I called my friend John Zmich last night to give him the bad news that he had been dumped from the Town of Geneseo Planning Board. I can’t say that John, who is on vacation, was surprised by the decision –after all, to the victors go the spoils.
John was a little surprised, however, to be getting the news from me. Although, John and I have grown to be good friends over the last few years, he thought that somebody on the town board (or perhaps the new Supervisor) might have had the decency to tell him directly. I agree.
This is hardly an auspicious start for the man who campaigned as Mr. Nice Guy who was going to bring us all together. I understand the animosity towards John that exists on the part of some of the incumbent board members (and the former Supervisor). I even understand that there was no way the new Supervisor was going to get three votes to keep John on the board. I just think a little more respect was owed to a man who has served his community honorably for 14 years.
I admit, I didn’t expect much from the incumbent majority. They have viewed John for some time as the main obstacle in their plot to pave over the Gateway and the existing zoning in Geneseo– and they are right! Without John’s stalwart defense of following the proper procedures in assessing the environmental impacts of this proposal, the Lowe’s store (and God knows what else) would probably already be open–and what hurts them even more, Wes Kennison would probably still be Supervisor.
It seems like the man who now sits in Wes’s chair, however, might be a little grateful to John for his opportunity. But, of course, this is just the latest chapter in a long history of shabby treatment of a man who should be lauded as a true patriotic hero of our town.
It was just a year ago that John was dumped as Chairman of the Planning Board because he refused to do the bidding of the former Supervisor to fast-track the Newman application through the planning board. Those who do not know the inside story of this sad saga are spared one of the most venal episodes in the history of our community.
Tremendous pressure was placed on members of the planning board to short-circuit the process and the town’s attorneys were employed improperly to try to bend the planning board to the town board’s will. Through it all John was a rock, and when the attorneys realized what they were up against, they finally withdrew so that the planning board could have truly independent counsel.
Under that separate counsel and John’s continued moral leadership on the board, the developers have been kept honest and the SEQR process, much to the town board’s chagrin, has generally been run correctly. It stands now, however, at a crucial crossroad.
Without John on the board, it is feared that new attempts will be made to subvert the process. If the new board member, Hank Latorella, becomes a party to such shenanigans it will be a big mistake. John has carried us too far down the road towards an honest assessment of this project to turn back now.
Mr. Latorella certainly has a lot of work to do to get up to speed on the process. No one on the planning board worked harder than John Zmich to master the legal complexities of this situation. In this regard, and many others, Hank has very big shoes to fill.