To the editor:
The Republican’s reporting and recent editorial on the Aldi’s-Rite-Aid strip mall lawsuit again misses the point. As was stated by attendees in many planning board meetings, Cazenovia would welcome Aldi’s. What is not welcome is the abandonment of the provisions within the original zoning law, the VES guidelines for development of this area, and the Comprehensive Plan. What is not welcome are changes to laws specifically to accommodate developers.
The village’s development guidelines call for walkable streetscapes, scale and architecture consistent with the look and feel of the village. What the planning board approved is the standard Aldi’s urban modern design, visible parking in front and non-walkable, strip mall adjacencies. The law calls for two-story mixed use; we’re getting one-story single use. The law called for no retail or drive-thru or high intensity uses that could harm the aquifer; the village changed the law to accommodate both a drive-thru pharmacy and drive-thru bank — a change subsequently rebuked by the Madison County Planning Board. The law called for 5,000-square-feet maximum to keep large facilities on the north side of Route 20. The village changed the law to allow up to 30,000 square feet.
Within two weeks of the zoning amendments, the developers approached the planning board with their proposals. Coincidence? About as much of a coincidence as when zoning changes were made that immediately were followed by proposals for the Brewster Inn expansion and the Empire Brewery. Changing the zoning is not illegal. Changing the zoning to benefit a specific person, developer or use, and contrary to the Comprehensive Plan, should rightfully be challenged.
Adding insult to injury, the planning board went through contortions to make the proposed development appear to fit the law and guidelines, bastardizing the definitions of “front of building,” green space and walkable neighborhood. The law calls for the main entrance to be from a village street to avoid further road cuts onto Route 20. Instead, the planning board re-defined Route 20 as a “street” to allow the cuts.
In 2012, the village brought in a renowned expert to facilitate the creation of the VES Design Guidelines. This same expert in reviewing the proposals versus the adopted guidelines rated it “a C- or D+.” Additionally, a second consultant hired by the village stated that with these proposals, “the overall vision for the area will not be achieved.” The village and town were adamant in the Comprehensive Plan that the gateways and edges of the community do not foster or resemble sprawl. Let’s be clear — these designs are sprawl, plain and simple.
The lawsuit had nothing to do with Aldi’s. It had everything to do with upholding the laws and standards that the community supported. I applaud Mr. Schreibman, CPF, Jen Gavilondo, and the hundreds of people — not 50 — who spoke, petitioned or wrote to uphold our laws and protect the character of our village. Welcome Aldi’s and Rite-Aid? Yes. Welcome Anywhere America? No.
Anne Beckwith Ferguson
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.