Daily Archives: March 21, 2008

Lesson #1

As PDDG’s point people, Corrin and I try to keep our readers informed about the status of Newman Development’s PDD application and what we’re doing to try to defeat this proposal. Because we’re having more than the usual amount of difficulty in figuring out what’s going on at the moment, this report may be a bit sketchy.

Back in September, with an election looming and under pressure by the pro-Lowe’s incumbents to produce some good news, the Town Planning Board declared Newman’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) complete. This allowed the former Supervisor to claim that a huge hurdle had been cleared and that State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review of Newman’s proposal was done.

Turns out the Supervisor was wrong, on both counts. Not only is a completeness decision not a significant milestone in reviewing a proposal, the decision itself was premature. Missing from the DEIS Newman submitted were a number of studies required by the “scope” (guidelines) the Planning Board had provided to Newman.

Lesson #1: Newman’s unwillingness to complete these studies, combined with the Planning Board’s reluctance to recognize just how committed Newman is to avoiding accountability and disclosure about the impacts of its proposal, are the principle sources of delay in this long saga.

Without directly acknowledging that its completeness decision was premature, the Town Planning Board later required Newman to complete a number of additional studies (required by the scope) and produce additional information to support its proposal. Newman submitted these supplementary materials in early February.

Since then, developments have been hard to follow.

After reviewing Newman’s supplementary materials, the Town apparently decided they were still incomplete and otherwise inadequate (see Lesson #1). Rather than communicating these concerns in writing – as appears to be required by SEQRA, and as would seem to be prudent practice in a process this contentious – Town representatives apparently met with representatives of Newman to discuss these issues on Feb. 15.

Our efforts to obtain any records of this meeting, which should be public under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), have so far been unsuccessful. However, last week, we were able to get copies of new submissions of additional information by Newman that apparently resulted from that meeting, essentially supplementary supplementary information.

Among the highlights of the new materials is a report emphasizing the importance of direct road access from 20A to the proposed Lowe’s. (The report, a 6.2 Mb. pdf file, is available here.) You may recall that this has become a significant point of contention because the planning and zoning for the Gateway clearly prohibits such a road.

Remarkable about this report is the way in which Newman professes great concern about traffic on 20A in front of their proposed store, a concern not apparent in their “no limits to growth” approach to traffic elsewhere on 20A and Lima Rd. The “solution” to these traffic problems, it turns out, is direct access to 20A. (We have also posted their latest supplementary reports on Lima Road and 20A capacity.)

To my admittedly jaundiced eye, the real reason for this concern is found hidden right in the middle of the report, when they write that the 20A access they so badly want “has also been designed to connect to adjacent parcels that may be developed in the future.”

Isn’t that a happy coincidence? Newman is using its newfound concern about traffic to justify its effort to open up more 20A road frontage to retail sprawl. Make no mistake about it; a proposal for more retail development to the east would follow Lowe’s the way night follows day and cars follow retail.

Even after its most recent submissions, there appears to be significant omissions from the record created by Newman (see Lesson #1, again). Most notably, the scope requires a precedent analysis, examining the potential effects of a Lowe’s on subsequent retail development and traffic in the Gateway. No such study has been produced. At some point, it will have to be done.

We’re waiting.

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