Zmich replaced by pro-Lowe’s advocate

The Geneseo Town Board declined to re-appoint former Planning Board Chairman John Zmich to a new 7-year term at its organizational meeting Thursday afternoon. Instead they followed the recommendation of new Supervisor Will Wadsworth to appoint pro-Lowe’ advocate Hank Latorella.

Latorella, a retired SUNY Geneseo biology professor, who lives on Booher Hill Road in the town, has been an outspoken supporter of the proposed Lowe’s. In an October commentary published in the Livingston County News he wrote, “Lowe’s is the Wegmans of home improvement stores, and, as the best option, it should be embraced.”

In the article he further claimed that “everywhere Lowe’s goes there seems to be an ensuing increase in property values.” Latorella admitted that traffic is a “pressing problem”, but stated that “as I understand it, analysis shows that traffic will probably not even be worsened much by Lowe’s.”

After the unanimous vote by the town board appointing Latorella, board member Dan Dimpfl made a statement thanking John Zmich for his 14 years of service on the Planning Board. Dimpfl praised Zmich’s “careful attention to detail,” and the “balancing effect” he has had on the board.

Zmich, who was not present at the meeting, has led resistance to the attempt to fast-track the Lowe’s proposal through the SEQR process. It was under his leadership last year that the Planning Board voted to require a full Environmental Review which is now at a crucial stage. The applicant, Newman Development, filed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in October which the Planning Board must now convert to a Final EIS in light of public comments received on the DEIS.

In his column this week, Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo leader Bill Lofquist voiced concern that appointment of a pro-Lowe’s advocate to the Planning Board might represent a retreat from the obligation of the board to take a”hard look” at the environmental impacts.

“By choosing a sworn pro-Lowe’s advocate, the town board will signal that the environmental review of Newman’s proposal has gone on long enough and that it is time (past time) for the bulldozers,” Lofquist wrote. “In so doing, it will also signal its disregard for the SEQR process, the town’s zoning, and the work already done by the planning board.”

This appointment ran counter to the opinions expressed in the Clarion News Blog’s recent online poll. When asked who should replace Zmich if he were not re-appointed, 55% of all those responding said they would like to see a person appointed who did not have a known public position on the issue. The percentage was even higher among those who identified themselves as pro-Lowe’s, with 61% of those in favor of a neutral appointment.

Note: Editor Corrin Strong has written a special column reflecting on John’s service.

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