Daily Archives: October 30, 2007

Comments at Newman Public Hearing

The time I am permitted to speak isn’t long enough to discuss all the problems with this project, all of the traffic and sprawl it will bring, the way in which it will cement Geneseo’s status as Genrietta, all of the many shortcomings of the DEIS, all of the conflicts between this proposal and the Town’s site plan and special permit regulations, or all the ways in which this proposal violates the Gateway Overlay District zoning. I will be submitting written comments on these issues.

For now, I will concentrate on the PDD law. I do not believe that a PDD law, no matter who wrote it, can be used to do what you are asking it to do. The planning of the Gateway favors light industrial and office uses, places strict limits on retail development, and expresses real concern about strip development, traffic, and sprawl.

The zoning of the Gateway reinforces this planning by limiting retail buildings to 35,000 square feet, requiring that all retail uses obtain a special permit, preventing any roads other than Volunteer Road from connecting to 20A or Lima Rd, requiring that all retail buildings be completely enclosed, and requiring that all retail buildings face Volunteer Rd.

Yet here we are with a proposal for a 170,000 square foot building with a garden center that takes access directly from 20A and that faces 20A. This violates the letter and the spirit of our planning and zoning.

I know we have a PDD law and that PDD laws provide flexibility. However, PDD laws are not magic wands or get out of jail free cards; they can’t be used to make all your problems go away. According to New York State law, PDD laws must work in furtherance of existing planning and zoning, not against it. State lawmakers were smart enough to foresee that local elected officials might be tempted to use a PDD law to get around planning and zoning rather than doing the hard work of developing a new master plan and new zoning.

This is not permissible. PDD laws may not be used to circumvent planning and zoning, to make an end run around the existing laws and policies of the community. And that is exactly what is being done here. Through the PDD law, the Town Board has sought to impose a completely new vision on the Gateway.

I have no issue with those members of the public who support this project. There are good discussions to be had about the costs and benefits of this type of development. However, elected officials and planning boards are not permitted simply to do what they want or what Newman wants or what they think the public wants. Your obligation is to the law. Your obligation is to enforce the zoning of the Gateway, enforce the requirements of the Scope, and respect the independence of the Planning Board.

Something done wrong can not be made right by making it look good or by the tax revenues its generates. Something done wrong must be done over.