Category Archives: PDDG

Planning Board scheduled to adopt findings Tuesday

The Town of Geneseo Planning Board will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, May 27 to consider adoption of a final version of its Findings under SEQR for the proposed Geneseo Town Centre. The board voted to reduce the size and orientation of the Lowe’s at its regular meeting on May 12, but decided to wait until a new Findings statement could be drafted by the board’s attorneys before taking final action.

Some public confusion on what happened at the May 12 meeting led Corrin Strong and Bill Lofquist to write a newspaper commentary titled, “What happened at the Geneseo Planning Board?” The article was published in this week’s edition of the Livingston County News and as Corrin’s Clarion Call column this week.

In the commentary, the authors come out in support of the compromise reached by the planning board, saying that, “fair-minded citizens on both sides of the issue should support it.” It is not known if the full board will attempt to modify any of the decisions reached on May 12, when one member was absent and one member abstained on a critical vote.

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Planning Board favors smaller Lowe’s facing Volunteer Road

In a surprise move Monday night the Town of Geneseo Planning Board voted to reduce the size of the proposed Lowe’s in the Geneseo Town Centre from 169,000 to a maximium of 140,000 square feet, including garden center. The vote for the approximately 17% reduction in size passed 3-2 with member Mark Shepherd abstaining. The motion was made by Tom Curtin and seconded by Patti Lavigne, with Marge Wilkie joining in favor. Chairman Dwight Folts and member Hank Latorella voted against. The seventh member, Trish Jones, was absent from the meeting.

The vote came after a lengthy discussion of the environmental impacts of the proposed project under SEQR. Tom Curtin made the point that the underlying zoning, which calls for no more than 35,000 square feet should not be totally ignored. It was clear that he was also looking for a compromise that would help reduce some of the public controversey over the issue.

The board also voted 5-1 to approve the so-called CP-3 layout which requires the building to face Volunteer Road instead of the developer’s preferred orientation (CP-5) which faced more towards Rt. 20-A. Again, respect for the underlying zoning seemed to be the dominant concern. That zoning also prohibits access from Rt. 20-A which the board also debated at length.

The approved layout does allow access from Rt. 20 -A at Morganview Road, however, it was hoped that the entrance to the back of the building would mainly be used for tractor trailer access. It was thought that this layout would significantly cut down on the amount of traffic using the Morganview entrance as a short-cut to Veteran’s Drive. Member Marge Wilkie voted against this layout, saying she could only support it if the exit was made right turn only.

After debating the issues for almost 3 hours, the board decided to delay final action on the Findings under SEQR until the May 27 meeting. This will allow the board’s attorney time to draft a final Findings statement in line with the decisions made by the board last night.

The meeting was attended by over 50 concerned citizens who for a time overflowed the room. Order was kept by three police officers who would not allow the audience to exceed the posted capacity of the room of 66 people. This led to a situation in which some members of the public were not allowed to enter the meeting room until someone else left.

Members of PDDG said they were somewhat encouraged by the developments. “We are certainly glad to see the board acknowledge the importance of the underlying zoning,” Bill Lofquist said. “Of course, we would have preferred a Negative Finding, or even stricter limits on building size and total elimination of Rt. 20-A access.”

PDDG calls for negative or mitigated finding on Newman FEIS

Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo has delivered a 120-page report to members of the Geneseo Town Planning Board calling for either a negative or a mitigated finding under SEQR on the Newman PDD application. The Planning Board will take up the matter at its regular meeting next Monday, May 12.

The core of PDDG memo is a 14-page report arguing that the board should find that the proposed Lowe’s Big Box can not be built without causing adverse environmental impact. The report also suggests a number of areas where additional mitigation is needed, if the board should decide to move the project forward.

These mitigations include eliminating access to Rt. 20-A at Morganview Drive and orienting the building to face Volunteer Road. PDDG argues that both of these are required by the underlying zoning for the Gateway District. The report also includes a 3-page executive summary, and over 100 pages of supporting material in 5 appendices.

A copy of the report full report is available for public examination at Mattie’s Cafe on Main Street in Geneseo. The Planning Board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday at the Town Hall on Millennium Drive.

Findings consideration put off until May 12

A special meeting of the Geneseo Town Planning Board scheduled for April 28 to consider the Findings under SEQR on the Newman Development PDD application has been canceled. The matter will be taken up at the next regular meeting of the Planning board on Monday May 12.

The delay was caused by the failure of the town to complete the final version of the FEIS until this week. Under SEQR regulations, a 10-day period for public and other agency consideration must be allowed before Findings can be adopted.

When the FEIS was neither officially noticed or provided last week PDDG wrote to the board requesting that any consideration of the findings be delayed until after the 10-day period. Although PDDG did not receive any official answer to its request it was finally learned that the April 28 meeting had been canceled.

Copies of the FEIS are available for public inspection at the Wadsworth Library and the Geneseo Municipal Building at 119 Main Street. Comments on the FEIS may be sent to the planning Board, however, the board is not required to respond to any comments.

The board must now decide if based on the FEIS the project can go forward without causing significant environmental damage. The board can either kill the project, approve it unconditionally, or add conditions for additional mitigation to any approval. The board has 30 days from the filing of the FEIS on April 21 to adopt its findings.

Planning Board approves FEIS by 5-2 vote

After two hours of discussion, the Town of Geneseo Planning Board approved the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Geneseo Town Centre proposal by a 5-2 vote at a special meeting last night before a standing-room-only crowd of about 50 citizens. Board members Patti Lavigne and Marge Wilkie voted against the motion, mainly because they claimed that they had not had enough time to properly review the over 200-page document that was prepared by the town’s engineering and legal staff and delivered to the board last week.

The approval was subject to a number of amendments and additions that were discussed at the meeting and will be made to the document before it is made official. Approval of the FEIS does not equate with approval of the project or even approval of the mitigation measures proposed by the developer. It merely means that the board believes that the potential impacts have been studied sufficiently to make a final decision.

The board will have 30 days from the time that the Notice of Completion of the FEIS is filed to adopt a Statement of Findings. That statement can be either “positive or negative” according to board counsel Joe Picciotti. A positive finding would mean that the project can go forward but it could have conditions attached requiring mitigation of certain environmental impacts.

For instance, the board could make a positive finding but could require that the building have a certain orientation, or limit the number of entrances to the property. In the alternative, the board could make a negative finding that the project can not go forward because no amount of mitigation could prevent the environmental impacts. Such a vote would end the project

The board set another special meeting on April 28 to work on the findings statement. In the meantime, the public and other interested agencies are given a 10-day “consideration period” after the FEIS is filed. This period runs concurrently with the 30-day period allowed to the board to adopt its findings.

The “consideration period” is not necessarily a period for public comment. The public and interested agencies may submit comments to the board on the FEIS, but the board is not required to consider them or respond to them in any way.

This is not the same as the public comment period requested by PDDG. They argued in a memo to the board that a Supplemental EIS (SEIS) should be prepared in the matter because of all the additional material that has been added to the EIS since the Draft EIS was submitted and a public hearing was held last fall. A SEIS would require an additional public comment period, although not necessarily another public hearing.

One area of controversy continues to be access of the project to Rt. 20A at Morganview Road. Board member Marge Wilkie suggested that she could accept a “right-turn only” entrance at the location, but said that allowing cars to turn left on exiting the project at that location would be too dangerous. New board member Hank Latorella indicated that he could not see any reason to allow an entrance at the location at all.

After questioning the town’s traffic engineer, Bill Holtoff, it was pointed out that the “right-turn only” entrance had not been studied for the FEIS because it had not been brought up in previous comments. It appeared therefore that it was too late for the idea to be included as a mitigation measure in the Findings Statement. The board could, however, vote to deny any entrance at Morganview since the effect of that was studied in the FEIS.

Latorella also indicated that he was concerned about the impact of increased traffic on Rt. 20A at the intersection of Center Street. He suggested that a follow-up traffic study could be made after the Lowe’s opens to see if a traffic signal was required at that intersection. He said that if the signal was then found to be necessary that the developer should be made to pay for it. Holtoff said that enough data was in the FEIS on that subject to allow that to be included as a possible mitigation.

The board also discussed the safety of the intersection of Volunteer and Lima roads. Marge Wilkie pointed out that there was a serious accident there just last week. She stated that one problem was that cars approaching the intersection on Lima Road from the north had a 55 mph speed limit. They were confronted with cars either entering the intersection from Volunteer Road or in their lane of traffic waiting to turn left onto Volunteer Road. Chairman Folts suggested that this problem could be solved by the placement of a warning sign of “intersection ahead” on Lima Road.

Patti Lavigne requested that language be added to clarify the document on a number of issues. She objected to any claim that tax revenue from the project would actually result in lower taxes, pointing out that such a outcome was beyond the planning board’s control and might never happen. The board agreed to adjust the language with Folts suggesting that it might at least “lessen the increase in taxes.”

Lavigne also said that the document did not accurately represent the intent of the underlying zoning of the Gateway. She said that her research indicated that the 1992 Master Plan and the new zoning adopted in 1996 had the express intent of preventing the kind of large-scale commercial development that had occurred across the street at the Wegmans/Wal-Mart plaza.

Board member Tom Curtin suggested that the underlying zoning did not matter since the proposal was before the board as a PDD application. Attorney Picciotti cautioned, however, that the underlying zoning was a relevant consideration and MRB representative Mike Guyon agreed to make some changes in the language.

Finally, Lavigne stated that she had had “limited time to look at the FEIS in depth.” She indicated that she had to work three 12-hour shifts in a row last week and had not had time to review the whole document. Despite that, however the board voted to move ahead with the process rather than allow further time to review. A spokesman for PDDG was critical of this decision.

“It’s hard to understand what the great hurry is, ” said PDDG’s Bill Lofquist. “The board has a legal obligation to take a “hard look” at this matter and make an independent judgment, not just accept the work of its consultants without proper review.”

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.

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.