May 22, 2008 Willie Kiernan Uncategorized
Yay or nay?
The village and town hold (last?)public hearing on comprehensive plan
By Willie Kiernan
On March 18, the village and town of Cazenovia, along with Environmental Design Research, unveiled a long awaited Comprehensive Plan at a public hearing attended by more than 100 interested citizens. On Wednesday May 28, the public is again invited to share their thoughts and concerns regarding the plan with members of the village and town boards at 7 p.m. in the municipal building.
The May 28 public hearing will give residents one more opportunity for input on the Comprehensive Plan and a chance to see how the SEQR process is progressing,” said Paul Brooks, Cazenovia Village Trustee. “There has been an unbelievable amount of volunteer work on this plan, and folks in the community should come out to hear and gain more information about it.
The 200-plus-page document is available at the town and village offices and also online. It is a detailed map of how the area will grow, how that growth will be molded and what it will look like. It attempts to walk the fine line between growth and retaining the character that is unique to Cazenovia.
“As I have gone around gathering signatures for re-election in June, I have gotten lots of feedback on the plan, the vast majority highly positive,” said Kurt Wheeler, Cazenovia Village Trustee. We are nearing the end of an incredibly thorough, inclusive process that has been conducted over more than a year’s time. I remain strongly committed to the belief that, overall, the plan reflects the desires, priorities and best interests of the community.”
There were a few in disagreement with the plan at the March 18 meeting. 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 retail, which is what Muraco had in mind.
“Basically, they have ignored me,” Muraco said. “As property owners, we were not included in the development of this comprehensive plan. If it goes down the way it’s going down, it ties my hands to build.”
The Lucas property across from P&C, the green field ‘view’ that everyone loves is already part of the village but was zoned at R30. The plan allows for building on only half the property with R10 zoning including professional buildings and/or commercial. This would allow for a hotel, a restaurant and other such possibilities of a certain size, but no retail.
“I just happened to be at a meeting because my parents were out of town,” said Bob Lucas of Empire Tractor. “Then I saw a slide on the screen of my parents’ property and someone said that property should never change. I couldn’t believe it. Who do these people think they are?”
Cazenovia Chamber of Commerce President Ralph Monforte of Cazenovia Jewelry feels that the plan pays more attention to character than it should.
“Somebody needs to understand the character issue,” Monforte said. “We use the character concept to help shape what we want and what we don’t want. I was told when Bob Hood built his building it would change the character of the village. Guess what? It didn’t. When the college built their new dorm building, that was supposed to change the character of Cazenovia. It didn’t. When the drinking age went from 18 to 21, that changed the character more than those other things. When the Thruway was built to ease traffic on Route 20, that changed the character of Cazenovia. When the elms on Albany street died, that changed the character of the village more than those other things. It seems the things that actually do change the character of what we have are things we have no control over.”
Former mayor Dennis Gregg was on one of the volunteer committees to formulate the plan.
“Early on I warned the committee that we were getting bogged down in details,” Gregg said. “We shouldn’t have been dealing in zoning; that’s for another committee.”
The landowners and developers have tried to make the point that the best spot right now for business and retail is on the south side of Route 20 across from the plaza. They will again get their chance to be heard at the May 28 public hearing.
“We will continue to receive and carefully consider all forms of public input right up to the point where we (the legislative bodies) vote on the plan,” Wheeler said. “Community input has been an essential ingredient throughout the process and has helped us to craft a plan that balances preservation of the community’s character and most cherished assets with opportunities for economic growth.
“One of the main reasons I ran for public office was to facilitate the Comprehensive Plan; I was already on the committee,” said Russ Brownback, Cazenovia Village Trustee. “So I knocked on the doors of almost everyone in the village. I asked them what was important and I heard it. I ran my platform on what their feedback was and I won on that platform.”
People who can’t make the meeting can e-mail their concerns to the mayor at TJDoughertyT@aol.com or to this paper to be printed on the Letters to the Editor page. Due to the holiday, the deadline is Thursday May 22.
“This plan is so thoughtful because it has anticipated many possibilities with an incredibly creative compromise for growth,” Brownback said.
“I like the Comprehensive Plan but it doesn’t address the issue of revenue that the village will need to solve infrastructure problems down the road,” Monforte said.
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.
According to government officials, the process passed through the eyes and hands of many community members who volunteered for the project 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.”