Nov 30, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Faced with mounting public – and now government – concerns over the accuracy of certain statements and numbers in the controversial Victory Sports Medicine development project plans, the Skaneateles Town Planning Board requested this week that VSM respond to nearly half a dozen questions and requests for clarification concerning the business’s proposed 99.5-acre sports campus development project.
The concerns over water usage, lighting, traffic, parking and environmental impacts – raised by village and county health officials as well as the attorney for a group of concerned local residents — are a prelude to the board’s likely reconsideration of its previous negative declaration on environmental assessments of the development project.
“I recommend the board treat this meeting as the beginning of an information gathering process,” said Planning Board Attorney Scott Molnar during the Nov. 27 special meeting of the board. “The board can then use that information to make a determination on whether the SEQR [State Environmental Quality Review] be rescinded and the planning board define the project as adverse to the environment and a draft Environmental Impact Study be made and submitted.”
More than 200 people attended the board’s special meeting to find out the latest developments in the controversial VSM ‘Victory Campus’ project, which has been gaining public attention and opposition since October when the planning board declared the project would have no major adverse impacts on the community.
Since that time, local residents have banded together as the Citizens to Preserve the Character of Skaneateles and hired an attorney to represent them in their opposition, and officials of both the village of Skaneateles and the Onondaga County Health Department have written letters of concern to the planning board about apparent inconsistencies in the VSM project from how it was initially presented to the government agencies compared to what it is today.
The special meeting began with a surprise announcement by board member Joseph Southern in which he recused himself from “all meetings and decisions” related to the VSM project application by the board.
Southern made no explanation for his recusal decision, but board Chair Mark Tucker said Southern’s action was in response to concerns raised by a previous Skaneateles Press article citing his possibly inappropriate comments at a CPCS meeting and asking whether he had a conflict of interest in the VSM case.
The board then began its business of considering the letters it had received.
Village Director of Municipal Operations Bob Lotkowictz read a letter he sent to the board Nov. 6 citing village concerns that the proposed water usage of the VSM complex – as approved by the town in April and the planning board in October – is different than what conveyed to and approved by the village board in early 2012.
The seven-fold increase in gallons per minute used – from 20 gpm to 144 gpm – was not only inconsistent but would “severely affect” water pressure for residents in the Coach Road subdivision as well as residents along East Lake Road, Lotkowictz wrote. The allowed maximum use of 800 gpm would be “devastating” for the village water system to provide, he wrote.
Tucker referenced similar concerns raised by the Onondaga County Health Department in a letter to the board written Nov. 16. That letter cited similar concerns over the proposed VSM project water usage and sewage disposal plans, and stated that detailed and updated reviews of both these project components needed to be submitted and “addressed to the satisfaction” of the OCHD.
“The scope of this project has changed significantly over the past year to a much larger facility than that which was discussed with this office previously,” wrote Jeffrey A. Till, director of county public health engineering.
Molnar then read portions of a letter received by the planning board on Nov. 16 by CPCS attorney Thomas Fucillo, which also cited concerns over inconsistencies in the VSM plan’s water usage numbers as well as in its expected traffic impact numbers, and stated that certain environmental and archeological issues were not properly addressed by the board in its previous SEQR determination.
All of these inconsistencies demanded that the board need to rescind its previous negative SEQR declaration, Fucillo wrote.
Tucker directed all of these concerns to attorney John Langey, who was present as the VSM representative at the meeting, and requested that VSM supply responses. Langey said VSM will create a “comprehensive package” that would give a “full response” to the board on all of the questions and concerns raised. He could give no timeline as to when the board would receive those responses until after he talked with his client, he said.
Planning board member Donald Kasper then made a motion that the board hold a public information meeting at which concerned citizens be allowed to speak and give input on the project. He said this could be a way for the board to receive further, possibly helpful information while it waited for VSM’s response.
The motion was not seconded and therefore not voted on. Board members Scott Winkelman and Alan Briggs both stated they wanted to receive the VSM response before scheduling any public hearing.
After the meeting, CPCS Executive Director Holland Gregg said he was pleased by the board’s actions. “I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “The planning board now understands the problems inherent in the proposal.”
Fucillo said he was “gratified that they are definitely paying attention to the points we raised … They are definitely taking their job seriously.”
The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the planning board is Tuesday, Dec. 18.
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.