General Introduction to Underberg/Kessler billing records:
The billing records of Underberg and Kessler provide a record of the work of the Town's attorneys related to Newman Development Group's Gateway Town Center proposal. Viewed cumulatively, these records identify more than 100 contacts between the Town's attorneys and representatives of Newman Development Group and their development partners, more than 100 contacts between the Town Supervisor and the Town's attorneys, and numerous contacts between the Town's attorneys and various consultants to this project. All told, approximately 500 separate actions are documented, at a cost in excess of $50,000.
The Town's relationship to Newman Development Group apparently began in December 2004, when representatives of Ferrera/Jerum, acting on behalf of Newman Development Group, met with the Town to express their interest in developing a Big Box retail plaza at the intersection of Route 20A and Volunteer Road in the Town of Geneseo. As these billing records indicate, subsequent to that meeting representatives of the Town reviewed the zoning regulations for the Gateway District. Apparently concluding that those regulations, which limit retail buildings to 35,000 square feet and retail plazas to 80,000 square feet, would not permit Newman's proposal for well over 200,000 square feet of new retail development, including a 170,000 square foot Lowe's, the Town decided to pursue new, far more permissive zoning for the Gateway. This represents the genesis of the Planned Development District (PDD) Law that was ultimately passed by the Town and under which Newman's proposal is presently being reviewed.
As subsequent billing records, as well as other documents we have obtained through the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), indicate, the Town soon began reviewing PDD zoning regulations. The argument they made in favor of these regulations, repeated over and over again at public meetings and in correspondence, was that they would provide the Town "flexibility" in reviewing development proposals. The more important but unacknowledged reality is that PDD regulations also removed the square footage limits on retail buildings, allowing Big Box proposals to be considered.