Unfinished Business

Over the past 18 months, in more than 70 columns, I and others have used this space in The Clarion to discuss the many ways in which Big Boxes threaten small towns and in which Geneseo is being sold out to developers.

The consistent themes of these columns are that Geneseo’s assets are far too many and too great to be sold for so little in return. And that the scale of Big Boxes and their impacts on our traffic, character, and small business economy are already overwhelming us. And that first rate planning and zoning and open public processes are the only means through which such large and long term decisions should be made.

The present state of affairs makes it clear that our business is unfinished. The Village does not yet have a new master plan or zoning. The Town is actively undoing the excellent planning and zoning it complete for the Gateway a decade ago. Traffic access and planning standards are not yet complete.

The public’s right to know is being violated. Most of all, Newman Development Group’s Lowe’s proposal remains on the table, with a very real risk that it will be approved.
So, though the demise of this paper may represent the loss of one more small business, the work of this column will continue. PDDG will continue its active engagement with the review of Newman’s proposal by the Town Planning Board.

We will also continue to explore and document the Town’s premature embrace of Newman Development Group and their mutual efforts to ensure approval of this project.

The fruits of these labors will be available on this blog and elsewhere on clarioncall.com. Bookmark this site and stop by often. We’re planning to post the documents we have obtained through the Freedom of Information Law and to develop a chronology of the process that has brought us to this point.

Regular updates of the Town Planning Board’s review of Newman’s proposal, important meeting dates, and other developments will be provided via the Community Alert. To join the 400 or more people currently receiving this electronic bulletin, please email Kurt Cylke; fcylke@rochester.rr.com

Though I am confident that the website, email, the coffee shop, and the sidewalk will provide valuable means for getting the word out about the ongoing review of this project and the issues of concern to this column, we must also acknowledge that the loss of this newspaper represents a loss to the smart growth movement in Geneseo.

Put it this way, I’m sure the news is being received with glee in certain offices in Vestal, NY (Newman’s headquarters), Rochester, and Geneseo. But they better not celebrate too much!

We are more determined than ever to stop a Lowe’s Big Box which would be devastating for Geneseo and Livingston County. Its harmful effects on Geneseo’s already fragile small business economy, its already overburdened Route 20A, and its charm and scale simply could not be undone. You cannot rebuild charm and history and character. They are authentic. They exist until they are destroyed and then they are gone for good.

Its effects in cementing Geneseo’s status as a regional retail center and in opening up the hundreds of acres in the Gateway to more of the same ensure that the pressure on Geneseo will only intensify. The result will remake Geneseo into Genrietta, a mostly artificial, charmless, paved landscape. Pockets of charm will remain, but you will have to look too hard to find them and in finding them will long for what once was.

Likewise for the County. Already being sapped of vigor and people by a weak economy and an aging population, displacing that remaining vigor to Geneseo will leave the small towns of the county weaker and their Main Streets sleepier.

We had better rise, and quickly, to the challenge of protecting what we have and being purposeful in what we add. Finally, I would like to thank the many people who offered their support for this column and for our efforts to preserve this and other small towns.

It is difficult to challenge publicly and forcefully the decisions that are being made and the people who are making them in a small town. The support that I have received along the way has been invaluable.

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