Oct 22, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The town planning board last week declared the planned 99-acre sports complex to be built off Route 20 east of the village will have no significant environmental impact to the town, which cleared the way for the project to continue and a public hearing to be held next month.
More than 50 local residents attended the meeting — which was not a public hearing — and many were visibly and vocally upset by the planning board’s decisions as they went through the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) checklist.
At the end of the meeting, one attendee asked if residents should hire their own legal counsel to appeal the board’s decisions that night. Planning board attorney Scott Molnar advised that they should.
“My feeling is they answered some of these questions wrong,” said Beth Estes, a Skaneateles resident and environmental engineer who has done numerous environmental assessments and SEQR reviews during her professional career. “They did not consider other impacts … I believe the entire town will be affected.”
The planned health, wellness and sports complex has been in the works for four years, and is intended to be an expansion of Victory Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, a local sports injury practice established by Dr. Marc P. Pietropaoli in 1999. The 99.5-acre complex located on land off East Genesee Street, past East Lake Road but before Coach Road, will contain a 171,000 square-foot building, which will house both medical offices and indoor athletic facilities, and 13 outdoor athletic fields made of either artificial turf or natural grass.
There is planned parking for 250 cars plus some busses, 90-feet-tall stadium lighting on the outdoor fields, outdoor PA systems to announce ongoing games and planned public use hiking trails in the undeveloped wetlands portion of the property.
“It’s not just a sports complex,” Dr. Marc Pietropaoli, president and chief executive officer of Victory Sports Medicine & Orthopedics has said. “It’s an integrated health care, sports and wellness campus that’s going to help people live a better, healthier lifestyle, which is in the long run going to lower the cost of health care.”
Molnar gave a brief history of the planning board’s work on the project, which included numerous submissions of information and plans by VSM Enterprises, multiple planning board requests for additional information or clarifications and the submission of the full site plans by VSM to the board this past August, with supplemental materials submitted in September.
The Oct. 16 planning board meeting was for the SEQR review, which is a state-mandated consideration of environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making. If an action is determined not to have significant adverse environmental impacts, a determination of nonsignificance (Negative Declaration) is prepared. If an action is determined to have potentially significant adverse environmental impacts, an “Environmental Impact Statement” is required.
Responding to planning board members’ questions, VSM officials and representatives said construction would take more than one year, the anticipated power load for the complex would have no impact on current town utility systems, the typical heavy metal runoff from turf fields (such as zinc and lead) into the local water drainage district would be monitored and ameliorated using best practices, the outdoor PA systems to announce athletic games will be aimed at the spectators, or “distributed,” to help contain the sound and the athletic fields will be used year-round in accordance with favorable weather.
While the project planner from edr companies said the project would be constructed in only one phase of work, VSM Chief Operating Officer Lance Wardell later in the meeting said the project would be built in three phases. Planning board members did not ask for clarification on the apparent inconsistency.
As planning board attorney Molnar went through the SEQR checklist, the planning board members answered ‘yes’ on whether the project would: physically change the project site; effect water quality or quantity; effect aesthetic resources; impact the historical, architectural or paleontological aspects of the site; cause objectionable noise, vibrations or odors; effect existing transportation systems; and effect the character of the surrounding community.
Board members answered ‘no’ as to whether the project could be expected to create public controversy due to environmental impacts.
The board’s final vote was to approve a “negative declaration” for the SEQR, which is a determination that the project will not result in any significant adverse environmental impacts.
Many of the spectators to the meeting were not happy with its outcome.
Susan Taylor, who lives on Sachem Drive about 750 feet from the western fields of the proposed VSM complex, said she is “very unhappy” about the project: the stadium lighting, the noise pollution of the PA systems and cheering crowds, the increase in traffic congestion.
But she is also upset, she said, by the lack of community outreach from VSM. “They don’t have any public opinion about [the project] because nobody knows about it,” she said.
Taylor went door-to-door in her neighborhood with a petition opposing the complex and discovered that her neighbors knew nothing about it and had never been notified by VSM Enterprises, she said.
Taylor delivered to the planning board after its Oct. 16 meeting a petition with 24 signatures of local residents opposing the plan. The petition, which is now online at change.org, currently has 72 signatures.
Another Sachem Drive resident, Donna Himelfarb, also opposes the project. “People don’t know how close to the lake this really is,” she said, citing her concern for water contamination from the turf fields.
She said residents also do not realize how large the complex will be. “The Waterloo Outlet Mall is 25 acres. This is 100 acres with a plan to develop 75 percent of it,” she said. “People need to understand this is not a playground, this is not a picnic area, this is four Waterloo areas.”
Residents will have an opportunity to speak out on the proposed project when the planning boards holds a public hearing on site plan approval for the complex at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, at a venue to be determined. The hearing is contingent, however, upon the town Zoning Board of Appeals approving a variance for the proposed stadium lighting at the complex, for which a public hearing was held Tuesday, Oct. 24.
That public hearing occurred after press time, but the Skaneateles Press will have a report on the meeting on our website, skaneatelespress.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.