Oct 29, 2013 Joe Genco Uncategorized
The town and village boards held a joint meeting on Oct. 23 in the school district office to get back on track with a review of the town comprehensive plan that started in 2009.
Attorney Joel Russell was brought in by the town to act as legal counsel — in part because the town doesn’t currently have an attorney after Pat Sardino resigned in August — and to help facilitate the process of reviewing and eventually adopting changes to the comprehensive plan.
Though he doesn’t live in Skaneateles, Russell was chosen because he was involved in the two previous comprehensive plan revisions in Skaneateles.
Ultimately, the meeting resulted in the comprehensive plan review committee reconvening with seven of its original nine members and planning to meet with representatives of the town and village within a month to determine the best steps to take to resume the review process.
The review committee was composed of volunteer community members who were appointed by the town in 2009 to review and propose revisions to the section of the plan titled “Goals, Objectives and Action Items.”
The committee was chaired by Cathy Dove and included: Alan Dolmatch, Bob Eggleston, Jessica Millman, Kathryn Carlson, Michael Card, Jeff Harrop, Dave Vensel and Dessa Bergen. When the committee meets again Dove and Carlson have said they will not participate due to other commitments.
Comments from the members of the review committee that were present at the meeting as well as letters exchanged prior to the meeting indicated that communication with elected officials had been a problem and not everyone was on the same page regarding the review process.
The review committee last met in 2011 and in July of that year had submitted their work to the town and village review subcommittee, composed of village representatives Mary Sennett and John Cromp and town representatives Rick Keyes and Steve McGlynn.
As indicated by a letter from the town to the village dated Sept. 20, 2013, the subcommittee had reviewed these suggestions and Keyes and McGlynn had submitted them to then-town attorney Patrick Sardino who reviewed the suggestions and returned his comments to town board as of July 7. They then proposed holding a joint town and village meeting with Russell to discuss the proposed changes and moving forward with adopting them.
Prior to the meeting, John Cromp said that the subcommittee had been working on the proposed revisions since 2011 including eight or nine meetings in 2013. Cromp was appointed to the subcommittee in 2011 when he was a village trustee and has remained as a volunteer since losing the election that year.
On Sept. 27, village Mayor Marty Hubbard wrote a letter to the town board stating that the review process should be continued by the four-person subcommittee and the original review committee and that a joint meeting with Russell would be “premature.”
Review committee member Alan Dolmatch also responded to the town’s letter on Sept. 25 to state that the committee members did not consider their work to be complete and that they were “summarily disbanded” by the town board in 2012 without their input.
The town board did not discuss the comprehensive plan review or the letters from Hubbard and Dolmatch at its Oct. 3 meeting, though Town Supervisor Terri Roney did write back on Oct. 7 inviting the village officials to the Oct. 23 meeting.
At the meeting, review committee member Bob Eggelston reiterated that the draft submitted in 2011 was a “work in progress” not a completed draft that should be considered for adoption.
The work of the committee was stalled and left incomplete when chair Cathy Dove had to resign and the town board had asked them to accelerate the process, Eggleston said.
Since 2011 there had been “no formal dialogue” between the elected officials and the review committee, though the subcommittee did recently pass along to him their notes on the proposed revisions, Eggleston said.
Russell said that the remaining committee members should discuss and decide for themselves how big the committee needs to be and whether or not they need to obtain a budget from the town to hire a professional to act as chair, or as the official drafter of the revisions or if one of them could volunteer to take on those duties.
When the committee meets they plan to determine a time-line for the continuation of the review process including holding public workshops to get input from the community. The subcommittee will act as liaisons throughout the process to keep the town and village boards updated about the progress of the review.
“A lot of work remains to be done,” Russell said. He also added that it was up to the town board to determine how involved he would be in the process as it progressed.
The town comprehensive plan dates back to 1974, though it was updated and jointly adopted by the town and village in 1996 with a self-imposed requirement that it be reviewed every five years. It was also revised in 2005 and the most current version is available on the town website.
In the introduction the document states its purpose as: “this Joint Comprehensive Plan for the Town and Village of Skaneateles represents a desire to anticipate and assess the potential impact of future change and to influence such change in ways that will conserve and protect those scenic and environmental qualities that distinguish this area and maintain the local economic base.”
Russell said that the document serves as a set of guidelines for zoning laws and is often open to interpretation. State law requires that new zoning laws passed must be in agreement with the plan, though existing ones may, and often do, conflict with it, he said.
The intention of the current review was to consider changes to improve the readability of the document so that an average person would be able to read it and understand it more easily. In addition to this objective committee members said at the meeting that they wanted to change the plan to help the town deal with increase requests for development and to avoid the town turning into a “sprawl.”
In 2010, the town paid for the review committee to bring in a group of students from the Graduate Urban Design Studio School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame.
They studied the town and held meetings with community members to come up with suggestions for the comprehensive plan and future planning in the town. Their report titled “Strategies for Sustainable Skaneateles” is available online via the Notre Dame website and states that it’s suggestions are intended to help the community preserve the distinct urban characteristics of the village and the rural characteristics of the rest of the town.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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