Yesterday morning, Bill Lofquist and I sent an e-mail letter to the Geneseo Town Planning Board asking them to provide an opportunity for public comment on the new material that Newman Development has submitted to supplement its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). We have, as of yet, received no answer to our request, either directly or at last night’s board meeting.
This is not unusual. We’ve gotten quite used to being ignored by the Planning Board and its attorneys, especially with respect to Freedom of Information matters. This particular request, however, is one that they should give some serious thought to.
It’s growing increasingly clear that those, like John Zmich, who argued that the DEIS was not complete last fall were correct. The material that Newman is now being asked to produce for the final EIS (FEIS), represents in many cases substantial additions and modifications from what was in the DEIS.
When so much new material is being added to the record at the last minute, it seems obvious that the public should be allowed an opportunity to be heard about it. Not only that, it is also the law! See SEQR regulation (§617.9(a)(7)(iii).
It is also obvious that the previous vote of the board to find the DEIS “complete” and schedule a public hearing the week before town elections, had a lot more to do with politics than it did with following a fair process. As many commented at the time, to hold one 5-hour joint public hearing with the town board to cover the entire DEIS and the PDD re-zoning was apparently intended more to discourage public input than to encourage it.
As the title of this piece suggests, however, it is never too late to do the right thing. Clearly the right thing, right now, is to really let the public into the process, and give them the opportunity to be heard on such critical new material as the capacity of Rt 20A to handle increased traffic, the need for a curb cut at Morganview Drive, a new pedestrian plan and many other significant environmental issues.
I’m sure that some project proponents will counter with the position taken by Planning Board Chairman Dwight Folt’s last night that 2 1/2 years of review is enough and it is time to expedite the process. But then again, isn’t this what Mr. Folts and his confederates have been saying for the last past 3 years?
The fact is that the developers, and their supporters in the town government, are in the position of the child who murders his parents and then asks for the mercy of the court because he is an orphan! It is the consistent refusal of the developers to do the job right from the get-go, with the active encouragement and political support of Messers. Folts, Kennison and Tenalio that has created this mess in the first place.
I was encouraged last night that the attempt of Chairman Folts to restart the railroad was rejected, not only by board counsel, but also by some of the newer members of the board. I was also pleased by comments from many of the board members that indicate that the concerns we have been raising for the past three years are starting to be heard and taken seriously.
Perhaps this is what set off Mr. Folt’s panic to try and slam the door shut.