Category Archives: PDDG File

Full Speed Ahead

With questions circulating about PDDG’s status in light of Corrin’s “compromise” position on Lowe’s, I would like to offer assurance that I and everyone else at PDDG headquarters remains focused on defeating Newman’s big box plans through every legal means.

We had anticipated that Corrin’s candidacy would distract him from the crucial work of defeating Newman and would raise questions about his relationship to PDDG, and we told him so. However, he was not to be dissuaded. That’s okay. It will have to be.

PDDG is a big tent. I, for one, have been surprised at who I have seen in there. We demand no oaths. The closest thing we have to a motto is quoted above. (I think it was PDDG firebrand Jim Allen who declared in a previous public meeting that we would “use every legal means” to defeat Newman.)

Fortunately, the election will soon be over and PDDG will be able to return to its core mission of preventing the reckless retail sprawl the PDD law was passed to allow. There can be no compromise on this position, and not because PDDG is doctrinaire or radical. There can be no compromise because Newman’s project presents Geneseo with a rare development trifecta: the wrong proposal done in the wrong way at the wrong time. Strike three.

While we can debate the merits of retail as an economic development strategy, there is much about this proposal that is beyond debate: the secretive ties between the town and the developer; the documents pertaining to those ties that have gone missing; the incompatibility of Newman’s proposal and the zoning of its proposed location; the interference of elected officials with the deliberations and independence of the planning board; the elimination of the master plan committee as it completed its work on a new and overdue vision for the town. Under these circumstances, compromise is capitulation.

For these reasons and more, PDDG will continue to oppose Newman’s plans. After we have succeeded and after we have elected a new town board, we can look forward to working as a community to review and renew our planning and zoning. It is at that time, in the full light of day and away from the pressure created by an outside developer, that compromise and consensus will be needed.

Until then, PDDG will stay focused on the business at hand. At the moment, we are challenging the legality of the scheduled public hearing on Newman’s proposal and preparing what are sure to be extensive written comments on the many problems with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement submitted by Newman.

We appreciate your continued support and look forward to vigorously representing our shared concerns as review of Newman’s proposal continues.

Opportunity knocks and the town refuses to answer

After the Town Planning Board’s August 27 meeting, I had the chance to ask Newman Development’s attorney and “team” leader Ken Kamlet whether he would send me copies of the missing documents we have been trying so hard to obtain. His answer surprised me.

You may recall that nearly a year ago, I submitted a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for several dozen documents related to Newman’s Big Box proposal. Among those were approximately a dozen items of correspondence between Newman and its partners and the Town.

Though we know that the documents existed – they are referred to in the billing records of Underberg & Kessler, the Town’s attorneys – my request, subsequent appeals, and even a Article 78 lawsuit against the Town failed to produce their disclosure.

The problem, the Town said, is that it destroyed the documents, which it characterized as routine and trivial communications that it was allowed to destroy. Since it can’t produce what no longer exists, and since the Town’s claim that it was allowed to destroy the documents can’t be tested without knowing the contents of the documents, the matter reached an impasse. Our effort to break this impasse by asking the Court to order a more thorough search of Town records was rejected by Judge Anne Marie Taddeo.

That would seem to leave only one route to get the documents, which brings us back to August 27. As a private, non-governmental party, Newman is not subject to FOIL. It can’t be required to produce its communications with public officials; only public officials can be so required. However, it may very well still have those communications and it certainly may provide them voluntarily.

So I asked, first in writing and then in person, whether Newman would share its copies of the documents. Doing so would be an enormous act of goodwill on Newman’s part. It would answer questions about the Town’s relationship with Newman (remember that a sworn statement has been made that the Town acknowledged that Newman wrote the PDD law.) It would bring an end to costly and contentious litigation with the Town.

I received no response to my written request, so I didn’t expect much when I posed the question directly to Mr. Kamlet. That’s why I was surprised when he said that he would provide the documents to the Town if they requested them.

Hearing the sound of opportunity knocking, I immediately contacted the Town to encourage them to follow up on Newman’s offer. Weeks have passed. The Town Board has met. I have been told that they discussed the issue at their meeting, with Supervisor Kennison indicating that the matter is being reviewed by counsel. I have received no response from the Town.

At this point in the process, I won’t bother to feign outrage or indignation at the Town’s apparent indifference to this opportunity. I would have to be naïve to believe that the Town has any real interest in the public knowing more about its relationship to Newman.

Three things could happen if Newman did provide the documents; two of them are bad for the Town and the third is by now almost completely implausible. First, the documents could reveal close ties between Newman and the Town in writing the PDD law and reviewing Newman’s proposal.

Short of that, they could contain the type of information that, without presenting evidence of collusion, could prove that the Town’s attorneys destroyed significant documents in violation of state law. Or, perhaps we’ve got this all wrong and the documents contain the type of truly trivial information that would allow them to be destroyed, but if so, why not ask Newman to release them?

So there it is. Newman has the documents. The Town could ask for them. It hasn’t. Go figure.

Perhaps a future Town administration can follow up on Newman’s offer. Despite the Town’s full court press to expedite approval of Newman’s application (most recently by trying to gain acceptance of an obviously incomplete DEIS), it appears likely that Newman’s application will still be pending when the new board takes office on January 1.