The crowd of over 200 had dwindled to around 50 by the time the Newman PDD hearing ground to a halt around 10:30 p.m. Monday night at the Geneseo Central School. A majority of speakers spoke against the project raising concerns about traffic and impact on Geneseo’s small-town character.
A substantial number of project proponents were in the audience identifying themselves with green stickers saying “Neighbors supporting Lowe’s.” Those who spoke in favor of the project mentioned the convenience of not having to travel to Rochester to shop, tax benefits and the need for jobs, however, many of them conceded that the traffic problems in Geneseo were real and had to be addressed.
The town took severe criticism from some for allowing the process to go on for over 2 years before holding this first opportunity for public input. Corrin Strong highlighted that by presenting petitions against the project containing over 600 names that had been gathered in November of 2005. He noted that Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo had been denied permission to speak and present the petitions at the Town Board meeting of Dec. 8, 2005.
Another petition containing the names of over 150 residents of Lima Road and adjacent streets was presented against the project. These names were gathered in the last month by Sharyn Duffy, Betsy O’ Mara and others from residents of both the town and village. Many Lima Road residents also spoke about the sharp increase in traffic they have already experienced in recent years, especially since the opening of Volunteer Road and the Super Wal-Mart.
The use of the PDD law to override the underlying zoning in this matter came under heavy criticism from many. “Elected officials and planning boards are not permitted simply to do what they want or what Newman wants or what they think the public wants, “Bill Lofquist said reading a prepared statement. “Your obligation is to the law. Your obligation is to enforce the zoning of the Gateway, enforce the requirements of the Scope, and respect the independence of the Planning Board.”
The format of the hearing was also criticized by some who felt the five-hour length and multiple subjects was designed to discourage public participation. Around 10 p.m. some took advantage of the opportunity for a second 5 minute comment, although Corrin Strong was denied his request for a third even though the meeting adjourned before its scheduled 11 p.m. ending time.
Written comments can be added to the record until 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 8. They can be mailed to the town offices or e-mailed to email@example.com The planning board will then have to decide whether to prepare a Final EIS, although they could decide to simply accept the applicant’s Draft EIS as final and make a finding of no adverse impact for the project.
If they do decide to prepare a Final EIS , SEQR regulations require it be done within 45 days from the end of the public hearing which would be by Dec. 13, although extensions can be given. Corrin Strong pointed out that under SEQR regulations, the lead agency is permitted to charge the applicant for the cost of preparing the Final EIS and he urged the planning board to do so and hire independent engineers.