Adam S. Walters

Partner Buffalo, Rochester
Adam Walters

A successful land use lawyer with almost three decades of experience, Adam represents developers, corporations, individuals and governmental agencies in complex land use and permitting matters.

From zoning to environmental impacts review pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA or SEQR) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to permitting with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he is known for his strategic approach and success at meeting tight timeframes to get a shovel in the ground.

Adam also has significant experience representing manufacturers and other regulated entities in environmental permitting and enforcement matters. He currently serves as the chair of the Western New York regional satellite of the Urban Land Institute and as an adjunct professor at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.

Core Competencies

Land Use Planning & Zoning

Assist clients in analyzing zoning requirements for commercial developments and residential subdivisions. Prepare letters of intent and applications to obtain necessary approvals, such as special permits, use variances and architectural review approvals from Town Boards, Planning Boards and Zoning Boards of Appeal. Assist clients in seeking all required and relevant New York State Department of Environmental Conservation permits. Assist client in resolving zoning-related litigation and related to subdivision approvals and use variances.

Real Estate Development

Assist clients in all aspects of real estate development, from initial project planning and entity formation to project approvals and permitting, to construction, occupancy and stabilization, and withdrawal of project equity.

SEQR Act

Conduct environmental impact assessments for residential subdivisions, industrial, and commercial projects, including drafting environmental impact statements, negative declarations, public notice and hearing documents and general project coordination and development. Assist clients in defending and/or challenging SEQR decisions pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Laws and Rules.

NEPA

Conduct environmental impact assessments for federal transportation projects, including drafting environmental impact statements and assisting in the preparation of environmental studies to analyze impacts. Counsel clients with regard to federal agency- and project-specific requirements, such as compliance with Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 and National Historic Preservation Act, among others.

Clean Air Act

Assist clients in determining Clean Air Act permit requirements for industrial facilities and counsel clients on compliance and enforcement issues.

Greenhouse Gas Regulation

Counsel clients on compliance issues related to RGGI and proposed greenhouse gas regulations, including EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions monitoring program and proposed tailoring rule, and legislation related to a federal cap-and-trade program.

Wetlands

Assist clients in seeking and obtaining both state and federal wetland permits. Assist clients in defending against enforcement actions related to wetland violations and negotiating Consent Orders.

Stormwater

Assist clients in all aspects of stormwater permitting. Assist clients in identifying permit requirements. Complete the required notice and permit documentation for State Pollution Discharge Eliminations System permits. Assist clients in preparing Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans. Provide clients with assistance in identifying alternatives in the stormwater control plan to build consensus with neighboring property owners that object to proposed project and the stormwater control measures.

Telecommunications

Assist clients in analyzing zoning requirements for telecommunications facilities. Prepare letters of intent and applications to obtain necessary approvals, such as special permits, use variances and architectural review approvals from Town Boards, Planning Boards and Zoning Boards of Appeal. Assist clients with general project coordination and development. Review leases and lease amendments for telecommunications facilities, including new construction, collocations on existing towers, and structure agreements to locate on rooftops or other existing structures. Assist clients in resolving permit fee and zoning-related disputes arising from the unlawful application of zoning requirements to telecommunications facilities.

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Honors & Awards

  • The Daily Record, Power 20 List – Real Estate Law, 2022-2023
  • Listed in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, 2017-2024
    • Top Ranked, 2019-2024
  • Selected for the Upstate New York Super Lawyers® list, 2012-2023
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America®
    • Named the Best Lawyers® Environmental Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Buffalo, 2024
  • Listed in Who’s Who In Law, Business First of Buffalo and Buffalo Law Journal
Awards & Certifications
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Education & Admissions

Education
  • Vermont Law School, J.D., magna cum laude, 1994
  • State University of New York at Buffalo, B.A., 1990
Admitted to Practice
  • New York
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of New York

Experience

Representative Matters
  • County of Erie New York in successful completion of expedited environmental impact review pursuant to SEQR for a new Buffalo Bills NFL Stadium.
  • Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) and its affiliate, the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation (GGLDC), for over a decade as counsel with respect to the STAMP project, a shovel-ready, 6 million-square-foot advanced manufacturing park on 1.2+ acres in Genesee County, New York. Work included initial land acquisition, clearance from the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), wetlands permitting efforts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, negotiation an $8.5 million incentive zoning agreement with the Town of Alabama and permit applications for all infrastructure permitting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NYSDEC and consultation with the Tonawanda Seneca Nation.
  • On behalf of the GCEDC, the Phillips Lytle team recently succeeded in litigation regarding STAMP’s first tenant, a green hydrogen production and distribution facility.
  • Catholic Health Systems with respect to the acquisition of approximately 97 acres of land in Lockport, New York and the development of the Lockport Memorial Hospital Campus, a new 60,000-square-foot state-of-the-art medical facility. Work included all aspects of real estate, title, due diligence, zoning and land use processes, including environmental review pursuant to SEQRA. A strict timeline required careful strategy and implementation in order to ensure that area residents continue to receive high-quality health care close to home.
  • The Salvation Army (TSA) with respect to the redevelopment of TSA’s Main Street Campus, including all necessary land use approvals from the City of Buffalo, approval from the SHPOand the City of Buffalo Preservation Board, ongoing efforts with the NYSDEC for the Brownfield Cleanup Program, and negotiating and drafting a development services agreement to remediate the property.
  • City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board as SEQRA counsel for a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) on an estimated $43 million development project of a mixed-use neighborhood on a 90-acre former industrial complex in Ithaca, New York.
  • Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation with respect to environmental impact review and real estate matters, including preparation of a General Project Plan for Canalside, a $500+ million mixed-use project involving the redevelopment of waterfront property in upstate New York.
  • Buffalo Urban Development Corporation with respect to SEQRA and land use matters related to the redevelopment of multiple properties in the Northland Avenue Belt Line Corridor including the Northland Training Workforce Center on Buffalo’s East Side.
  • City of Buffalo in SEQRA and land use matters, including segmentation findings related to a Native American casino, defending the city in a subsequent Article 78 challenge by community opponents, and successful opposition to Native American casino being built outside of the city’s borders.
  • Steelwinds in its wind farm development project on the site of a former steel mill along Lake Erie. Completed the SEQRA process and obtained all necessary zoning approvals in under 60 days.
Representative Cases
  • Campaign for Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture, Inc. v. Buffalo & Ft. Erie Pub. Bridge Auth., No. 12-cv-00605(M), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25390 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 22, 2013)
  • Matter of Rizzo v. Verizon CCC LLC, 31 Misc. 3d 1206(A), 2011 WL 1238823, 2011 N.Y. Slip Op. 50505(U) (Sup. Ct. Niagara Cnty. 2011)
  • Scott v. City of Buffalo 16 Misc. 3d 259, 835 N.Y.S.2d 803 (Sup. Ct. Erie County 2006), aff’d, 38 A.D.3d 1287, 834 N.Y.S.2d 910 (4th Dep’t 2007)
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Speaking Engagements

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  • Panelist, “A Panel Discussion on Brownfields,” ULI Western New York, January 2024
  • Moderator, “No Stopping Us – Even as The Pandemic Continues,” Buffalo Business First State of the Region Webinar, October 2021
  • Moderator, “The Real Estate Market in 2020 and Beyond: In the Midst of COVID-19,” State of the Region,” Buffalo Business First State of the Region Breakfast, September 2020
  • Moderator, “The Winds of Change in Real Estate Development: What You Need to Know for the Next Decade,” Buffalo Business First State of the Region Breakfast, September 2019
  • Presenter, “Zoning and Land Use Law – the Latest and Greatest,” 30th Annual Local Government Conference, March 2019
  • Presenter, “Zoning and Land Use Law – the Latest and Greatest,” New York Upstate Chapter of the American Planning Association Annual Conference, October 2018
  • Presenter, “Land Use and Zoning Case Law Update/Community Opposition,” “From JCOPE to #MeToo: Helping Municipalities Stay Ahead of Today’s Changing Environment,” Phillips Lytle Seminar, August 2018
  • Moderator, “The Future of Buffalo Real Estate – Boom or Bust?,” Buffalo Business First State of the Region, May 2018
  • Presenter, “Overview of the SEQRA Process,” State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) Seminar, Phillips Lytle LLP, October 2017
  • Panelist, “How the Green Code Will Shape Future Developments in Buffalo,” Business First Power Breakfast on the Green Code, February 2017
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Activities & Professional Associations

Present Activites

  • Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust, Founding Member, Board Member
  • New York State Wireless Association, Founding Member, Board of Directors
    • Former Secretary

Past Activites

  • Air & Waste Management Association
  • Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation, Board of Directors
  • Buffalo Niagara Partnership – Brownfields Taskforce
  • Hilbert College, Adjunct Professor – As an adjunct, Mr. Walters taught an overview course in environmental law.
  • New Millennium Group of Western New York, Former Member – Board of Directors – Mr. Walters was a founding member and served as the first President of the Board of Directors of the New Millennium Group of Western New York, Inc., a community action group dedicated to implementing positive change in the Buffalo-Niagara Region.
  • State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law, Adjunct Professor: Environmental Law

Professional Associations

  • American Bar Association
    • Business Law Section
    • Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER)
  • Bar Association of Erie County
    • Environmental Law Committee
  • New York State Bar Association
    • Environmental & Energy Law Section
  • Urban Land Institute
    • WNY Chapter Chair

Articles & Publications

Publications

  • Co-Author, “US Regional Real Estate – New York,” Chambers Global Practice Guide, May 2023
  • Co-Author, “US Regional Real Estate – New York,” Chambers Global Practice Guide, June 2022
  • Co-Author, “US Regional Real Estate – New York,” Chambers Global Practice Guide, May 2021
  • Co-Author “USA Regional Real Estate – New York,” Chambers Global Practice Guide, May 2020
  • Co-Author, “USA Regional Real Estate – New York,” Chambers Global Practice Guide, June 2019
  • Co-Author, “Regional Real Estate, New York – Law and Practice,” Chambers Global Practice Guides, June 2018