Nov 03, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Skaneateles residents who claim the character of their community is being threatened by development have hired an attorney, are coordinating a large letter-writing campaign to public officials and local newspapers and, in general, are mobilizing their efforts to oppose the proposed Victory Sports Medicine and Orthopedics health, wellness and sports campus off Route 20.
“We have a really legitimate argument. We have a right to say, ‘How is your development going to make our community better?’ You have to convince us, and so far I just don’t get it,” said Holland Gregg, executive director of the Citizens to Preserve the Character of Skaneateles, at a meeting of about 75 people on Nov. 1 at The Creamery on Hannum Street. “We need to let [Victory Sports Medicine] know that the community is now awake and ready to go toe-to-toe.”
Town Planning Board member Joseph Southern not only attended the meeting, but he is also a CPCS member and advised the group on the effectiveness of some of their opposition strategies.
The planning board is the lead agency in the VSM development process as it goes through its government approvals.
The proposed Victory Sports Medicine and Orthopedics Campus has been in progress since 2008, but public awareness and opposition to the project began a few weeks ago after a Town Planning Board meeting to complete the State Environmental Quality Review Act to assess environmental impacts and a Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing on a requested lighting variance.
The VSM Campus is set on 99.5 acres of land off Route 20 less than a mile east of the Village of Skaneateles. It will include a 61,000 square foot medical and research facility; a 171,000 square foot indoor recreational, athletic and rehabilitation facility (containing mostly indoor athletic fields); and a dozen outdoor multi-use and baseball fields.
Discussed at the CPCS meeting was how best to coordinate and advance the group’s opposition to the development, including attending every Town Planning Board meeting and public hearing on the project, writing letters to all local officials and organizations, submitting letters to the local newspapers and urging all local residents to join the opposition cause.
First on the agenda is to convince the Zoning Board of Appeals to deny the VSM request for a light variance for the outdoor athletic fields, the group agreed. VSM wants to erect 17 light poles of 70 to 90 feet tall, but town zoning law prohibits anything above 20 feet. The ZBA held a public hearing on the issue on Oct. 23, with its next meeting scheduled for Nov. 13.
CPCS members say allowing the 90-foot lights will set a harmful precedent for future developments in the town, and they will also, among other things, cause harsh light pollution into neighbors’ homes.
Town Planning Board member and CPCS member Southern told the group that if the ZBA denies the variance, then VSM must modify the project lighting plans and bring them back before the planning board.
“We cannot act unless they modify their plans, so you’re hitting a good spot,” Southern said.
Southern also told the group that people were concerned that the planning board mishandled the SEQRA environmental assessment on Oct. 16, but said the SEQRA had to be done in order for the project to get to a public hearing.
“It doesn’t mean we can’t call it back,” Southern said. He advised the group that if they get enough information and public opposition “out there” the planning board can call it back. “I will call it back,” he said.
It also was announced at the CPCS meeting that the group had retained environmental attorney Tom Fucillo, of the firm Menter, Rudin & Trivelpiece, P.C., and also will be aided by attorneys Ted Williams and Bob Legal, Gregg said.
The fees for Fucillo’s aid will run between $20,000 and $35,000, Gregg said, so the CPCS will also begin fundraising efforts to pay the legal costs.
“With Tom Fucillo involved, now the game has gotten serious,” Gregg said. “They’ll see we’re not just a bunch of tree-huggers out there whining.”
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.