mall heads to court

Tri-State /
Mar.March 23, 2022 06:00 PM

(Crossgates, iStock)

The Karner blue butterfly is about an inch across, but a flap of its wings could take down a big-box behemoth in Albany.

The rare insect is part of a legal dispute between the Crossgates Mall and Save the Pine Bush in the Albany suburb of Guilderland, the Times Union reported. The two sides are slated to square off in court today.

At stake is a planned Costco at the development site next to the mall, along with a 222-unit apartment complex. The development would also include a gas station.

The environmental group is getting a second chance after its lawsuit against Crossgates Mall owner Pyramid Group was dismissed in November. Save the Pine Bush argued that environmental impacts of a development planned next to the mall weren’t studied as required. The site is close to the Pine Bush nature preserve, which is a habitat for the rare butterfly as well for bats.

Save the Pine Bush is back in court to argue its appeal. The case is on a “fast track,” according to the Times Union, because Pyramid contended that legal delays are jeopardizing the entire project, meaning the preservationists could achieve their objective even if they ultimately lose the case.

A previous lawsuit filed by residents of Westmere Terrace was upheld at trial court, according to the Times Union, only to be overturned by an appellate division court. The development was set to go ahead until Save the Pine Bush filed its suit.

Pyramid may be banking on Costco to help spur sales at the mall, too. The mall in upstate New York was one of four transferred to special servicing at the onset of the pandemic after the firm requested debt service relief. The other malls to go into special servicing at the time were Destiny USA in Syracuse, Walden Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga and the Poughkeepsie Galleria.

As for the flying insect holding it up: The United States Forest Service says Karner blue butterflies were first described near Albany in the 1800s and were listed as endangered 30 years ago. They have a wingspan of only one inch and tend to live just a few days or weeks — long enough to fight off a big retailer.

[Times Union] — Holden Walter-Warner





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