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November 12, 2018 - 8:40pm

Downtown Batavia's future is not the mall; it's the open areas south of Main Street, suggests Tim Tielman, a preservationist and urban planner with a track record of success in Buffalo.

Jackson Street, Jackson Square, the south side of Main Street, are where we can find what's left of Batavia's vitality, Tielman said, in a recent interview with The Batavian. The mall, he said, is the last place Batavia should invest tax dollars.

"It's a continuing drag on Batavians, their creativity, their dynamism, their energy," Tielman said. "It's this energy sucking death star in the middle of the city, and you shouldn't spend any money making it a better death star."

We interviewed Tielman in advance of his talk this Wednesday night at 7 o'clock at GO ART! for The Landmark Society of Genesee County's annual meeting.

The topic: How Batavia gets its mojo back. 

Tielman's basic thesis is that Batavia was at its apex just after the end of the 19th century when the village, soon to become a city, had a robust, densely populated urban center with hundreds of businesses.

If that downtown, which was destroyed by urban renewal, still existed Tielman said, people from Rochester and Buffalo as well as the rest of the GLOW region would flock to Batavia every week for the small city experience.

Niagara on the Lake still has it. Batavia lost it. But, with effort, Batavia can get it back, but it will literally be a ground-up process, not a top-down, consultant-driven, developer-driven effort. Batavians have to do it for themselves. But Batavians are already pointing the way if city leaders will listen.

"There's obviously an innate human need for want of a better term, congenial spaces, in towns, cities, and villages, and even in times where they've been destroyed in war or urban renewal, people find them or build them," Tielman said. "What we see in Batavia is people have happened upon Jackson Square because it's a leftover thing that no one thought about and wasn't destroyed.

"The qualities of the thing as a physical space make it a very interesting case. You enter through a narrow passageway, and suddenly, totally unexpectedly, you come to a larger space, and even though it obviously wasn't designed with gathering in mind it has everything people want as a place to gather."

Jackson Square, Jackson Street, combined with the local businesses that still populate the business district on the south side of Main Street are strengths to build on, Tielman said. Batavia can leverage the density already found there and add to it.

But Tielman isn't an advocate of trying to lure developers with tax dollars to build big projects. He believes, primarily, in a more grassroots approach. 

The "death star," he said, and continuing efforts to deal with it, are part of the "urban renewal industrial complex," as he put it, and that failed approach should be avoided.

"The solutions (of urban renewal) are all the same," Tielman said. "It's like, 'let's put out an RFP, let's get some state money instead of saying', 'well, what do the Batavians need? What are they thirsty for? What are they dying for?' What you'll find is that Batavians are like every other group of homo sapiens on the face of the Earth. If they had their druthers, they'd want something within walking distance.

"They'd want to meet friends. They'd want to do stuff close at hand and in a way that they're not killed by vehicles careening down streets at 30 or 40 miles an hour. They want their kids to be safe. They don't want to worry about them being struck by a tractor-trailer when they're riding their bikes to the candy store."

That means, of course, narrowing Ellicott Street through Downtown, perhaps adding diagonal parking to Main Street, moving auto parking from out of the center of the city, particularly in the triangle between Jackson, Main and Ellicott, which Tielman sees as the most promising area of downtown to increase density first.

Batavians will need to decide for themselves what to do, but what he suggests is that the city makes it possible for the parking lot between Jackson and Court become one big mini-city, filled with tents and temporary structures and no parking.

"The rents for a temporary store or a tent or a stand or a hotdog cart should be low enough to allow a huge segment of the population (of Batavia) to experiment," Tielman said.

Low rents remove one of the biggest impediments to people starting a business and open up the experimental possibilities so that Batavians decide for themselves what they want downtown. 

"This gives Batavia the best chance to see, whether for a very low investment on a provisional basis, (if) this will work," Tielman said. "It's not sitting back for 10 years trying to concoct a real estate investment scheme based on some RFP to lure developers and give them handouts at tremendous public risk. The idea is lower the risk and do things the way successful places have done it for millennia."

That's how it worked for Canalside, one of the projects, besides Larkin Square, Tielman has helped get started in Buffalo. With Canalside, development started with tents and temporary vendors. Now the area is revitalized, and permanent structures are being erected. It's a Buffalo success story.

The idea of starting new business and community centers with tents and temporary structures is something Tielman suggested for Batavia's future when he spoke to the Landmark Society in 2013. He suggested then the major obstacle standing in the way of Batavia's economic vitality wasn't the mall, it is massive amounts of asphalt for parking -- economically unproductive and mostly unused.

While he likes the Ellicott Street project, primarily because of the 55 apartments being added to Downtown's housing stock but also because of the involvement of Sam Savarino who has been part of successful restoration projects in Buffalo, Tielman thinks the project needs to have "connective tissue" with everything on the north side of Ellicott Street.

That means narrowing Ellicott, adding wider, more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, and slowing down truck traffic flowing through Downtown.

Any such plan would involve the state Department of Transportation but that, he said, is just a matter of the city being willing to stand up to the DOT and paying for its own maintenance of that stretch of Route 63.

"If the Batavia's really serious about fixing (Route 63), it should do it on its own dime," Tielman said.

As part of Tielman's suggestion to concentrate growth strategies on the south side of Main Street, Tielman agrees that the farmer's market, currently at Alva and Bank, should be moved to Jackson Street.

The current location is too far from the existing local businesses, so the tendency is for people to drive to Alva, park, shop and leave. The traffic being drawn downtown isn't staying downtown.

Tielman talked about contiguity, the quality of commercial spaces adjoining each other, being necessary for convenience of users and survival of businesses.

"Connective tissue," a phrase used several times by Tielman, is critical to city centers.

"Contiguity is the lifeblood of settlements of towns and of cities," Tielman said. "If left to their own devices, places will develop like this -- and you'll see this up to World War II -- whether they were European cities, Asian cities or American cities.

"Look at a (1918) map of Batavia, contiguity was everything," Tielman added. "In a town of 18,000 people you had four-story buildings. It's crazy, you would think, but (it was built up that way)  because (of) the distance from the train station to Main Street to the courthouse. That's where you wanted to be. Everyone's walking around."

People are social animals -- Tielman made this point several times -- and Batavians, if given a chance, will support a city center with more density, Tielman said because that's human nature. What exactly that looks like, that's up to Batavians, but creating that environment will give residents a stronger sense of community, more personal connections, and shared life experience. That will foster the community's creativity and vitality, which is better than just accepting decline.

"I mean, if you look at the great John Gardner," his formative years are "when Batavia was still a place where a young John Gardner could walk up the street, buy comic books, get into trouble over there by the railroad tracks, buy something for his mother on the way home, blah, blah, blah. He could have quite a day in town and encounter characters of different stripes that can actually (be worked) into pretty rich novels of American life. You wonder whether Batavia could produce a John Gardner today."

Tim Tielman has a lot more to say about Batavia getting its mojo back (this is condensed from an hour-long conversation). Go to GO ART! at 7 p.m. Wednesday to hear more about it, ask questions, even challenge his ideas.

 

Top: Use the slider on the map to compare Batavia of 1938 with Batavia of 2016.

January 12, 2018 - 5:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in planning, land use, tiny house, pembroke, news.

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Heather Adams of Pembroke lived in this tiny house on wheels for a year and a half before buying a bit of land that already had a house on it so now she would like to rent it out as a bed and breakfast room during the summer.

To do that, Adams had to request a temporary use permit.

Thre's no zoning regulation locally that handles tiny houses on wheels.

"Tiny houses are their own unique thing," Adams said. "They're not an RV; they're not a mobile home. They don't really fit any codes existing at this time."

If her experiment using it for a bed and breakfast unit is successful, the Town of Pembroke may need to come up with the appropriate zoning regulation to allow its use.

Last night, the County Planning Board recommended approval of the temporary permit.

Adams said she wants to set it up as a B&B on her South Lake Road lot so more people can experience tiny house living. 

"The plan is to rent this out as little B&B so people can learn about tiny houses and try it out for themselves," Adams said. "A lot of people see is such a small space and think 'I could never live in that,' but when you see how they're set up, they are there really nice.They make a great use of space and they're really liveable."

This tiny house (pictured) is actually split level. It's 8 foot by 24 foot with 200 square feet of livable space. Adams said she liked it because the bed was on the first floor so her dogs could sleep with her.

"I lived in another tiny house previously when I lived in Alaska and only had a bed upstairs and I had a ladder," Adams said. "And so I couldn't sleep with my dogs."

The tiny house movement began years ago, Adams said, when people wanted small, unencumbered, uncluttered spaces to live in but the places where they tried to build them would run into building code issues because they were so small. So people came up with the idea of putting them on wheels and then they were unregulated.

She thinks they really meet a need for people who want to live a simpler life.

"It's simple living," Adams said, "just really simple living. You don't have a lot of stuff so you don't have to spend a lot of time cleaning, your expenses are a lot less, and you can just spend much more time enjoying life."

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January 12, 2018 - 3:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in east pembroke, batavia, news, planning, land use.

A proposed new Dollar General store for East Pembroke should meet the goal of making the hamlet more walkable, according to county planners.

That would mean removing parking from the front of the building and bringing the structure closer to the sidewalk.

Last night, the County Planning Board approved the site review with that recommendation. It will be up to the Town of Batavia's Planning Board to decide whether to implement the recommendation.

Planning Director Felipe A. Oltramari explained that the Town of Batavia is adopting form-based planning as part of its comprehensive plan and has already adopted a policy that should help the town, which includes East Pembroke, become a walkable community. 

East Pembroke currently scores a 15 at WalkScore.com and is considered car-dependent.

Since the policy is not yet part of the town's codes, the Planning Board could only make a recommendation and not take a stronger stand.

There are already six Dollar General stores in Genesee County.

This location will be on Main Road at Barrett Drive.

The developer is Zarembra Group Inc., based in Cleveland, Ohio.

The single-story building will be 9,100 square feet.

September 5, 2017 - 2:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in planning, genesee county, news.

Press release:

All members of the public are invited to join for the 17th annual Genesee County Comprehensive Plan Steering Committees presentation to the Legislature. The presentation will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 11, at the Old Court House, 7 Main St., Batavia.

The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee meets six times throughout the year, taking in feedback from more than 100 individuals from various levels of government, nonprofit agencies, business and industry, and interested citizens regarding the topics: Agriculture and Food Production; Community Wellness; Criminal Justice and Emergency Management; Economic and Workforce Development; Government Administration and Education; Housing Opportunity; Land Use, Environment, and Place-Making; Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture; Technology and Utilities; and Transportation and Mobility.

The information gathered through this process is then reported to the legislative body to guide them in ongoing decision making and as they develop the next year’s County Budget.

Advance information may be obtained by contacting Derik Kane at the Genesee County Planning Department

County Building 2
3837 W. Main Street Road
Batavia, NY 14020
(585) 815-7901

August 15, 2017 - 1:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in comprehensive plan, batavia, planning, news.

Nearly two years in the making, a draft of a new comprehensive plan for Batavia has been presented to the City Council and soon it will be up to council members to decide what kind of future they want for the city.

One that maintains the status quo or one that aims to improve the quality of life for residents and attract new businesses.

"I think you’ll find that, yes, some communities are losing population," City Manager Jason Molino said after the draft plan was presented to the council. "They're not growing at great rates, but I think you’ll see that the communities that are well planned, and have good comprehensive plans that are practical, you’re going to see those communities are growing. They’re growing exponentially. They’re growing a lot faster than those who don’t (have comprehensive plans). I would argue that good planning leads to smart choices and that leads to positive outcomes.

"If we want to be mediocre forever then maybe we don’t do the comprehensive plan," Molino added. "If we want to achieve more, we take a community-based approach to it and you make smart choices in the future to trigger growth in the future."

Consultant Rob Holzman made the initial presentation of the plan. He reviewed the history of the process, which began in October 2015 and included the formation of a steering committee, interviews, focus groups, surveys and two community open houses where community members were invited in to share their vision for the future of the City of Batavia.

"This plan sets up a strong foundation for moving forward and understand what some of the basic investments are that are necessary to attract a younger population as well as a senior population," Holzman said.

Among the findings of the research that underlies the plan is that Batavia is seeing a decline in home ownership and a startling rise in rental occupancy.

"These are two characteristics that are worth noting because they’re really a driving impetus behind why you want this comprehensive planning process," Holzman said. "It's to figure out what’s going on and how some of these trends might be reversed."

The city is also overstocked in industrially zoned property. Industrial is the second highest acreage in the city of 14 types of zoning in Batavia, at 682 acres but only 169 acres are actually being used for industrial activity.

The plan suggests, Holzman said, that the city can direct more industrial uses in the area of the Harvester Center and the Pearl Street industrial park, both with significant vacancies, and rezone an area such as the east end of East Main Street.

The 70 to 90 properties in that area, with the exception of a cement company, are all commercial and residential, Holzman noted.

"It is a key gateway coming into the city," Holzman said. "It sets a tone for what to expect and having industrially zoned properties there might not be the best use of that transportation corridor."

Among the other suggestions for the Batavia of the future is the development of a complete street policy, which would include bike paths, bike racks at public facilities, signs providing distance and direction for destinations (wayfinding signage), and bus shelters that are attractive and may contain public art.

"Bus shelters might sound like a basic thing, and it is a basic thing, but it’s a necessary component to add to the vitality of a place," Holzman said.

The plan also suggests developing a tree management plan, a plan for parks and recreation, a plan to celebrate the city's history and its public spaces.

The plan also calls for changing the city's zoning code from the more highly regulated current form to what's known as "form-based" code, which more loosely defines appropriate uses for sections of the city.

When it came time for the council and the public to weigh in, there were some objections.

Councilwoman Kathy Briggs (later joined by community member John Roach) suggested that any suggestion that the east end of East Main Street be rezoned be removed from the plan. He insisted that the council already voted 6-3 against changing the zoning, therefore, it shouldn't be brought up again.

Molino explained that at this stage, the comprehensive plan is a roadmap. Implementation of actual zoning changes would come up later. Further, he noted, the council's previous vote was just on two parcels in the 70- to 90-acre area under consideration.  

Roach suggested the proposal was just a backdoor way to bring in the tax-exempt, subsidized housing for disabled people proposed by DePaul earlier this year.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski objected to the idea of form-based code because, based on his research, he said, back before current zoning was created, something like form-based zoning was used and it only benefitted the well-heeled and politically connected.

Holzman tried to explain that form based means something entirely different today and that what the comprehensive plan proposes is really a mix of formed based structure and traditional zoning.

Councilman Adam Tabelski said he was concerned (a concern shared by other speakers) that the Tonawanda Creek is barely mentioned in the plan, even though it represents a potential resource for the city.

Molino said specific proposals for what might happen along the creek would fit into the city's strategic planning process, which he also spoke about and how it might change with a new comprehensive plan.

He provided the council with a document that he said would help officials and staff better prioritize projects, especially when new ideas come along.

"One thing when we began to develop this process, we realized that as new opportunities come along there has to be a very disciplined process to evaluate those," Molino said. "We have to decide whether it not happen, be put off, changed, or if more resources have to be put on the table to deal with them."

August 11, 2017 - 7:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in planning, Oakfield, news, land use.

Even though an Oakfield resident got thumbs down from the county planning board in her bid to open a small retail store in the former St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Oakfield, she still might be able to do it.

The church building at 15 S. Main St., next to the 7-Eleven in Oakfield, isn't zoned for commercial uses.

When the application first came forward, County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari thought the owner, Denise Linsey, would qualify for a home-occupation exemption, but it turns out Linsey doesn't live on the property. The property does have a house on it, but it is a rental property.

Oltramari said to qualify as a home-occupation, the property resident must be the owner or an immediate family member of the owner.

Linsey, a Mary Kay distributor, was planning to use the church as an outlet for customers to view Mary Kay products.

But the county planning board, which voted on the matter Thursday evening, doesn't have final say in the decision. Its vote is a recommendation to the Oakfield Planning Board, which can still grant the variance with a majority-plus-one vote.

Oltramari suggested Linsey seek a rezone of the property. Linsey said the house and the church are too close together. Oltramari said that could be addressed with a variance on the setback.

June 8, 2017 - 4:43pm
posted by Maria Pericozzi in news, Le Roy, planning.

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Le Roy is open to anything at this stage regarding waterfront and downtown revitalization, Mayor Greg Rogers said at a strategic planning meeting on Wednesday. 

Rogers opened the meeting, explaining that Le Roy received a grant for planning the revitalization of Main Street and the waterfront. He said they put together a planning committee for this.

“We’re just trying to make Le Roy better than what it is now and it’s pretty darn good now,” Rogers said. 

John Steinmetz, a member of the committee, said the biggest challenge is that there are many ideas, but that they still want more. He said they are in the very beginning planning stages.

“We’ve been at this about a month,” Steinmetz said. “We were awarded the grant well over a year ago, but it took about a year to get the contract from the state. Now it’s officially a go.”

Residents at the meeting expressed their concerns about always having a plan for Le Roy, but never following through. Steinmetz said he thinks there hasn’t been enough momentum for the previous plans to follow through.

“Le Roy has done a lot of planning,” Steinmetz said. “The problem is, it’s not in one place. This grant is a way to say, ‘Are these ideas still relevant? What are the new ideas the community has?' and 'Let’s put them all in one document.’ ”

Steinmetz encouraged residents to think big and small when generating ideas.

“The most successful communities make sure the buildings designed can be reused,” Steinmetz said.

During the meeting, attendees rated pictures from other local communities, in order to give the committee an idea of what the public wants to see, regarding landscaping, residential development and mixed-use development.

Attendees were then put into three groups to brainstorm ideas they had for Le Roy, regarding specific parts of town.

Sandy Brady, a Le Roy resident, said there should be a bike path.

“We missed out when we did some work on Main Street,” Brady said. “We didn’t leave a bike path. Wherever you go these days, there’s a bike path.”

Brady said that bikes are everywhere nowadays and Le Roy does not have enough bike paths.

“It’s a different time now,” Brady said. “It’s many years later and we feel differently about bikes."

Committee Member Molly Gaudioso said this meeting was essential for them to hear what is important to the community.

“We want to know what ideas are out there,” Gaudioso said. “Of the ideas are already in plans, we want to know what ideas still make sense. It’s our job now to take this and make some sense out of it and put it into the plans.”

Steinmetz said the next meeting will be held toward year's end or the beginning of 2018.

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May 18, 2017 - 6:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, housing, planning.

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It takes good data to make good decisions and a lot of times when planners are considering housing projects, the developers with the proposals are the ones who have all the data.

A new housing needs assessment for Genesee County will help solve that problem, said Felipe Oltramari, the county's planning director. 

"(Developers) are not going to come into a market where they know there is no need," Oltramari said. "They did their own study, but it's a private study that is focused on their segment of the market."

As part of the needs assessment process, the county hosted an open house at the Senior Center on Bank Street last night, which gave the residents who attended an opportunity to provide feedback on what they see as local housing issues, whether it's too much stock in one place, or of one type, or not enough of something.

Oltramari said the comprehensive study will also use interviews with various stakeholders in the community, whether they be veterans' groups, groups that serve seniors, the disabled and business groups. Officials and consultants will also try to identify the housing needs of Millennials. The goal is to get a broad picture of what is needed, which will help guide planning decisions and maybe uncover undetected needs.

"When a study like this happens, you will be able to put that information out there for some developers who may not be looking at this area," Oltramari said

The study is expected to be completed by December.

Oftentimes developers look at census, sales data and current housing patterns to identify a need in a community -- that same data will be gathered for the county's assessment -- and then try to fit a project into that community. But in a small community such as Genesee County, there are potentially niche needs that private developers won't uncover on their own. The county's housing needs study could identify a potential need and make that information available to developers who might decide trying to fill that need could be profitable.

"We want to make sure we’re looking at all segments of the market," Oltramari said. "One thing we heard, especially when Muller Quaker came, there was no housing for executives and lot of them ended up living outside of the county. When STAMP comes, we want to make sure the same thing doesn't happen."

The county's own study will also be used to confirm, or not, what private developers say is a local need. For example, when DePaul Properties was still pursuing a $25 million project on East Main Street in the City, CEO Mark Fuller said DePaul had identified needs in the city for more housing for disabled people, seniors with diminished mobility and veterans. Asked where those people are now, Fuller said they are most likely living with parents or in substandard housing.  

That could be an example of a market need that isn't readily apparent to most observers, but solid data could help identify.

(The project was stymied by a City Council decision not to change the zoning of the property from industrial to commercial.)

"They (developers, such as DePaul) know that and they might do their own research and come to that conclusion, but we haven’t seen that research," Oltramari said. "I’m sure there is probably that need, because they have a business model and they have to make sure the project is going to work, so there is some evidence, you have to trust that. But it’s nice to really have the tool to show 'yes, there is that need and this is something we should support as a community.' "

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April 25, 2017 - 4:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in DePaul, Batavia Square Apartments, planning, zoning, news.

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A plan to build apartment complexes on East Main Street drew a full house to Monday's City Council meeting, but the project, aimed at people in vulnerable populations, got mixed reviews from the 23 speakers.

The City Council was being asked to move forward a resolution to rezone the properties at 661, 665 and 679 E. Main St. Most of the location is a former State Police barracks.

The area is currently part of an industrial zone. The council is being asked to consider rezoning it to Commercial, or C2.

This would allow the project from DePaul, known as Batavia Square Apartments, to move forward, but it would not mean the project is approved.

City Attorney George Van Nest reminded council members they were being asked to consider a rezoning proposal, not the actual project that inspires the consideration.

“You really need to center on the question, does this zoning change make sense, notwithstanding some of the considerations that may have been out there or questions about other uses or other studies that are not specifically germane to the question of zoning itself," Van Nest said. "The petition is for rezoning that is at the behest of the City Council legislatively.”

There was a public hearing on the rezoning issue, but comments during to hearing had to be just about the rezoning issue. Since many of the 23 speakers at the meeting wanted to talk about more than just zoning, they took to the podium during the public comments section of the council meeting.

About half of the speakers favored the project, and of those, about half worked, have worked for DePaul or were families that have benefitted from DePaul's services.

Opposition came from people concerned about adding more rental apartment units to the city and how that would impact the current population and private-property landlords. They also raised the issue the amount of taxes DePaul would be paying while the new apartments would lead to the use of city services, such as police and fire.

The council voted by a narrow 5-4 margin to move the resolution for the zoning change to its next business meeting.

"If it's to be believed that 50 percent of the residences in the City of Batavia are rentals, then the question is, why do we need more rentals?" Chuck Ruffino said.

He referenced a study being done on the county's housing stock, designed to help planners understand local housing needs. Ruffino said the council shouldn't move forward without more information.

"We really don’t have good information on which to make this decision, because once you make that decision, the agenda is set," he said. "You can’t take it away. It’s done. Thirty years, tax exempt."

Russ Romano raised concerns about the number of rentals already in the community, the need for the housing study to be completed, and the seeming shortage of housing for people in the workforce. He also questioned the wisdom of changing the zoning.

"I question the fact that you can make this change in zoning when it goes against the current zoning law of being zoned industrial," Romano said. "I think it's dangerous and in your comprehensive plan it has not changed."

John Gerace said he doesn't believe anybody in the community is against housing for people on disability or against veterans or seniors, but he did question the need for it now, especially housing that is tax-break subsidized.

He calculated that at $25 million for construction, each of the 80 units would be worth more than $300,000.

"I would like to live in a $325,000 apartment," Gerace said.

Since subsidized rents are available to many potential tenants, Gerace said he's concerned that current landlords will lose out.

"It will be a drain on the local economy, on local landlords who bought property and have been paying property taxes right along and have vacancies right now," Gerace said.

George Galliford said it would be unfair to local landlords to allow this project to move forward.

“It seems to me that it’s very unfair competition for landlords who have been conscientious, paid their taxes, done what they needed to do and are never ever given any kind of favor," Galliford said. "Thirty years is a long time. Those payments in lieu of taxes are to me are a joke. They should be much, much more than what they are. It’s unfair competition."

John Roach said he thought it was premature for the City to move forward with project approval. 

He said the current vacancy rate in the city is 7 percent and that 5 percent is considered ideal. He said the county is projected to lose 9 percent of its population in coming years.

Adding more apartment units will just put more financial pressure on existing landlords, he suggested, and if those properties move off the tax roles, "it will just put more pressure on the rest of us."

The DePaul project also had its defenders.

Stacy Falkowski (top photo), a Batavia resident, said life is getting harder for her elderly parents, especially now that her father has Parkinson's disease. She described the difficulties she and her mother have caring for her father in her parent's current commercial apartment.

She said her father has fallen more than once in the bathroom and they're lucky he hasn't been seriously hurt; no broken bones, but there has been blood to clean up.

“It’s pretty tough to deal with every single day of the month,” she said.

The planned DePaul housing complex, with its amenities for the elderly, the disabled and other vulnerable adults, along with greater social opportunities, would be great for her parents.

Most of the people who would move there, she said, are already local residents and to counter the argument against the lower taxes paid by DePaul, she said our local older residents had earned this sort of amenity.

"These people are paying taxes, and they’ve lived in the City ofBataviaa for many years and paid a lot of taxes, school taxes, property taxes," Falkowski said.

Colleen Gillam, from Waterport, said her 25-year-old son currently lives in a DePaul apartment in Batavia and for the first time in his life, he's living on his own and doing very well. She said for people like her son, the kind of housing DePaul provides is hard to come by.

"I think with this coming into your community it will only benefit you and the families who live here and in the surrounding areas," she said.

Chris Syracuse, a longtime employee of DePaul said when DePaul comes into a community, they do so humbly and with an eye toward building a beautiful facility that the community will be proud to see.

"Never in 27 years have I ever had somebody say to me, ‘I regret DePaul coming into my community,' " Syracuse said.

After the council discussion and before the vote, City Manager Jason Molino addressed some of the issues raised during the meeting.

He said the area had been zoned industrial for 50 years. Before that, it was considered a business district, which is similar to today's commercial zone. Over the past half century, there has been no industrial activity in the area. The train tracks that would have supported industrial activity, and supported the Trojan tractor factory in the area, were removed in the 1960s or 1970s. Over the past 50 years it's been mixed commercial and residential with some light manufacturing.  

During that period, industrial growth in the city has taken place around Graham, Treadeasy, and O-AT-KA, and future industrial growth is more likely to take place in the greenfield developments outside of the city. The East Main Street area of the city isn't likely to attract any industrial development.

"It hasn’t happened in the past 50 years, and it’s not likely to occur in that specific area," he said.

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Mark Fuller, project developer.

April 14, 2017 - 1:22pm

Mercy EMS is finding its current ambulance staging area at St. Jerome's on Bank Street a little cramped and not conducive to keeping ambulances ready to roll in all kinds of weather, so it's planning a new 11,500 square foot facility off Route 98, just north of the Thruway, in the Town of Batavia.

The new facility will cost about $2 million and the site plan was reviewed and recommended for approval last night by the County Planning Board.

"There’s no space," said Mercy EMS General Manager Bill Schutt of the current location. "We’re in essentially four old hospital rooms there. There’s very limited parking space, obviously, if you’ve been there. In winter times, it’s especially difficult. Ambulances have fluids in them, medications that need to be kept warm, so you’re trying to run heaters inside them to warm them while parked outside. We don’t have any space there to hold meetings, do training, any additional private spaces, very limited crew space."

The new facility will have eight interior parking bays and additional spaces with electrical hook-ups for ambulances to park outside in emergency overflow situations.

The location, 2.2 acres being split out from an 8.6 parcel, is part of the Gateway II project on Call Parkway, just off of Oak Orchard Road.

Schutt said the new location will have no effect on response times.

There will also be expanded crew space, a meeting and training room.

The new location will also include a purchasing department that will house regional purchasing for Mercy Flight.

Also on Thursday's agenda:

  • The board recommended approval of two new commercial buildings on a parcel just north of Home Depot, abutting the Thruway, at 4181 Veterans Memorial Drive. The buildings will be a 12,600 square foot facility that will house medical offices and a 7,500 square foot building that will contain three spaces. Two will be restaurant spaces. The $1.2 million project is being undertaken by Holland Trotta out of Rochester.  A spokesman for the developer told planners that the large space was originally intended for a well-known local restaurant, but those plans changed. The signage on the architectural drawings in the planning board packet for the smaller building show an urgent care business and a Mexican chain restaurant, Qdoba Mexican Eats.
  • The board recommended approval of a conditional use permit for 17.4-acre, 2-megawatt solar farm at 2901 Pearl Street Road, Batavia. 
  • The board recommended approval of a nine-month moratorium on the planning and construction of solar farms in Stafford, giving officials time to review policies and zoning plans for such facilities.
  • The board recommended approval of a site plan review for a new 29,456 square foot paddock at Batavia Downs to be constructed on the east side of the race track. The previous paddock was removed to make room for construction of the new hotel. Currently, stables, are being used for paddock space. Paddocks are where horses and drivers are prepared for each race and return to after the race for washing and testing (winning horses are tested for banned substances, as required by the gaming commission). 
March 27, 2017 - 11:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pavilion, planning, news.

Pavilion is hosting a community workshop to discuss its upcoming comprehensive plan this Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Town Hall.

The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee will lead a community discussion and present a look at the community's future during the workshop.

Light refreshments will be served.

March 17, 2017 - 9:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron, news, planning.

Press release:

The Comprehensive Plan Update will help guide future zoning and development decisions in Byron. What would you like to see for the future of Byron? Please complete a survey and return to the Byron Town Clerk (P.O. Box 9, 7028 Byron Holley Road, Byron, NY 14422) by March 31.

Survey forms are available at the Byron Town Hall, Byron Hotel & Trailhouse, Fullerino’s Pizzeria, Gillett’s Hardware or Gillam-Grant Center. The survey is also available online. You can link to the survey on the Town of Byron website:  http://www.byronny.com/  or go directly to the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ByronCommunitySurvey

Please only complete one survey (online or on paper). Thank you for your participation.

February 28, 2017 - 3:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, planning, news, comprehensive plan.

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The City is hosting a comprehensive plan open house from now until 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall.

The open house consists of multiple stations that ask residents and business owners for their thoughts and ideas about the future of Batavia.

The feedback will be used in drafting the city's new comprehensive plan.

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January 20, 2017 - 10:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, land use, planning, news, Alabama, batavia, byron, elba, Oakfield, and Pembroke..

Press release:

A state-mandated 30-day public review period has begun for Agricultural Districts No. 2 in the towns of Alabama, Batavia, Byron, Elba, Oakfield and Pembroke.

The Genesee County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board announced that Agricultural District No. 2 will embark on its eight-year review with a 30-day public review period beginning on Jan. 26.

As with every eight-year review, landowners with lands in the district under review will be asked to complete a worksheet where they will be given the option to enroll or withdraw property from the district. Only entire parcels can be included or excluded.

Landowners will receive the worksheet, along with a letter, informational brochure, and map of the current district boundaries in the next couple of days. Each landowner will have until Friday, Feb. 24th of this year to mail the worksheets to the Department of Planning in the envelopes provided. This deadline also coincides with the deadline for the Annual Enrollment Period, which allows for inclusion of predominantly viable agricultural land to any of the County’s Agricultural Districts pending review by the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board. In addition, nearby landowners that are receiving Agricultural Tax Assessments and are not part of the Agricultural Districts Program will be mailed a letter and form inviting them to join the program.

During this 30-day period, a map of the District will be on file and open to the public in the office of the Genesee County Clerk and at the Genesee County Department of Planning.Any municipality whose territory encompasses the above Agricultural District, any State Agency or any landowner within or adjacent to the District, may propose a modification of the District during this period. The District and any proposed modification will be submitted to the Genesee County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board for review. Consequently, a public hearing on the District and any proposed modifications will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10, at the Genesee County Old Courthouse, 7 Main St., Batavia.

At the conclusion of this review, the Genesee County Legislature will vote on any modifications to the District and send the proper materials to the State Department of Agriculture and Markets for recertification. The public is encouraged to attend all open meetings.

By enrolling land in the Agricultural Districts Program, participating farmers can receive relief from nuisance claims and certain forms of local regulation. Enrollment is free and voluntary. For a free informational brochure, please contact the Genesee County Department of Planning. Phone: (585) 815-7901; fax: (585) 345-3062; email: [email protected] Visit us on the Web at www.co.genesee.ny.us/departments/planning.

January 19, 2017 - 12:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in smart growth, planning, land use, Oakfield, Alabama.

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Up next for the county's tri-annual update to our Smart Growth Plan is a presentation Feb. 13 to the Public Service Committee of the Genesee County Legislature.

Planning Director Felipe Oltramari and planning staff have toured the county, providing interested residents at town-hall-style meetings information and maps outlining the proposed changes to the plan.

The final such meeting was Tuesday at the community center in Oakfield and covered the proposed plan for Oakfield and Alabama.

The goal of the plan is to protect farmland from suburban-like sprawl and guide population centers toward a denser, mixed-use, more pedestrian-friendly environment.

These are the types of communities younger generations of families and workers are looking for, Oltramari said. Younger families want to have more amenities and services within walking distance of their homes and have a stronger sense of neighborhood than offered by traditional suburban development where all lots are the same size, all homes have the same floor plan and residents come home from work, pull into their garage and never say "hi" to a neighbor.

The plan for Oakfield (pdf) includes allowing development along Pearl Street out to Batavia Oakfield Townline Road.

In response to a resident's question, Oltramari suggested this area is well positioned for the kind of denser, mixed-use, walkable neighborhood many people want these days.

A resident brought up a decades-old housing development in Le Roy that is more than a mile outside of the village and noted residents just drive to Tops, and "what's wrong with that?" and Oltramari said those are the kind of developments that contribute to the decline of villages such as Le Roy.

Islands of suburban-like development tend to encourage people to move out of older villages and don't bring in new residents, he said, and then the old Victorian homes in the village become multi-unit rentals.

"What happened along with that is their downtown died," Oltramari said. "A lot of people who used to walk into the shops, a lot of families whose kids used to walk to school and go downtown are not there anymore. They’re being bussed and they’re being driven and a lot of people who live in the village are transient people. There are consequences to doing that, but when you build little neighborhoods, you tend to attract people from the outside."

The Smart Growth Plan contemplates new homes being built that fit into a hamlet's or village's character (differing lot sizes, different architectural treatments), but helps keep homes clustered around the village, which will encourage rehab of the remaining older homes.

For Alabama (pdf), growth could mean a demand for more housing, but instead of converting farmland into housing tracts, the plan is designed to grow the existing hamlet into a village.

None of this -- like any planning document -- is written into stone, Oltramari noted after Tuesday's meeting. There are processes to override the plan, but those are difficult barriers to overcome. A town's board, the county planning board and the County Legislature would all have to approve a development not fitting in the current development boundaries, and if that happened there would be legal challenges.

The Smart Growth Plan development process dates back to 2001 and was part of the agreement to bring Monroe County Water into Genesee County. The county is required to update the plan every three years in order to continue to expand the public water supply flowing from Monroe County Water.

There are future funding mechanisms dependent on abiding by the plan, and the Sierra Club is on record, Oltramari said, of claiming it is prepared to file a lawsuit if the county doesn't develop and abide by the plan to protect farmland.

For more on the Smart Growth Plan, and to view maps for each community that outline development areas, click here. The Feb. 13 meeting, likely to start at 4:30 p.m. at the Old Courthouse, is open to the public.

May 18, 2016 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in town of batavia, batavia, planning, land use, business.

From the Town of Batavia Planning Board's meeting last night:

  • Jeff Price met with the board to discuss his plans for two or three off-road truck events at the Genesee County Fairgrounds this year. Called Flex Rock 4x4, Price organized two events last year and he said they went very well. The first event wasn't well publicized and the turnout was mostly local drivers and truck owners, but by the time the second event rolled around, word had gotten out and drivers came from as far away as North Carolina. He said neighboring residents attended the first event to see what it was about and he hasn't received any complaints. He said the fair board is happy with his events. He asked the planning board for a letter approving the events, which the board will provide.
  • Chris Moiser, owner of Area 51, presented his plans for the 2016 season and received board support. He is planning races June 4-5, July 2-3, July 30-31, Sept. 3-4 and Nov. 13, with an MX race Oct. 29-30 and the Dirty Girl Mud Run on July 16.
  • Dale Banfield presented plans for outdoor concerts at the Waggin Wheel restaurant on Park Road. He's planning on hosting a couple of concerts featuring country bands and '80s classic rock. The concerts will be in a fenced-in area with proceeds from food sales going to local volunteer fire departments. Ticket sales would cover the cost of the bands. He said he's already spoken with representatives fo Batavia Downs and COR Development about parking and traffic and he said both are willing to work with him. He said he plans to have the venue entrance behind the Waggin Wheel, along the property line with Batavia Towne Center. A special use permit is required and a public hearing was set for June 21, by which time the board expects Banfield to have more details worked out.
  • The board approved a site plan review for Alpina Foods, which is planning a 3,360-square-foot expansion. No representatives of Alpina attended the meeting.
April 25, 2016 - 12:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in robbins nest, Le Roy, planning, land use, news.

Thwarted once, local businessman and developer Pete McQuillen is kicking the tires of an idea to revive his Robbins Nest housing neighborhood on the south end of the Village of Le Roy.

McQuillen started pursuing the project in about 2010, thought he had the necessary approvals to move forward, then a lawsuit forced him to go back to the village board for approval of the necessary zoning change.

At a September 2012 meeting, McQuillen learned that two village board members -- Bob Taylor and Mike Tucci -- would not vote on the resolution because they felt they had a conflict of interest.

Taylor's nephew is Steve Barbeau and Tucci worked for Tompkins Insurance under the supervision of David Boyce. Barbeau, the Town of Le Roy supervisor, and Boyce, were leads in the lawsuit against McQuillen.

The two men are neighbors in a neighborhood known as Presidential Acres, which abuts McQuillen's property he would like to convert into Robbins Nest.

At the time, McQuillen's plan was to build 26 homes on 13.1 acres east of Robbins Road and south of Fillmore Street, with prices ranging from $130,000 to $160,000, and sold as part of a planned community to seniors.

In order to move forward, he needed approval for a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which requires a zoning change, which requires approvals from the Zoning Board of Appeals (then a joint agency of the town and the village), the village board and the County Planning Board.

He got all of those approvals once, but then the lawsuit voided the village vote and without Taylor and Tucci willing to say yes or no, the board couldn't proceed and McQuillen had to drop his plan.

Now Tucci is off the board, so at a meeting April 13, McQuillen asked during public comments if he revived his plan, would the village board at least vote on it (he didn't ask whether they would approve it). Mayor Greg Rogers polled each board member and all said they would vote on it, if a proposal was brought to them.

Reached today, McQuillen said he is merely exploring the idea of reviving Robbins Nest at this time. Going to the village board was just the first step. He also wants to see how the county might respond.  

Rogers said he was surprised by McQuillen's request. Robbins Nest wasn't an item on the agenda. McQuillen just showed up and asked his question and that's all it was, Rogers said.

We reached out to Barbeau and Boyce for comment. We've yet to get a response from Barbeau; and Boyce declined to comment.

Boyce is one of several plaintiffs, all Presidential Acres residents, in another lawsuit with McQuillen as one of the defendants. The lawsuit is over several duplexes built on the west side of Presidential Acres, which the plaintiffs claim violates the subdivision plan. 

That lawsuit, filed in 2014, is scheduled to go to trial next week.

If you've read this far and the history of this development doesn't seem like enough of a twisted path yet, the history also includes Barbeau being arrested after an altercation with McQuillen over a barn McQuillen built close to Barbeau's property line. Also part of the history, Rogers took responsibility for allowing the village to pave a road owned by McQuillen at the time.

McQuillen said the next step for him to is to go the county to see what kind of response he might get, but County Planning Director Felipe A. Oltramari said there is nothing barring McQuillen from getting the paperwork started with the village. It would be up to the village to submit a request for consideration by the County Planning Board on the zoning change.

It isn't unusual for rejected or stalled proposals to come back up for reconsideration, Oltramari said.

"It often happens that applicants will come back a few months for few years later, depending on how political the issue was," Oltramari said.

UPDATE 8:56 p.m.: Earlier this evening, Steve Barbeau​ responded to our request for a comment.  Here is his statement: "There were and are numerous legal, practical, and ethical reasons why the property in question should not be rezoned."

April 15, 2016 - 12:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, Darien, Oakfield, land use, planning, news.

County planners expected a detailed discussion last night about a proposed Arby's restaurant at 8364 Lewiston Road, Town of Batavia, but the applicant withdrew the application earlier in the day.

County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari said he expects the proposal to come back to the planning board at a later date, perhaps as soon as the meeting next month.

There are a few variances needed for a 2,000-square-foot fast-food restaurant at the location, which is across from Kmart where a used car lot is now and next to Jerry Arena's Pizza.

The zoning code for the town requires a 40,000-square-foot lot for such an establishment, but the lot size at this location is only 29,664 square feet.

The builders are proposing parking spaces of 9x18 feet, instead of the required 10x20 feet.

The restaurant will also require three signs instead of the permitted two, with one being a bit larger than the sign ordinance allows.

The owner listed on planning documents is Bill Meland, with a business address of the current Arby's location on West Main Street in the City of Batavia.

In other matters brought to the board Thursday night:

  • The Chamber of Commerce received approval plans to remodel 8276 Park Road, Batavia, which will become the new headquarters for the chamber and the visitors' bureau once it's completed. The project includes a building addition, facade renovations, a new roof and a new accessible ramp.
  • Richard Mistretta is planning to open a record store at 220 E. Main St., Batavia, and received approval for his sign.
  • The Town of Batavia is planning to revise its zoning code to remove the requirement that certain properties in industrial parks be directly accessed from a state highway. The town has granted three variances in recent years and since there might be addition variance requests that would likely be granted, the town is seeking to remove the requirement altogether.
  • The Town of Alabama is extending its moratorium on commercial development for 12 months. This is the third extension sought by the town.
  • Daniel Miller and Padrna Kasthurirangan were approved for a windmill at 10021 Simonds Road, Corfu. The windmill will stand 121 feet tall.
  • The new Waggin (sic) Wheel Restaurant at 8282 Park Road, Batavia, was approved for outdoor cooking and a change to the commercial sign.
  • Suzanne Schultz received permission to hold craft classes at 57 Main St., Oakfield.

The county planning board is not the final word on application approvals. Their approvals are recommendations. Final decisions rest with the planning or zoning boards in each jurisdiction.

June 12, 2015 - 2:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pavilion, batavia, land use, planning, O-AT-KA Milk Products, business.

A proposed expansion of the O-AT-KA Milk Products plant at Cedar Street and Ellicott Street Road, Batavia, received a vote of approval from the County Planning Board on Thursday night.

O-AT-KA is contemplating adding a 194,543-square-foot building and a 35,279-square-foot building that will serve as warehouse space and a distribution center.

A spokesman for O-AT-KA repeated several times to reporters last night that the expansion remains a proposal at this time. There's no information available on how O-AT-KA's business might be expanding as a result of the new space.

The location of the new structures would be on the east side of the plant with vehicle access off of Ellicott Street Road.

The board recommended approval of a site plan review with recommended modifications for a stormwater pollution-prevention plan prior to final approval by the city.

Also on Thursday:

The board recommended approval of a site plan review for a 1,620-square-foot addition to the Pavilion Public Library. The expansion, which will include a new children's wing, is funded in part by a $200,000 donation from Edgar Mary Louis Hollwedel. Deborah Davis said the library is also seeking a state grant. The size of that grant could exceed $200,000.

The board recommended disapproval of a zoning map change on South Lake Road in Pavilion. Superior Plus Energy Services was seeking the change to develop a bulk storage and truck distribution center for bulk propane. The 32-acre site is currently zoned agriculture-residential and Superior Plus Energy is seeking a change to industrial. Staff's recommendation was for disapproval because the change would be inconsistent with the town's comprehensive plan and the Future Land Use Map, which plans for agriculture use or residential with minimum lot sizes of five acres.

A planned Dollar General store in Pavilion received recommended approval for its sign. The sign design presented previously by Moeller Sign Co. wasn't approved because it would have meant a sign larger than currently allowed in the zoning code. The new design complies with the code.

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