A Town of Batavia property owner told the municipality's Town Board on Wednesday night that he thinks the current version of its Comprehensive Plan Update contains rules and regulations that would prevent future development of his land.
"The plan is very restrictive," said Bruce Newton, owner of property next to the Tonawanda Creek near the Willow Bend Inn on West Main Street Road. "My dream (of expansion) is somewhat ... it has squelched my dream, and I feel that the value of the land will go down as well."
Speaking at a public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan Update, Newton said that the first draft of the plan makes it "virtually impossible" for him to build a house or do anything on the land that is zoned for commercial use.
"The regulations that are in place are on the depth of federal and state levels, restricting expansion opportunities," he said. "If I have to refer to your map, there is not a lot of wiggle room."
The Comprehensive Plan governs decisions on zoning, capital improvements and budgeting, addressing key issues such as land use, natural resources, agriculture and farmland, parks and recreation, housing, economic development, transportation and government services. It last was updated about seven years ago.
Newton asked if the town is expecting massive expansion in the area, to which Supervisor Gregory Post replied that they have seen a 100-percent increase in building permits over the past decade, and that projections call for "2,000 to 30,000 jobs over the next 10 years."
"A guide (to development and its impact on the environment) is needed," Post said. "I don't know if the Comprehensive Plan will prevent anybody (from building), but it gives the town the opportunity to help you through the process, and get a feel of what you can invest in."
Newton mentioned that his land is zoned for commercial use now, adding that "it would be quite a 180 to go from zoned commercial to a green area for parks and recreation."
Barbara Johnston of LaBella Associates Inc., a Rochester engineering, planning and consulting firm that has been assisting the town in this project, said the town is proposing an "overlay district" -- which does not affect the zoning but does add to the regulations.
It is not a deal-breaker for potential development, she said, unless the land is part of a wetland or in a flood zone where the Department of Environmental Conservation or Federal Emergency Management Agency would get involved.
"The DEC is your biggest worry," she said.
Newton asked if those updating the plan were basing their ideas off another plan in New York State or if they were "flying by the seat of their pants?"
Sheila Hess of CC Environment & Planning, of East Bethany, who also is assisting the town, said it is a science-based plan taking many elements found in an Ulster County pilot program and the Green Infrastructure Network, with a goal of marrying the town's natural resources with development to "sustain the overall quality of the town."
Johnston added that the Town of Batavia plan is "less strict than many models we have looked at, and is locally developed, which is better than one-size-fits-all."
Newton's father, George, suggested that the town should consider the Tonawanda Creek as an asset worth developing around.
"It should be greater than it is today," he said. "People who live around the river (creek) are not contaminating it. It's what's being pumped into it."
Earlier, Paul Kulczyk, a West Main Street Road resident for the past 25 years, said he wondered how areas of potential development near areas of natural resources as depicted on a Green Action Plan map "could sustain themselves wiithin such close proximity of each other."
Both Johnston and Hess acknowledged that these future residential areas would be subject to "special review" by the Town Board and Town Planning Board before any final determination could be made.
At the end of the 45-minute session, Post said the Town Board will review all comments and come up with a revised draft -- which likely will add the fiscal impact of development -- to present at another public meeting. He said he hopes to complete the process by early spring.
In other developments, the Town Board:
-- Approved shared services agreements with the towns of Pavilion and Alexander for code enforcement next year at a cost of $15,000 and $10,500, respectively, to those municipalities, and a similar agreement with the Town of Stafford for financial clerk services in 2017 that stipulates payment of $16,000 from the Town of Stafford.
-- Learned that Batavia Town Fire Chief Paul Barrett will be stepping down at the end of the year, and will be replaced by Deputy Chief Daniel Coffey, who is a sergeant on the City of Batavia police force. Barrett said he will continue on the department's board of directors.
In a related move, the board OK'd a contract with the Town of Batavia Fire Department for 2017 that calls for the town to pay $916,858 in 2017 for fire protection services within the established district.
-- Appointed Andrew Meier as town attorney for 2017 at the rate of $195 per hour and Theron Howard as town prosecutor for 2017 at an all-inclusive salary of $675 per week. Meier and Howard will be replacing Kevin Earl, who has accepted the position of Genesee County attorney.