After Much Discussion, It Appears Kelberman Project Can Move Forward As Is
It appears that the Kelberman Center's 60-unit housing project in South Utica will move forward as planned but there is much lingering discussion about whether the city's charter was violated in it's approval process.
Judge Anthony Garramone, who also serves as the Utica Common Council's attorney, tells WIBX that in his legal opinion, if the council or the citizen's group opposing the project on the grounds that it is too large, wanted to file suit to stop the project that they would have had to have done so long ago.
Garramone explained that any Article 78 proceeding - which he says is required in any legal action against government - has a four month statue of limitations.
''You don't bring an action within the four months, you are precluded from bringing the action,'' he told WIBX. Garramone says the clock would have started back in May of 2018 when the city's planning board approved the Kelberman's project.
The issue of proper approval of the housing complex came under scrutiny when one of the residents in the neighborhood group argued that the Common Council never had a chance to approve the project - something councilors Samantha Colosimo Testa and Joe Marino later agreed should have happened based on the property's zoning under the city's charter.
That led to Wednesday's much anticipated 'executive session' where Garramone was asked to address the council on what options it had to possibly stop the project from going forward.
''In this case, not only are they precluded (the neighborhood group) if they hired a lawyer, in my opinion, but we are (the common council), too. This has nothing to do with the merits of the case, it has to do with CPLR - New York State Civil Practice Law and Rules,'' he said. ''There's no way to get around it.''
When asked if he thought the project had gone through the proper approval process, Garramone said:
''I think that's a question of fact that only could be determined after a hearing when all the facts are known. There's a legitimate disagreement here. If there's a legitimate disagreement you have to have a hearing and then someone has to make a decision. But, you're never gonna get there because Article 78 precludes you from getting there. Every single case you read against a governing body begins with an Article 78...time began to run back in May of 2018, and now we're here almost 15-16 months later. It'll take a Supreme Court Judge 15-minutes to say: 'The statute stops you.'''
The Kelberman Center's integrated housing complex is slated for the former Sunset School on Sunset Ave. in South Utica. Many neighbors to the property say they are concerned the 60-unit complex is too large for their neighborhood and say they'd support it if were scaled down by half.