Lawyer sees shadow, predicts 6 more weeks of FEIS study

Ground Hog Day came a little late for the Geneseo Planning Board yesterday, when attorney Joe Picciotti extended his estimate of the time needed to respond to Newman Development’s recent draft FEIS submission to “5 to 6 weeks.” Picciotti had previously told the board it would take “at least a month after submittal.” The draft FEIS was received last week.

This report seemed to annoy Planning Board Chairman Dwight Folts who tried to push for a faster review. “I was hoping we could have this done in three weeks,” Folts said, suggesting that it could be reviewed at the next Planning Board meeting on March 11. Picciotti told him there was “no way” that he and the town’s engineers could move that quickly. “There’s just a lot of work here,” Picciotti said.

A number of Planning Board members seemed surprised by the Chairman’s position. “What’s your hurry?” asked Marge Wilkie. Folts responded that the matter had dragged on for 2 1/2 years already and he wanted to bring it to a conclusion as soon as possible. Board member Tom Curtin cautioned, however, that “we are at the most critical phase and it’s important to get it right.”

Folts then suggested a meeting could be scheduled on March 31, with a deadline of March 24 for the town’s advisors to submit their proposed response. Picciotti made no commitment that he could meet that timetable.

Picciotti also said that preliminary review of the document had already revealed that there were areas of incompleteness and that more information would probably be required from the developers. Emphasizing that the preliminary review was still incomplete, Picciotti mentioned two specific problems with the draft.

He stated that the new information submitted about Rt. 20A traffic capacity appeared to be inadequate. (The appendix submitted on that subject is available as a pdf file here ). Picciotti further pointed out that the draft FEIS did not seem to include a required site plan that eliminates access from 20A. (A new memo from the developer on why the curb cut is necessary is available here.)

The legal position of this latter issue was clarified when Picciotti explained that the ultimate decision as to whether to allow a curb cut on 20A would be made by the Town Board. He stated that the Planning Board’s responsibility was merely to consider the environmental impact of having or not having such an entrance.

Picciotti said that the town’s staff would complete its preliminary review of the document by this Friday and produce a written response to Newman indicating exactly what they find to be missing in the recent submittal. Although cautioned by their attorney not to get into detailed discussion of the draft FEIS, board members did discuss some concerns about the document.

Patti Lavigne said she was troubled by the “overall lack of balance” in the developer’s submittal. Picciotti said that was exactly the type of thing that could make the document vulnerable to legal challenge and said he was determined to eliminate it from the document. Picciotti also said that the board was entitled to apply “community standards” in evaluating the impact of traffic and was not strictly bound by the Highway Traffic Manual or engineering practice.

In regard to traffic on Rt. 20A, new board member Hank Latorella suggested that the community may be near “a tipping point” where the addition of one more Big Box will require a traffic light at the corner of Center Street. He said he felt this may be needed to allow people in the village to get off of side streets onto 20A. “I don’t know if the Lowe’s will put us there or not, but I suspect it will,” he said.

Marge Wilkie brought up the question of whether approval of this PDD would lead to a “slippery slope” proliferation of large retail stores on Volunteer Road, since the PDD law applies to the entire Gateway District. Hank Latorella said that he thought it would be unlikely since, “the more Big Boxes that come, the greater the impact will be.” He suggested it would be harder to get approval of future Big Boxes and that the process would be “self-limiting.”

This led to a discussion of whether Newman could be required to contribute to a Transportation Development District to help pay for future improvements. Attorney Picciotti indicated that such a requirement could be attached as a condition of site plan approval.

There was no mention or discussion of the request made by PDDG Monday to open up a public comment period on the supplemental materials submitted by the developer.

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