Category Archives: FOIL

Planning board takes up FEIS tonight

After over two months of delay, the Geneseo Town Planning Board will take up the proposed Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Geneseo Town Centre proposal tonight at a special meeting. The town’s engineering and legal consultants have been preparing a response to the draft FEIS since it was submitted by Newman Development in early February.

The review process has been shrouded in secrecy and Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo (PDDG) has had limited success in getting copies of communications between the town’s agents and the developers. FOIL requests have revealed that a number of new studies and analysis have been produced by Newman in recent weeks. The new material includes key areas of controversy including traffic on Lima Road and Rt. 20A, the need for access on Rt. 20A, and the orientation of the proposed building.

PDDG has asked that a public comment period be provided to respond to this supplemental material. So far, however, that request has not been responded to by the board or its attorneys, despite PDDG’s claim that an additional comment period is required under SEQR regulations. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the new Town Hall on Millennium Drive.

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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.

Planning Board ducks Newman issues

The Town of Geneseo Planning Board steered clear of the controversial Newman PDD application at its monthly meeting Monday night. The subject was not mentioned despite a written request by Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo to have two aspects of the matter placed on the agenda.

PDDG had asked the board to discuss their request to have the FOIL procedures simplified so that public documents in the case could be made available automatically. They also asked that the board consider opening up an additional public comment period on supplemental material that the applicant has submitted since filling its draft EIS last fall.

Instead of taking up these matters, the board engaged in a lengthy discussion of the future of Lakeville Estates. The board’s legal counsel and engineering advisers were not present at the meeting, nor were any representatives of Newman.

The only mention of the Newman matter was an indication from Chairman Dwight Folts that the matter would next be taken up at a special April 7 meeting of the board. Meanwhile PDDG reported that they have received no response of any kind to their two requests, and as of Wednesday, that they still had not received a copy of a memo from the town’s engineers to the developer that they FOILed almost a month ago.

PDDG’s Corrin Strong and Bill Lofquist published a commentary on the FOIL issue in this week’s Livingston County News. The article, in commemoration of National Sunshine Week, was titled, “More sunshine needed in Geneseo.”

In the article, the two explained the struggle that has been going on behind the scenes over their Freedom of Information requests. The authors accused the Planning Board leadership of embracing a “culture of secrecy” and further suggested that it was improper for the board to delegate to its staff its responsibility to take a “hard look” at the issues.

Pointing out that the board itself has apparently not been getting copies of communications between its engineers and the applicant, the article concludes,
“In the present case, it appears that not only do we not have public oversight of what our planning board is doing, we don’t even have board oversight.”

PDDG calls for discussion of FOIL, process issues

Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo has written a letter to the Geneseo Town Planning Board asking that discussion of two requests be put on the agenda for next Monday night’s meeting. The requests concern expediting the release of public documents under FOIL and opening a public comment period on new material submitted by Newman Development with its proposed Final EIS.

Repeated requests to the board to automatically release all public documents in the Newman matter have been made by PDDG in recent months with no apparent effect.

Most recently, PDDG has been attempting for over two weeks to get a copy of a memo from the Town’s engineers to Newman detailing deficiencies in the FEIS. At the February 11 meeting, Mike Guyon of MRB, the town’s engineering consultants, told the board that the memo would be ready by Feb. 15. A FOIL request filed on Feb.19 for the document (renewed on March 3) has thus far failed to dislodge it or an explanation of why it is not available.

PDDG has also received no formal answer to its request made on Feb. 10 to open a period of public comment on new material included in the draft FEIS submitted by Newman. PDDG contends that such a public comment period is required under SEQR regulations for all supplemental material.

PDDG has requested that both these items be put on the agenda Monday so that the public can hear the reasons why these requests are apparently being either ignored or rejected. In addition, the letter points up some additional problems with the FEIS as submitted.

The Planning Board meetings starts at7 p.m. at the new town hall on Millennium Drive.

Planning Board sets Jan. 28 workshop meeting on Lowe’s

The Geneseo Town Planning Board meeting on Monday night included only a brief update of the status of its ongoing review of Newman’s proposed Big Box Lowe’s. It was announced that the Planning Board has provided Newman final instructions on the information needed for the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement.

Once Newman submits this information, the Board will begin the work of completing a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), culminating in its final determination on the merits of Newman’s proposal. Next up is a work meeting of the Board on January 28, at which it will consider whatever information Newman is able to submit by that time. The Board’s work to complete the FEIS is expected to take at least several meetings and several months.

Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo has already submitted a FOIL request for the final instructions provided to Newman. Based on previous discussions of the board, it is expected those instructions will include the details of all additional traffic studies needed and requirements that Newman provide renderings of the proposed Lowe’s that do not include access from 20A.

Other work expected to be requested from the developer includes an analysis of the effects of a new Lowe’s on future retail and Empire Zone development in the Gateway, and an identification of the amount of traffic that Rt. 20A can handle before widening of South Street would be necessary.

When a copy of the Planning Board’s memo to the developers is made available it will be published online on The PDDG File.

Geneseo Planning Board schedules workshop Monday

The Town of Geneseo Planning Board has scheduled an extra meeting this coming Monday presumably to get to work on the Final Environmental Impact Statement(FEIS) for the Newman Development PDD proposal. This workshop meeting will commence at 6 p.m. at the town offices on Millennium Drive.

The board’s regular monthly meeting is scheduled for the following Monday on Dec. 10. This extra meeting may have been added to expedite the FEIS process which nominally has a Dec. 13 deadline, 45 days after the Oct. 29 public hearing.

Extensions to that deadline can be granted, and will no doubt be needed, given the lengthy nature of public comments received at the public hearing and in written form. Each of these comments must be responded to in the FEIS, and it is understood that the applicant is supposed to provide the first draft of these responses.

The Clarion News Blog has not received any material from a FOIL request filed on Nov. 19 seeking all communication between the developer and/or its agents and the planning board and/or its agents since the public hearing. On Nov. 29 the FOIL request was renewed for similar material since the first request.

Clarion News Blog files FOIL request

The Clarion News Blog has filed a request under the NYS Freedom of Information Law with Geneseo Planning Board Chairman Dwight Folts for all correspondence between Newman Development and/or its agents and the Town of Geneseo and/or its agents since the public hearing of Oct. 29. The letter also requests clarification of the Planning Board’s policy on whether records pertaining to the Final EIS are public.

The Planning board had previously been sent copies of advisory opinions of the NYS Committee of Open Government that ruled that any communications between a developer and the town or its agents with respect to a EIS are public as soon as received. Nevertheless there was considerable delay in getting correspondence under a previous FOIL request concerning the Draft EIS, after Planning Board attorney Joe Picciotti raised concerns about whether the documents were public.

Clarion News Blog Publisher Corrin Strong also requested that the board notify him when so-called “draft responsiveness summaries” are received by the town or its agents. These summaries, prepared by the developer, are the first draft of suggested responses to the public comments made at the hearing or submitted in written form.

Strong pointed out that by agreeing to notify him when the summaries are received, it will eliminate the need for him to file and the town to respond to repetitive FOIL requests.