Last night by a narrow 4-3 margin, the Geneseo Planning Board voted to require that the new Lowe’s store face Volunteer Road and not Rt. 20-A. This represented a final tip of the hat to the Gateway District zoning which has been largely eviscerated by the PDD process.
After that token nod, the board then voted 7-0 to approve a positive SEQR finding so that a store more than 4 times bigger than that zoning allows could be built. As part of the plan they also approved a new access road on Rt. 20-A at Morganview, which is sure to create another non-functioning intersection. But, hey, what’s one more when your whole town is already gridlocked?
I do appreciate that the four-member majority of the board did hang together and wring a few final concessions out of the developer, but the whole sordid saga leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and many unanswered questions. Will Geneseo learn anything from this long 3-year battle?
One would hope that an immediate moratorium on PDD application could be put into effect until the Master Plan process is completed and any needed rezoning can be adopted. And speaking of Master Plans, wouldn’t it be nice if the community could have just one unified plan covering the town, the village and the Gateway?
I’m also still waiting for even one of our elected officials on either the town or village level to advance a realistic plan of how we will deal with the growing gridlock on Rt. 20-A, and most importantly, how we will pay for it. In that regard, it is absolutely essential that a new Access Management Study be done on a larger scale as soon as possible, and this time, without political interference.
It’s also long past time that we remember that the Gateway is still an Empire Zone and we come up with a plan to market it successfully for what it was originally designed to be: a primarily non-retail, business and light industrial center.
If Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo were to disband today I believe we would leave a small mark on the future of Geneseo. We have raised the public consciousness about the dangers of sprawl and the importance of supporting our home-town businesses. How long-lasting that impact would be is hard to guage.
After the last Big Box War ended in 1992 with the construction of the first Wal-Mart, there was an effort to draw a line in the sand and prohibit future sprawl. That effort which led directly to the Gateway zoning was somewhat successful for about 12 years until the Super Wal-Mart started a new round of development.
From this history, we can see that attempts to limit sprawl can weaken over time when passions and memories fade, new leaders take the reins and shiny new Big Boxes appear at the gates. The price of preserving what’s left of our historic small town will be eternal vigilance, both by those in leadership today, and by those to come in future generations.
Of course, PDDG is not going out of business just yet. In the next few weeks we will conduct a full review of our legal options. One obvious option is to bring an Article 78 lawsuit to challenge what we view as a very tainted SEQR process.
I can think of better ways to spend my summer, however, a decision on this must be made within 30 days of the filing of the Findings decision that was made last night. Future actions on the application by the County Planning Board and the Geneseo Town Board may also need to be challenged, but none of these decisions are mine alone.
The people who have worked so hard in opposition to this project and have funded our efforts are entitled to a realistic appraisal of our legal options. Bill Lofquist and I are determined to provide that, so stay tuned–and please continue to express your thoughts through comments on our blogs!