Dec 13, 2021

Our Town – Our Vote

The Plaza

The widespread community opposition to the size of the Whole Foods Plaza, and the traffic crisis that will result, has only grown stronger while the Developer attempts to “beat the clock” and build the plaza before the court rules on the legality of the Town of Brighton approval process.  

Most people are not aware that the plaza will include not just a Whole Foods grocery store, but also a traffic-heavy drive-thru Starbucks, and up to 20 additional retailers, and potentially an Amazon distribution center of some sort. 

The DOT has warned that this project will “have significant impact on traffic, with increased delays, long queue lengths” and “GRIDLOCK.”  Remember, this plaza already sits on one of the most dangerous and most congested traffic arteries in Monroe County.  

Most people in Brighton probably support having the option of shopping at a Whole Foods.  But what residents do not support is the size and location of the proposed plaza.  That’s why we’re fighting to shrink it.  There can still be a Whole Foods and even a Starbucks.  Just not a Whole Foods, Starbucks, PLUS 20 other retailers, and an Amazon distribution hub tightly packed into a relatively small parcel. 

The proposed plaza is so large, roughly one-third of it extends into a residentially zoned neighborhood, and it exceeds our zoning code limits by a wide margin.  The plaza needs to be smaller.  And if the community is successful in court, the people of Brighton will soon have a chance to vote on that issue.  Thousands of Brighton residents have signed petitions in favor of shrinking the size of the Project.  We all support giving the community a choice, and we believe the court will too.

The Vote

Most people in Brighton have no idea that such a vote is likely to happen when the court finally rules. 

They see the construction and probably assume that the plaza is a “done deal.”  But that’s not true!  The court has already ruled that our lawsuit has a “likelihood of success on the merits.”  The court also warned the Developer that it “builds at its own risk” because of our lawsuit.  In other words, the Developer can still be forced to make changes, including shrinking the plaza.  And that would be a welcome result for the community.  The Developer could still have a Whole Foods, but the plaza has to be resized and reconfigured.

For decades, the Auburn Trail (which was created along an old railroad bed) had protected our community from overdevelopment along Monroe Avenue.  The Trail ran behind the old Clover Lanes bowling alley and neighboring properties where the Whole Foods Plaza is now located.  Pedestrians, runners, and bicyclists have used the Trail for years. 

Kids too.  Most importantly, the Trail has served as a natural buffer and barrier between the dense commercial development along Monroe Avenue and the residential neighborhood on the other side, to the east.  Unfortunately, that would no longer be the case if this project proceeds as planned, but fortunately, the Trail is also the key to making the plaza smaller.

Many residents don’t realize that, when the Town approved the Whole Foods Plaza, it allowed the Developer to build over the Trail, which now runs right through the Whole Foods parking lot.  Instead, the Town forced the Developer to build a new bypass trail—farther to the east and deeper into the residential neighborhood—to make more room for the large plaza.  Sure, the new trail will be nice and the public will enjoy it just as much as the existing Trail, but that misses the point.  Our Auburn Trail was not just there for public enjoyment.  It was also a natural barrier for our protection from sprawl.  And the Town should not have erased its boundaries to make more room for a plaza. 

That’s why the community is arguing in court that the Town violated State Law by allowing the developer to move our public Trail without first giving residents an opportunity to vote on it. 

We expect the court to require this vote.  All of us will benefit from a smaller Whole Foods Plaza.  

Primary Concerns (in addition to traffic)

In addition to the serious traffic problems, why else are we fighting to get this plaza properly sized?

Developer gets:

  • An estimated $17± million in extra economic benefits from the oversized plaza
  • Town permission to create traffic loads the DOT stated will cause “a significant impact on traffic,” and cause “long queue lengths” and “gridlock.”
  • Potentially a future Amazon delivery hub or center ot some kind, adding even more intensive traffic loads
  • A grocery store that is 2.5 times larger than the Code otherwise allows
  • As many as 20 other stores that would otherwise not all be permitted at this site
  • Bypasses over 50 otherwise required permits/approvals/variances
  • A project that encroaches by 30% into the adjacent residential zone
  • High traffic drive-through not permitted by code

As we see it, the Town has also already given the Developer an inexplicable under-assessment of taxes. 

For the last 5 years the developer has been assessed only an extra $100 on $6.5 million that it paid for additional land.  When we buy a house we get assessed at what we paid for it. 

This under-assessment has been going on for 5 years – at a significant loss of revenue for the community.  The community should not be subsidizing this project.

In return for the Town giving away all of the above, the Community (in addition to all the problems) gets:

  • An extra approximately $100,000 in taxes a year.  (Supervisor Moehle quotes $400,000, but that is misleading as 75% of the taxes would be due if built to standard zoning limits.)
  • An additional 2 traffic lights and some traffic mitigation re-construction on Monroe Ave – but these are to benefit the Developer’s Project and the Developer’s properties across the street, and mitigate the problems the Developer is causing, and in any event could have been required under regular zoning without giving anything away or causing the problems the oversized plaza will cause.
  • Improvements to the Auburn Trail, bike racks, benches, (valued at about $300,000) – most of which benefit the Developer’s Project and in any event could have been required under regular zoning without giving anything away or causing the problems the oversized plaza will cause.

In our view, this was a fire sale, which harms the community and provide it with no meaningful benefit. 

The citizens of Brighton recognized that this sweetheart deal is not in the community’s best interest and therefore banded together, under 3 different opposition groups, and continue to challenge the Project.

We thank everyone for their continuing involvement and dedication.  The support and response from Brighton Community has been enormous, and reminds us why this is such a good town in which to live.


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