Category Archives: PDD Law

Decision Day Approaches

The Town Planning Board’s recent determination that Newman Development has provided all the information it needs to evaluate the impacts of Newman’s big box plans represents a big step toward the biggest step in this long saga. Now the board must decide whether those impacts – on traffic, on community character, and on growth – are bearable in a community already strained by retail sprawl.

Should the Board decide Newman’s plans fit into Geneseo’s plans, a huge hurdle will have been cleared. There will still remain other hurdles. The County Planning Board will need to give its approval, the Town Board will need to vote to rezone the property in question, and the Town Planning Board will need to work out the details of the site plan. The available record indicates these decisions are but formalities; speed bumps in the path of Newman’s bulldozer.

Now, at long last, is the time for the crucial decision to be made.

We at PDDG are busy preparing a memo to the Planning Board urging them to reject Newman’s plans. That document, which we will post online on The PDDG File when it is complete, will make three major arguments: that Newman’s plans are in impermissible conflict with Geneseo’s plans, that another big box will strain our infrastructure and cement our status as Genrietta, and that the legal requirements for making a final decision on Newman’s project have not been met due to Newman’s intransigence and the Board’s lack of proper oversight.

At its meeting on April 28 and perhaps at a subsequent meeting or two, the Board will take up these issues. We’re not particularly hopeful of the outcome, despite our confidence in our arguments.

Since helping to persuade the Board eighteen months ago that Newman’s plans required the completion of the environmental review process that is now being completed, we have had a harder time persuading the Board that Newman’s plans are fatally flawed.

Where we see Genrietta, a community that has lost its soul and its character, the Board seems to see just another big box. Where we see traffic gridlock, the Board seems to see just a few more cars. Where we see careful planning and zoning designed to prevent exactly what Newman proposes, the Board seems to see the PDD law as a get out of jail free card. Where we see Newman flouting its legal obligations, the Board seems to see business as usual.

Perhaps our standards are too high. Maybe community self-determination must bow to the almighty tax dollar. Maybe you can’t really say no to “progress,” however ugly it may appear. Maybe the procedural train wreck that has been occurring ever since Newman helped us write the PDD law they now seek to exploit is simply par for the development course.

We’ll soon see what the Planning Board decides. There is some room for optimism. Statements from Planning Board members at their April 7 meeting showed some reservations about Newman’s plans.

If the Board sides with Newman, we’ll review our legal options. That’s not intended as a threat. Rather, it represents a recognition of our core belief that Newman’s plans are for Newman’s benefit and are contrary to Geneseo’s laws and Geneseo’s interests.

In the end, the truth of that proposition will have to be determined.

Painted Into a Corner

Those of us who might be referred to as “Newman watchers,” who have a particular interest in trying to understand and anticipate Newman Development Group’s actions and strategies in seeking approval for its Big Box plans, find these slow periods to be challenging.

What’s going on? Whose move is it, Newman’s or the Town’s? What’s next? We submit Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, hoping they’ll turn up a clue. Nothing. We pore over Newman’s submissions and the Town’s responses, trying to divine the future.

Is it the quiet before the storm, as Newman prepares to push for final approvals? Is it an indication of some problems that the Planning Board has identified with Newman’s application? Is it time spent by Newman or Lowe’s considering its options in a rapidly deteriorating housing and home improvement economy? Or is it simply a normal part of a long and deliberative process, absent any larger significance?

Those among us who believe that ultimate approval is inevitable and appropriate, whom I refer to as the “build yesterday” crowd, wonder what the fuss is about. For them, time is money and opportunity lost. Fire up the bulldozers, cut the ribbon, and let the traffic, bargains, and tax dollars flow.

Those who believe that Newman’s Big Box will pave the way for more Big Boxes and more traffic than little Geneseo can handle, who fear that a whole range of local businesses may succumb to a behemoth Lowe’s, and who don’t think it’s good for us – as shoppers, citizens, taxpayers, residents of our separate towns and villages, and residents of the county – to locate all our businesses in one place, favor delay. Time is opportunity gained, opportunity to preserve the status quo a little longer, to hope for a change of plans by Newman or Lowe’s or a change of heart by local decision makers.

Though I certainly support this second group, and hope I have contributed to their cause, there is a third group (of which I may be the only member) who are eager to move this matter to its ultimate conclusion. “We” believe that Newman’s plans must ultimately fail as a result of the many flaws and problems they contain.

Taking my clues from the back and forth efforts of Newman and the Town to fashion a complete and legally adequate Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), here is what I think is going on.

The Town Planning Board completed its Scope, its recipe for the FEIS that Newman must prepare, more than a year ago. Since then, Newman has submitted a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which the Town agonized over before deciding it was complete but inadequate. The Town then provided Newman guidelines for a better FEIS. Newman has now submitted that FEIS.

My admittedly biased reading of that document leads me to conclude that it is incomplete, inadequate, intentionally unclear, and even dishonest. The Town’s initial and less than enthusiastic response to the FEIS, in which it indicated that it will need some time before it is ready to discuss it publicly and that it will be providing a preliminary written response to Newman, indicates that it has its own concerns.

The difficulty in producing a better FEIS, I believe, is that as this long process gets closer to the end, the many flaws in Newman’s proposal accumulate.

Up to this point, it has been possible to defer for another day the fundamental conflicts between Newman’s proposal and the Town’s long established plans for the Gateway. It has been possible to believe that 20A would somehow expand to accommodate all comers. It has been possible to view the PDD law as a magic wand that would make all things possible. It has been possible to believe that the good comes without the bad, that the benefit has no cost, that growth has no limits.

In a thorough process, and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) is nothing if not thorough, problems may be deferred but not denied. In the end, the questions posed by the issues deferred must be answered.

As we approach that end, Newman is finding it difficult to produce written justifications for its previous assurances. The Town Planning Board is finding it harder to reconcile this huge proposal to the state and local laws it is charged with enforcing.

Maybe there’s a way out, a way to give Newman what it wants within the limits of state and local law. I don’t see it, though, and I think Newman is spending a lot of time looking for it.