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June 29, 2010

 

City seeks input on college project

Planning Commission worries about proposed recreation center’s impact on aquifer

By HOLDEN B. SLATTERY
Staff Reporter
hslattery@cortlandstandard.net

City Planning Commission members are concerned that they have not been involved in the state’s ongoing environmental review of a recreation building that SUNY Cortland plans to construct on the former Chugger Davis Field.
Members of the commission expressed concerns about the potential impacts of the project, especially on the water supply for the city and other nearby municipalities.
Mayor Susan Feiszli said during a council meeting June 15 that the DEC had completed its State Environmental Quality Review form for the project. She said this morning that she called the college’s buildings and grounds department about a month ago and was told the environmental review had been completed and it was determined the project would have no negative impacts.
But Pete Koryzno, spokesman for SUNY Cortland, said the DEC has not completed the SEQR and is still collecting background information. He said the DEC will have a 30-day public comment period for people to give input about the project after it completes its review.
Based on Feiszli’s statement that the SEQR was completed, the Planning Commission voted unanimously Monday night to ask the city attorney to use the Freedom of Information Law to ask SUNY Cortland for the State Environmental Quality Review Act form for the project, as well as the architect’s plans for all six sites SUNY Cortland considered for the building.
The former Davis Field is between Pashley Drive and Lusk Field House, near the Cortland Water Works.
The college plans to construct a building where students can pursue recreational activities such as a climbing wall, basketball and weightlifting.
During a meeting with SUNY Cortland officials in October, residents of Pearl Street and the streets near it said they do not want the college to build the recreation center on the site. College officials considered six site for the project, and the Davis Field was rated as the most desirable, David Thisby, the project manager for H2L2 architectural firm of New York City, said during the meeting.
Feiszli said this morning she was aware that the college could go straight to the DEC for review, rather than going to the city Planning Commission, but that she wanted a letter stating that the college had taken necessary precautions to ensure that the water supply would be protected.
Planning Commissioner Jo Schaffer said she thinks it is wrong that SUNY Cortland can avoid getting approval at the local level by going straight to the DEC.
“They just don’t have to do it, and it’s just wrong when the state says you have to do something, but we don’t have to do the same thing,” Schaffer said.
Schaffer said she is concerned about the potential impact of the project on the aquifer, which runs below the Water Works. She said water runoff from the parking lot could bring fuel from parked cars into the aquifer.
“Every little bit adds up to something more that attacks our water supply,” Schaffer said this morning.
Schaffer said she is also concerned about the impact of additional noise, traffic and the smell of fast food on the nearby neighborhood, where she lives, and which is zoned as a residential district.
“The whole thing just changes the nature of an R-1 district,” Schaffer said.
Schaffer said she does not think the DEC addressed all of the environmental impacts during its review.
“The DEC is a state agency,” Schaffer said this morning. “As much as it’s supposed to protect us, I think it’s going to protect SUNY first.”
SUNY Cortland plans to begin the design phase in the fall, to begin construction in the spring of 2012 and to complete the project at the end of 2014. The state Construction Fund has budgeted $53 million for the project.

 

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