Category Archives: PDDG

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.”

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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.

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.

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.

Lowe’s poll reveals polarized community, with some room for compromise

Editor’s note: This article was posted on Dec. 31, but then somehow got lost by WordPress. Thanks to reader Greg Lamb for letting me know it was missing! Luckily, I had a back up copy on my computer, so I didn’t have to re-do three hours of work!

The Clarion News Blog Online Community Poll on Lowe’s concluded Sunday with a total of 60 participants. An invitation to participate in the poll was sent by e-mail to over 300 Geneseo residents. The poll was also available online to be taken by regular visitors to the Clarion New Blog. The poll was restricted so that it could only be taken once from any one computer and poll takers were asked not to take it more than once.

There is no claim that this poll represents a scientific sample of public opinion in the community, however it may provide some indication for the reasons behind different group’s feelings. Overall the sample was slightly anti-Lowe’s with 54% of respondents saying they were either strongly against the project or leaning against it, versus 46% who were in favor or leaning in favor. (Note: In this report, percentages of those answering a particular question are used. Not all questions were answered by every participant.)
Of the 60 participants, 34 were residents from the Village of Geneseo, with 18 from the Town of Geneseo. In addition 5 who complete the poll lived in other Livingston County towns while 3 lived out of state. The anti-Lowe’s feeling was strongest among village residents with 65% of them opposed to or leaning against the project versus 35% in favor or leaning in favor. In contrast, residents of the town were evenly divided with 9 in favor and 9 against. Those living outside Geneseo and out of state were in favor of the project by a 7-1 margin.
49% of respondents said they were following the controversy “extremely closely” and were regular readers of the Clarion Call Blog, with 51% saying they were only following the controversy “somewhat closely.” Support for the Lowe’s was inversely correlated with readership of the Blog.Of those who were totally in favor or leaning in favor of the Lowe’s, only 30% said they were following the matter closely and reading the Clarion Blog regularly. On the other hand, 66% of those who were totally against or leaning against the Lowe’s said they were following the matter “extremely closely.”

Opinions on the Lowe’s seemed to track closely with views on the accuracy of various sources of information about the project. Overall, the Clarion News Blog was given the highest rating for reliability with 76% calling the blogs either “highly reliable” or “somewhat reliable”. The second highest reliability rating went to the Livingston County News which 72% labeled highly or somewhat reliable.

Reliability ratings were averaged to get a score between 1 and 5 with 1 being the most reliable. The Clarion News Blog averaged a 1.9 rating versus a 2.4 for the LC News because it had a higher percentage of “very reliable” ratings (46% vs. 17%). Other sources of information received average rankings as follows: Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo 2.7, Statements of elected officials 3.2, Conversations in the coffee shop 3.3, and Statements of developers 3.7.

There was a clear correlation between opinions on the Lowe’s and views on information sources. Those totally in favor of the Lowe’s gave the Clarion News Blog low marks for reliability with an average score of 3.1. They rated the LC News a little higher with a score of 2.4, but rated the Statements of Developers the most accurate with a score of 2.2.

Those leaning in favor of the Lowe’s were a little more favorable to the Clarion Blog giving it an average rating of 2.5, second place to the LC News which earned a 2.2. The pro-Lowe’s leaners were not that impressed with the statements of either elected officials or the developers giving them a 3.2 and 3.6 rating respectively.

In contrast, those who were totally against or leaning against the Lowe’s gave the Clarion News Blog universally high marks. 71% rated the Clarion Blog as “very reliable”, while 29% called it “somewhat reliable. None of this group rated the Clarion any lower than “somewhat reliable.” This same group was less impressed with the LC News with only 17% rating the newspaper as “highly reliable”, and 55% rating it “somewhat reliable.”

As might be expected, Lowe’s opponents were not impressed with the statements of either elected officials or the developers. Not one of the 30 anti-Lowe’s people who answered gave either elected officials or the developers a “highly reliable” rating, with 20% calling the officials “somewhat reliable” and only 3% finding the statements of the developers “somewhat reliable.”

Using the same 1 to 5 scale, respondents ranked a list of 9 potential impacts of the project as to whether they would be “very negative”, “somewhat negative”, “neutral”, “somewhat positive”, or”very positive.” Those impacts perceived as having the greatest negative impact received the lowest average number.

Overall, traffic was perceived as presenting the biggest negative impact with a rating of 1.7. That was followed by Impact on Small Business with a 1.9 and Impact on the National Historic District with a 2.0. Impacts on Community Character and Precedent for Future Sprawl both received a 2.1 average rating.

On the positive side, Shopping Convenience was the leader with a rating of 3.9 followed by Competitive Pricing which received a 3.6 average rating. Positive impact from employment received a 3.4 , while tax revenue from the project was rated least likely to be positive with a 3.3 average.

Breaking it down by support of the Lowe’s in general, it was interesting to note that 59 per cent of those in favor or leaning in favor of the Lowe’s admitted that traffic from the project would have a very negative or somewhat negative impact on the community. In addition, 48% of that group also saw a potential for negative or somewhat negative impact on small business.

On the other hand, of those who were totally against or leaning against the Lowe’s, 55% admitted that it would have a somewhat or very positive impact on shopping convenience. In addition, 35% of that group said that a Lowe’s would have a “somewhat positive” effect on Competitive Pricing in the community.

Survey takers were given the option of writing in additional positive or negative impacts that they thought the Lowe’s might bring which were not on the list. Among the negative impacts mentioned were loss of open space and farmland by encouraging new housing, light pollution, severe impact on the integrity of local government, profits sent out of state, dead end jobs and encouraging people to overspend.

On the positive side, it was suggested that the Lowe’s would help with fuel consumption by cutting down commuting distance and stimulate home improvement and thus raise property values. One person stated that the positive or negative impacts on the community should not be considered since they felt that Lowe’s had an absolute right to locate here.

On the issue of re-appointing John Zmich to his position on the planning board which expires today, the two sides were sharply split. 94% of those who are against or leaning against the Lowe’s want to see Zmich re-appointed with 6% not sure. In contrast, only 8% of those who are in favor or leaning in favor of the Lowe’s would like to see him re-appointed, although 29% said they were not sure.

If Zmich is not re-appointed, however, there appears to be some consensus that his replacement should not be a person with a known position on the issue pro or con. Overall, 55% of all those responding said they would like to see a person appointed who does not have a known public position on the issue. The percentage was even higher among those who were pro-Lowe’s with 61% of those in favor of a neutral appointment.

Respondents were given the opportunity to suggest a name for the appointment. Among those receiving one vote each were Sharryn Duffy, Craig Macauley, Liz Porter, Lizz Savard, Soren Thomas, Jeremy Grace and Corrin Strong.

Finally, turning to the recent election, respondents were asked how they voted for Town Supervisor. Of those who responded, 38% voted for Corrin Strong, 31% for Will Wadsworth, 29% for Bob Wilcox and 2% for Wes Kennison. Kennison supporters were obviously underepresented in the survey since he received 25% of the vote on election day. Corrin Strong’s were also overrepresented since he ran fourth on the independent Geneseo First line and received only 17% of the vote.

Nevertheless, it was interesting to see how winner Will Wadsworth’s supporters lined up on the Lowe’s issues. 54% of Wadsworth voters said they were totally in favor of Lowe’s with 31% saying they were leaning in favor. This left 15% who said they voted for Wadsworth even though they were leaning against the Lowe’s.

62% of Wadsworth voters wanted to see John Zmich replaced on the planning board, with 23% wanting to keep him and 15% not sure. If he is replaced, 56% of Wadsworth voters would like to see someone appointed who does not have a known position on the issue, with 44% preferring a pro-Lowe’s candidate.

A majority of Wadsworth voters (54%) said that Lowe’s was not the most important issue in causing them to vote for him, with 38% saying it was very important but not the only reason. Only 8% said it was the only consideration.

This is a difference from the overall results for all candidates in which only 33% said that the Lowe’s was not the most significant reason for their vote. Among all voters, 59% said their candidate’s position on Lowe’s was very important, with 8% saying it was the only consideration.

The overall results of the survey can be viewed online by clicking here.

The Clarion News Blog thanks all those who participated. The Town’s organizational meeting will be Thursday at 4 p.m. Look for a report on that meeting on a re-designed web site this Friday, and in the meantime, Have a Happy New Year!

Year-end Blogosphere Poll on Lowe’s issue

As we approach the end of a very contentious year in Geneseo, the Clarion News Blog is sponsoring a Community Poll on the Lowe’s issue. You can take the poll by clicking on the link at the end of this article, but first a few ground rules:

Obviously this is not a scientific survey of public opinion. There is no claim that the results of this poll will represent any kind of objective sampling. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how the answers to certain questions correlate with others.

I will publish an in-depth analysis of the results on Dec. 31. If you would like the results sent to you by e-mail, and are not currently on the e-mail mailing list, please sign up by clicking the yellow button on the clarioncall.com home page.

In the meantime, the raw results are now available online and you will be given the option of seeing them after you complete the survey. If you want to see the results later, either bookmark that page or come back to this post and there is a link at the bottom. The report you can see does not include additional comments made, but i will summarize those in my wrap-up analysis.

There will be a total number of only 95 responses allowed, because if I go over that, I will have to pay for the survey, so you better hurry if you want your opinion to count! (Unless of course I sign up a new sponsor!)

The survey will only allow one response per computer. (I’m not sure if it will allow a second response from the same household on a different computer, but your roommate is welcome to try). To keep the results as accurate as possible, however, please don’t answer the survey more than once!

All answers are completely confidential. If you get to the survey by clicking the link at the bottom of this page, there is no way I can see what your answers are. If I had sent the survey out by e-mail, I could have set it up so that I could see your individual answers, but I thought that would be a creepy invasion of privacy.

If you have any questions about the survey please e-mail me, and if you have any comments, please post them under this article. Thanks for participating!

Take the poll by clicking here!

See the current results of the poll by clicking here.

Supervisor race profiled in D & C

The four-way race for Geneseo town supervisor was the subject of an article by Erica Bryant in today’s issue of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Space limitations prevented much more than the usual sound bytes. (or is that a mondegreen of sound bites?)

Incumbent Wes Kennison repeated his claim that he lost the Democratic nomination because the party had been taken over by activists from Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo. Democrat Bob Wilcox wants to “bring town and village closer together again,” and Republican Will Wadsworth seeks “open communication and consensus building.”

Independent candidate and PDDG founder Corrin Strong said Geneseo can no longer afford to “build now and plan later.” For more inside information on the campaign check out Corrin’s campaign blog.