A few rays of sunlight

Last week, after a strong critique of the Town of Geneseo’s compliance with the Freedom of Information law was published in the local newspaper, there were signs that the information ice jam is beginning to break-up. The first sign was a meeting called by Supervisor Will Wadsworth with PDDG members (and authors) Bill Lofquist and Corrin Strong on Friday afternoon.

This was preceded by a phone call from Town Clerk and Records Access Officer Jean Bennett reporting that PDDG’s two FOILs (filed on Feb. 19 and March 3) had finally brought some results. A copy of an e-mail was released indicating that the memo from the town’s engineers to Newman Development on the FEIS that had been sought was apparently never delivered.

Instead, it appears that the town’s engineers held a meeting with the Newman team on Feb. 15 to convey their positions on defects in the FEIS verbally. As a result, PDDG filed an additional FOIL request on Monday seeking more information on that meeting including any position papers prepared by the town’s engineers for the meeting and any handwritten notes taken at the meeting, which they believe are covered by FOIL.

That FOIL was one of four new requests made Monday. In addition, PDDG filed a request for any more recent communications between the town and the applicant since the March 3 FOIL. In a abrupt change from past practice, this FOIL was responded to on the same day with the production of 12 new documents.

The new material represents updated studies on traffic patterns on Lima Road and Rt. 20A as well as consideration of the effect of eliminating access to the project from 20A. Bill Lofquist posted an analysis of some of the new material on Saturday. In addition, some of the new “supplements to the supplements” have been posted on the PDDG site.

They did, however, renew their call for an additional public comment period on the supplemental material. “It is clear that a large amount of new information has been submitted since the public hearing on the Draft EIS was held back in October,” Bill Lofquist said. “Under SEQR regulations, the public should have the right to comment on this new data.”

Corrin Strong said he was grateful for the efforts of the Supervisor and the Town Clerk to bring the town into compliance with FOIL, but he questioned the wisdom of having the town’s agents making policy decisions without a written record.

“It seems that the only logical reason not to put the town’s position in writing would be to avoid FOIL disclosure,” Strong said. “That could put the town in an awkward position if there is a later misunderstanding about what was agreed to at the meeting, plus it diminishes board oversight of the process.”

The other two new FOILs seek copies of communications between Planning Board Chairman Dwight Folts and the board’s attorneys with the applicant. Nothing from these FOILs was received in the first 12 documents.

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