Category Archives: Traffic

Lowe’s Update

There’s been a flurry of activity on the Newman PDD application since the Planning Board officially issued its Official Findings statement on June 12 and the County Planning Board approved the proposal on the same day. The Town Board has spent two full sessions carefully reviewing that Findings statement with the goal of producing its own amended version.

At a special meeting Monday, the board raised questions about the need for a traffic study for the Center Street intersection and another study to see if the Morganview entrance should be right turn in/out only. The board will attempt to resolve these issues and have a draft of its own Findings statement by its next meeting on July 10.

Meanwhile the Planning Board has been working on site plan issues. Much of the action is apparently taking place out of public view in a series of private meetings between the developer and selected members of the planning board, the town board and the town’s architectural review committee (which includes Ken Book, Dan Dimpfl and Marge Wilkie). These private meetings are legal so long as a quorum of any one board is not present at the same time.

A glimpse of how the negotiation are going was revealed at the board’s recent meeting, also on Monday. The Planning Board is apparently trying to get the overall height of the peak reduced to less than 45 feet. They have also asked that the background of the Lowe’s sign in the peak be changed from a bright red to a earthier brown.

The board is also concerned about Newman’s plan to deed a block of ground fronting Rt. 20-A to the town. The town does not want the land, and to do so would reduce the required open space that the developer is required to maintain to below the required 40%.

The planning board is also working on responding to a letter from the town board asking for more specific recommendations on site dimensions and other details. The Planning Board has scheduled two more meetings in July to continue this review. They will be on July 14 and 21.

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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.”

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.

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.

Planning Board asks for more info on traffic, precedent impacts

After completing its initial review of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) submitted by Newman Development Group last July, the Town Planning Board has determined that it is inadequate in a number of important respects and has issued guidelines for Newman to follow in revising and supplementing its DEIS.

A copy of these guidelines, drafted by MRB Group and sent to Newman on Jan. 6 were obtained today by PDDG after a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. The 8-page “Technical Review” indicates that the Planning Board is particularly concerned about the inadequacy of the information provided regarding the traffic impacts of Newman’s proposed Gateway Town Center and the failure of Newman to address the conflicts between its proposal and the existing zoning for the Gateway District.

Before its review can continue, the Planning Board has requested that Newman complete Alternative Routes Studies that conform to the requirements of the scope adopted by the Planning Board, that it identify the traffic effects of its proposal on Lima Rd., and that it evaluate the capacity of Route 20A to handle additional traffic through the residential corridor of the Village.

Newman is also being required to produce a site plan and a traffic analysis that do not include a new curb cut on 20A. Such a curb cut has been part of Newman’s plans since GTC was first proposed, though it is explicitly prohibited by the existing zoning. The existing zoning also requires that new buildings face Volunteer Road and prohibits strip development along 20A; Newman is being required to explain how its proposal meets these requirements or why it shouldn’t have to do so.

Newman has also been asked to explain why its development could not be located at other potentially available sites in Geneseo. They are also being asked to complete an analysis of the effects of this development on future retail development in the Gateway. Newman had failed to include such analyses in its draft EIS.

It is understood that some additional material has already been sent by Newman to the planning board and it will be reviewed at a special workshop meeting on Monday, Jan. 28.

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.

State says no to closing Rt. 63 bypass

The NYS Department of Transportation has issued an executive summary of its study of the Rt. 63 bypass in Geneseo which shows no basis for closing it. The closing was requested by officials at SUNY Geneseo who have been concerned with the safety of pedestrians crossing to and from the South campus.

The DOT found that as many as 3,264 cars a day were using the bypass when they studied it last March. Of this total for both direction, the study found that 73% of the westbound and 84% of the eastbound traffic involved through travel. Truck traffic comprised about 6 per cent of this total.

The state noted that there was a serious question of what alternative routes drivers would use if the bypass were closed. They pointed out that, even if the Rt 63/ Rt 39 intersection was rebuilt it was unlikely that many of the travelers would go the extra 1.2 miles out of their way to use it. The study suggests that a lot of the bypass traffic would end up using other village streets such as Court Street.

The DOT found that there were an average of 203 to 283 pedestrians per hour crossing the road when the college was in session. The also found that the pedestrian traffic tended to be bunched up in the second 15 minute period of each hour. For instance the period from 9:15-9:30 a.m. accounted for 208 pedestrians which was 73 per cent of the entire hours total of 284.

This peak quarter hour period had 13.9 pesestrians per minute or one every 4.3 seconds. Still the DOT found that even during that period, there were enough gaps in the traffic to allow pedestrians to cross the road safely. Accordingly, the DOT also rejected the suggestion that a traffic light be placed on the bypass to allow pedestrians to cross.

A search of accidents showed 6 reported on the bypass in the last 20 years, but none of them involved a pedestrian. According to school officials a pedestrian was hit while crossing the bypass in 1968. Flashing lights on the pedestrian warning signs have been in place since 1973.