In the long interregnum between the November election and today’s installation of a new administration, the course of our Big Box battle has been uncertain.
Knowing only that John Zmich’s distinguished service on the Town Planning Board is probably ending, and not who will replace him (as I write on January 2), the direction that Board will take is unclear, though probably not to my liking. After all, it’s the fact that people like me think that John’s service has been so distinguished that accounts for his likely demise.
Knowing only that Will Wadsworth campaigned in support of Lowe’s and not how far he is willing to go to act on that support, the direction of the Town Board is also uncertain. Sure, there is a clear pro-Lowe’s majority, but unclear is how committed Will is to using the special status of the position he occupies to return transparency, civility, and other elements of good government to town government.
It bears saying again that there is a big difference between supporting a particular end – a Big Box Lowe’s, in this case – and supporting the means that have been used to pursue that end. Though the disagreements about the wisdom of that end will continue, our local waters would become a lot calmer with a renewed commitment to open government.
Through the action it takes in replacing John, the Town Board will send an early signal to the Town Planning Board and to the community about how it would like to see the endgame of this long process play out. In choosing someone committed to taking the “hard look” at this project that the law requires, and doing so with the assertiveness that the position calls for, the delicately balanced Planning Board can complete its deliberations without further incident.
On the other hand, if they choose a sworn Lowe’s supporter, 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. 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.
The review process for projects of this scale is necessarily long and complex. In its wisdom, the law divides responsibility among various boards and builds in a variety of checks and balances. Though it may frustrate those who believe in this project, the long and winding road to approval cannot be made straight without causing problems.
Our own experiences from work, raising kids, and do-it-yourself projects teach us this lesson all the time. Sure, cutting corners brings some short-term satisfaction, but we pay the price in the end. As my wise neighbor taught me when I began to (try to) restore my old home years ago: “Measure once, cut twice. Measure twice, cut once.”