Mar 31, 2008 Willie Kiernan Uncategorized
The people have spoken
Developer feels slighted, plans his own environmental study
By Willie Kiernan
Two weeks ago, on March 18, the village and town of Cazenovia, along with Environmental Design Research, unveiled the long awaited Comprehensive Plan at a public hearing attended by more than 100 interested citizens.
“I have enjoyed working with the Cazenovia community and respect their commitment and dedication to community planning,” said Jane Rice of EDR.
It was the culmination of an exhaustive process that included volunteers for various committees to mold a strategy for the common good.
The Public Draft of the plan was the product of countless hours by dozens of people across the village and town who have no vested interest other than a love for the community,” said Village Trustee Kurt Wheeler. “Those same people are now investing more time and effort to refine and improve the plan based on the public input received on the Public Draft.
“I am excited about the product that has emanated from many months of hard work by the various comprehensive plan committees,” said Village Trustee Russ Brownback. “The very essence of a planning process like the one we’ve just been through is to identify the interests of a majority of community residents and then create solutions which attempt to carry out those interests.”
However, the majority of community residents do not include everyone. There were a few in disagreement with the plan. Town and Country Plaza owner Dave Muraco had recently bought property across the way on the south side of Route 20 with intentions to develop. Though the Comprehensive Plan allows for more developing on that property than before, it’s not quite what Muraco had in mind.
“I’ve got a personal gripe,” Muraco said. “I’m being brushed under the rug and so are the Lucases.”
Muraco claims that the Rite Aid is leaking business to the Manlius store because it doesn’t have a drive-thru. He planned to re-locate it across the street.
“That drugstore’s been there for 21 years,” he said. “We could put together something fantastic. A free-standing drug store would compete with P&C and make sure their prices stay in line. P&C doesn’t want that to happen but competition is good.”
According to the Plan, a free-standing Rite Aid across from the P&C is not in compliance with the character of the area nor the results of studies in the past.
The current version of the community’s comprehensive plan is based not only on an incredible amount of compromise and give and take but also on a wide spectrum of public input,” Wheeler said. “It is a guide to the future, but it is also consistent with all of the efforts that have guided our past; from the 1984 Land Use Guide, to our current Village Comprehensive Plan to the extensive CAPP and Route 20 Corridor studies conducted in recent years.
Though not a panacea, the proposed zoning is far more flexible on the south side of Route 20 than the current zoning. Prior to the Plan, that area was residentially zoned. Now it will be zoned for mixed usage.
When evaluating the zoning proposed by the new Comprehensive Plan, it’s important to compare it to the current zoning that is in place (mostly R-20 and R-30 in the village, for instance), not to a hypothetical anything goes scenario,” Wheeler said. “In many ways, the new zoning may be more beneficial to developers and land owners while also preserving things the community values such as open space.
Still, Muraco questions the business sense of some of the decisions made.
“They want to develop revenue but that’s not good economics,” Muraco said. “I’ve offered to do all kinds of environmental study. I bought Pepi’s and I’m going to clean it up, but until they make abundant parking downtown, it’s not ever going to grow. Why would I be building downtown if I wanted business to go outside?”
Muraco said he loves Cazenovia and that he fights for his tenants. He just wants a few deals to happen and then he’d be done. And he’s not going down without a fight.
“I do what I say I’m going to do; maybe that’s what people don’t like about me,” Muraco said. “I’m going to spend some money and get some soil samples. We may question the way this whole process went down.”
Basically, according to government officials, the process went down by passing it through the eyes and hands of community members with little or no financial stake in the outcome.
“Our job as public servants is to represent the interests of the entire community,” Wheeler said. “We’re trying very hard to do exactly that.”
“Quite simply, residents want Cazenovia’s unique character preserved,” Brownback said. “And I’m confident that that end has been achieved,”