January 18, 2007

State won’t lower speed on McLean Road

Request to lower limit on Route 222 OK’d

Speed Limit

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
The Cortlandville Town Board will continue to push the New York State Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit from 55 to 45 mph through this section of McLean Road near the county line and Lime Hollow Nature Center’s new visitors center. Several fatal accidents have occurred over the years along the one mile stretch of road.    

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The state has agreed to lower the speed limit on a portion of Route 222 from        50 mph to 45 mph, but town officials are upset the state turned down a request for a lower speed limit on part of McLean Road.
The limit will be lowered between Route 281 and Lyncort Drive following repeated requests from the town and a recent letter written by a resident of Hedgemoor Drive.
Town Board member Ron Rocco said the state Department of Transportation would place “stop ahead” signs on both Highland Road and Lyncort Drive.
Dena Kote, of Hedgemoor Drive, who was unavailable for comment this morning, wrote the latest letter.
Town Supervisor Dick Tupper, who lives on Lyncort Drive, said he had seen a DOT employee checking the speeds of passing vehicles with a radar gun for an entire day shortly after the letter was written on Nov. 1.
Traffic accidents have happened at the corner of Fairview Drive, he said.
Board members said the would continue to push for a lower speed limit on a strip of McLean Road near the new visitor’s center for of Lime Hollow Nature Center for Environment and Culture.
The speed limit is 55 mph, and there have been several fatalities in the vicinity over the years, Tupper said. The board has requested that the speed limit be lowered several times over the years, most recently in March 2006.
“We haven’t given up, but we are concerned about residents over there,” Rocco said.
When the visitor’s center was proposed, board member John Proud said, the DOT had been contacted and informed of the potential for increased school bus traffic. Proud was hopeful the DOT would take another look since the center is no longer a concept and will be having its grand opening on May 26.
“A school bus pulling out of that parking lot, because it’s graded lower than the road, has to pull out of it real slow,” Tupper said this morning.
Reisweber said he also expects significant tour bus traffic off Interstate 81, and the narrow entranceway and winding road make it hazardous.
“Because they recently redid that road, it’s been a nice road, its been a great road, its been a fast road,” said Glenn Reisweber, executive director of Lime Hollow. “Since I’ve been here two months, there’ve been two accidents.”
He indicated that Lime Hollow would work with the town in requesting that the speed limit be lowered, and that the nature center also would pave a roughly 100-foot strip of the entranceway in order to provide better traction.
“Because it’s a sensitive area, we didn’t plan on blacktopping the entire area,” Reisweber said.


Sparks fly over Supercenter; Feb. 7 public hearing set

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — A proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on Route 13 continued to spark controversy Wednesday as the Town Board set a public hearing on a zoning application for the project.
The hearing was scheduled after a noisy exchange between Town Councilman Ron Rocco and a board member of a local environmental group. Rocco accused the group of focusing all its efforts on Wal-Mart and ignoring other environmental issues.
The hearing for Wal-Mart’s planned unit development designation request is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Cortlandville Fire Station, contingent upon the fire station’s availability. Board members said they anticipated a large crowd for the hearing.
The board also set an unrelated public hearing on proposed amendments to its zoning laws. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 8 in the Town Hall.
Town Attorney John Folmer said he hoped to have the latest version of the revised zoning available online at and at the Town Hall by Monday.
During the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting, Rocco initiated what became a heated argument with Arnold Talentino, an executive board member of Citizens for Aquifer Protection and Employment.
Rocco expressed concern about hazardous chemicals in the long-vacant Buckbee-Mears plant on Kellogg Road in the city of Cortland. Thousands of gallons of hazardous chemicals have been stored in the building with no _security.
Rocco said he is surprised CAPE has not gotten involved in the Buckbee-Mears issue. He referred to CAPE’s ongoing opposition to the Wal-Mart Supercenter, citing its impact on the sole-source aquifer for the city of Cortland and the town.
Talentino, of Cortland, responded to both Rocco’s comments and letters to the editor printed in the Cortland Standard over the past month.
“We resent these continuing innuendos against CAPE people, insinuating that the CAPE people are only interested in Wal-Mart,” he said.
Members of CAPE — which was formed in 2003 and has pursued issues surrounding the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter and also won a lawsuit against the town early last year that invalidated zoning amendments passed in 2005 — have worked as environmental advocates before the group was formed, Talentino said.
The main point of contention surrounding the Wal-Mart proposal is its location over “the key recharge area (for the aquifer), out of all the recharge areas,” Talentino said. Although the Buckbee-Mears issue has been discussed by CAPE, the organization is too busy with Wal-Mart to address it, he said.
“It’s not as important to the aquifer as the polo ground,” Talentino said, referring to the Route 13 site of the proposed Supercenter. “Buckbee-Mears is close to the river, and it could pollute the river, but right now CAPE is concentrating on protecting the water supply.”


Election officials’ lawsuit delayed

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The initial court date for a lawsuit between the county and its election commissioners has been adjourned until March 5.
County Attorney Ric Van Donsel said he requested the adjournment because he wanted the opportunity to advise the Legislature at its Jan. 25 meeting on its decision to hire two outside attorneys to handle the case.
Election Commissioners Bob Howe and Bill Wood are suing the county over its decision to equalize their salaries for 2007.
The case was to be presented Friday in State Supreme Court at the Chenango County Courthouse.
Van Donsel, who recused himself from handling the case for the county because of friendships with both commissioners, did not attend a Jan. 4 special session at which the Legislature opted to hire Binghamton attorney Greg Gates to handle the case for the county, and to allow County Administrator Scott Schrader, whose office is also named in the suit, to hire his own attorney, John Corcoran of Syracuse, for the case.
“Even if I have a conflict, if there’s some action I need to take on behalf of the Legislature, I’m required to do so,” Van Donsel said. “In this case, I need to go through some things with the Legislature to make sure the counsel was properly provided, so I asked for an adjournment.”
Van Donsel said he felt he was obligated to offer counsel on the decision to allow Schrader and Personnel Officer Annette Barber, who is also named in the suit, to hire their own attorney.
“They (legislators) need to be satisfied that there is indeed a need for two attorneys, whether there is a divergent interest between what Mr. Schrader and Mrs. Barber need and what the Legislature needs,” Van Donsel said. “I’m not questioning at all that they do need their own attorney, I just want to speak with the Legislature as a whole to provide some advice on the matter.”
Barber has said she’s comfortable using the county’s attorney, but has reserved the right to hire her own attorney should her interests become divergent from the county’s.
Schrader, however, has maintained that he needs his own counsel, because, although the suit currently names him only in his professional capacity as county administrator, it could potentially be amended to include him personally.
“These two individuals may say they’re not going to name me in my personal capacity, but they’ve also said they’re not going to sue, and that this isn’t about the money, so you just can’t trust their word,” Schrader said.
Schrader also questioned Van Donsel’s involvement in the case.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s conflicted on this, and for him to be involved in this issue at all at this point is completely inappropriate” Schrader said.
Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown said that Van Donsel had acknowledged the conflict of interest in the case from the beginning, but she agreed that the conflict posed to Van Donsel and his office was a concern.
“I don’t know what Mr. Van Donsel’s going to say, but the Legislature passed a resolution hiring Greg Gates and John Corcoran for Scott Schrader, and as far as I’m concerned, I have no intention of changing my mind,” Brown said.



Marathon considers zoning change

Staff Reporter

MARATHON — Village Board members unanimously approved the rough draft Wednesday of a zoning document that would change zoning in the northwest corner of the village to allow for a housing subdivision or other major project.
The document, which was drawn up by Ed Rantanen, the village attorney, will go to the Planning Board, which will vote on it Jan. 25. A public hearing will eventually take place before the Village Board accepts the document for good.
The zoning change would encompass 25 acres of land in the northwest part of the village, mostly north of Tannery Street and west of Burroughs Road, Rantanen said. The property owner, Henry Diaz, plans to sell the land, which is now a farm, he said.
Changing the zoning from R-1 residential zoning to Planned Development Zone — which is also called Planned Unit Development Zone — would allow a developer to stray from residential zoning regulations.
The developer could build one or more big projects on the land, such as a housing subdivision, a senior housing project, condominiums or a commercial businesses, Rantanen said.
“With a Planned Unit Development it’s not restricted to residences,” Rantanen said. “If (a potential developer) said, ‘I would like to use it for multi-purpose use,’ it allows the board to allow for the best possible use of the land in connection with future growth.”
Rantanen said Planned Development Zones have certain requirements that R-1 zoning does not, such as trees around properties, to ensure the development does not harm the properties around it.
Mayor John Pitman said at Wednesday’s board meeting more growth in the village would help boost the town’s tax base.
Pitman said that location is really the best place for building growth, as open land in other parts of the village, such as the southeast part of the village, is in the Tioughnioga River flood plain.
Board member Ronald Birdsall said it is good the village is taking advantage of the open space available, as the village does not have much room to grow.
Bill McGovern, another board member, agreed, saying any development it can encourage will benefit the village. Rantanen said this morning he knows of several developers who are interested in buying the farm. He said he did not know their names.