To the Table, Reluctantly

I don’t like the Gateway Town Center proposal. I don’t like anything about it.

I don’t think we need another big box and we surely don’t need another pharmacy. I don’t like the effects a Lowe’s will have on locally-owned hardware, lumber, appliance, kitchen and bath, and garden stores throughout the county. I am concerned that even more retail for Geneseo will mean even less business for every other surrounding burgh.

I don’t like the effects of another huge retail plaza on already congested roads. 20A is already overcapacity, as indicated by all the Geneseoans who refuse to use it. More traffic and more sprawl will do more damage to our community’s character and our Historic Landmark status.

I don’t think large-scale retail in small towns and rural counties is viable in the long term. Rising fuel prices and the slowly dawning reality that a nation cannot continually spend more than it earns will soon leave us with far more retail space that we can fill.

I particularly don’t like the tactics that have been used by Newman and others to see this project built. The Planned Development District (PDD) law was enacted to subvert local planning and zoning, no two ways about it. The Gateway was never intended for large-scale retail development. Good people on the defunct master plan committee, the Planning Board, and in the public have been treated badly due to their opposition to this project.

For all these reasons and others, I’d like nothing more than for Newman to pack it up and leave. I believe that’s what’s best for the community and I believe that’s what the law requires.

For all these reasons and others, it’s hard for me to – I’m having troubling finding and typing the words – say that I support the Planning Board’s efforts to find a compromise.

Their effort to minimize the worst effects of the proposed Lowe’s by requiring a smaller building facing Volunteer Road with only limited access to 20A is noble. They have breathed some life back into the zoning for the Gateway. They have tried to use the PDD law as it should be used – to allow “flexibility” in development – rather than to eviscerate local zoning. They have tried to limit the sprawl to the east by directing development down Volunteer Road.

In the process, they have helped to bring this matter closer to a much-needed conclusion and to avoid protracted litigation.

I have my concerns with their proposed compromise. I think the proposed Lowe’s should be required to be the 94,000 square foot model that Lowe’s advertises as its small town model. (It’s crazy how what was once huge – the size of our first Wal-Mart – is now “small”.) I think every effort should be made to ensure that the 20A access being permitted for trucks and emergency vehicles doesn’t become the entrance to the next big plaza to the east.

Most of all, I think the Planning Board and the Town Board must resist any effort to undo the compromise that has been reached.

Finally, I also think it would be a good idea for the Planning Board to direct the Town Board to scrap the PDD law, or at least modify it to limit how much proposals can deviate from the existing zoning. Let this be the last time the community goes through such an ordeal.

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4 responses to “To the Table, Reluctantly

  1. Stirlin Harris

    I have really tried to “see” the Lowe’s/big box concept from the pro side for its development. The only beneficaries I can see are the land owners who will be selling to the developers. The county gets the tax benefit- but at what cost? Best case scenario I can fathom: More tax money than is presently earned comes in which then must go toward increased infra structure support including roads, fire and EMS, to name some. Local businesses that presently supply most of what Lowes has to offer and who have a stake in our/their community are hurt by the buying power a national chain has over them. There are costs to us if they go out of business further reducing any projected financial gains.

    Is it a benefit to us to be able to buy some lumber, tools or appliances for posibly a lesser cost than we do now? On the surface, yes, but as the “Mr. Goodwrench” commercial says, “You can pay me now or pay me later…” We will end up paying later by having an out of state business that will cost us more, whether we buy at Lowe’s or not; cost us in traffic delays, local businesses possibly forced out of business that do business locally, from insurance to advertising, etc. It will also cost us in the “homogenization” of our community as we become less and less unique and more like the urban sprawl that greets us in more and more American communities.

    I used to shop on occasion at Lowe’s in Henrietta. Now that they’re trying to move here, I don’t and if I feel I must in the future, it will be at the store in Henrietta.

    One tip I’d like to pass along: When shopping at a national retail store and they ask you for your zip code- don’t give it: They’re building a data base for future expansion.

  2. Odd how you would accept this compromise when it was made by not following the process. The FEIS does not seem to leave room for compromise based on the EIS. The process was not followed. Does that sound familiar? One of your group’s big arguments has been the process. So, the Planning Board breaks the process but all of a sudden it’s ok since it favors your position. I don’t understand.

  3. Bill Lofquist

    Greg:

    Though I imagine you believe the only fair result of this process is the one that leaves you with the biggest check, the Planning Board’s actions on Monday were entirely consistent with the FEIS and the law. The Board is required to mitigate the adverse impacts of Newman’s proposal to the “maximum extent practicable.” A smaller store facing Volunteer Road is a movement in that direction in that it will result in less traffic, set less of a precedent for sprawl to the east, and conflict less with the planning for the Gateway. Not providing for such mitigations would have been the real violation of the process.

  4. RULES? Today, everyone’s got his/her own rule book. Hillary’s includes seating the Florida and Michigan Delegations at the Democratic National Convention even if rules were broken when Democratic primaries were held in both states. Further, she wants to continue her campaign in the hope that the Super and other delegates will see her as the strongest candidate, throw out all the rules and choose her. With rule bending/breaking at these levels, why should we little folk not partake?

    Even church is not a refuge from rule tweaking. While visiting out here in Cedar Rapids, IA this week, I attended Mass at St. Wenceslas with my brother and his family. The priest was Honduran and spoke at length about illegal immigrants arrested at a meat packing plant in western Iowa. He urged us to pray for them and to exercise our Christian compassion. But he lingered overly long on the subject of their mistreatment in the matter – bordering on a political statement in this and in other points related to the matter. He invited us to discuss the matter with him after mass. He became so impassioned that he skipped several parts of the service and suddenly was saying that the mass had ended.

    And so after the service I presented myself to him respectfully as a visiting firewoman from the Episcopal Church. I told him that my brother recently had to follow all of the rules of the church at Rome to enable him to share in the mass with his family but that I could not because I had not gone through this process.

    Likewise I said to him, citizens of other countries from the Czech Republic to Costa Rica who wish to permanently reside in the United States must follow the rule of law and make formal application in order to share in our national life.

    The priest said he did not want to get into the political part of things – that I should watch the news for that; I pledged my spiritual support of the Hondurans and we parted.

    Face it: These days, all things are being politicized; all rules are being broken. As a result, none of us should be surprised that our only hope for moving forward on any front over any issue is through – you’ve got it – COMPROMISE.

    Compromise in the Lowe’s matter will not mean that Lowe’s and Greg Lamb will get everything they want and that PDDG and some other citizens of Geneseo will have been proved hypocrites in the process. It does mean that the road to compromise must be paved with mutual respect and patience. These are raw materials currently in short supply. If civility were sold at the pump, it would be going for about $3 per gallon with hot air remaining free of charge. Surely this is within our scope?

    Could it be that someday, in a conference room not far away, the lion-hearted men of the PDDG will be seen to lie down with The Lamb? The odds favor this only if the Town Planning Board opts for a larger venue so that we who want to attend their next session may get a seat. AMEN

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