August 01 , 2007

Planning Board OKs Wal-Mart plans

Next step in the process will be a hearing on Aquifer Protection Permit

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The town Planning Board signed off on the site plan and subdivision applications for a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter at a regular meeting Tuesday night.
The board had discussed this aspect of the project at both regular meetings and numerous special sessions since April and has dealt with the overall project since 2004.
Planning Board chair Kathy Wickwire said that she was glad the review was over, and that she thinks the board “did a good job.”
“We’ve had a lot of meetings on it, one right after the other, and I think it helps keep you up to date,” Wickwire said. “We just wanted to make sure that it was going to happen the right way.”
Representatives of Wal-Mart declined to comment after the meeting.
The Town Board now will hold a public hearing on an Aquifer Protection Permit for the 33.7-acre site before it can make a determination on final site plan approval of the 205,000-square-foot supercenter. The meeting has yet to be scheduled.
Town Supervisor Dick Tupper said this morning that the public hearing most likely would be held in August.
No opening store date has been announced and the project could be held up further, depending on the outcome of a pending lawsuit that seeks to halt the development.
In April, the local environmental group Citizens For Aquifer Protection and Employment filed an Article 78 lawsuit against the town, the Town Board and Wal-Mart Stores East LP.
The lawsuit seeks to halt the development of the Supercenter and revisit the State Environmental Quality Review process, which lasted more than a year and a half and concluded in November.
CAPE contends the board’s approval of the State Environmental Quality Review process was flawed; that the board granted a Planned Unit Development zoning designation based on insufficient information; and that the Town Board usurped some of the powers granted to the town Planning Board by both town law and state law by approving the Planned Unit Development and a preliminary site plan.
Both Wal-Mart and the town filed motions to dismiss, claiming CAPE does not have any standing in the matter, and therefore no right to sue.
Sixth Judicial District Supreme Court Judge Ferris Lebous heard arguments from the attorneys regarding the motions to dismiss on June 22. He has yet to hand down a decision.
In light of the site plan approval, Scott Smith — an engineer with the town’s engineering firm, Clough Harbour & Associates — said the state departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation would now be able to make their own determinations about the project.
The Department of Transportation has to approve the work being done on Route 13, the intersection of Route 13 and a relocated Bennie Road, and the closing off of the existing Bennie Road intersection once the relocated road has been constructed.
The Department of Environmental Conservation has to sign off on the erosion and sediment control plan that would be in place during construction, as well as the storm water management system.
“We’ve met with both departments and we’ve basically gotten verbal approval,” Smith said after Tuesday night’s meeting.
The town still must decide whether the two outparcels on the development site would remain green space or would be leased or sold by Wal-Mart to another entity.
When the Town Board approved the Planned Unit Development zoning designation application at the beginning of March, the board recommended that both outparcels — one is 1.6 acres and the other is 1.2 acres — remain free of development.
The Planning Board endorsed the recommendation because of an interest in a buffer between the development and the neighboring Walden Place assisted living community, and also because of the oft-stressed sensitive nature of the site over the community’s aquifer.
Wal-Mart representatives repeatedly have stated their client likely would be uninterested in turning its back on two highly developable parcels.



C’ville taking closer look at Suit-Kote

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — In response to public outcry, the town Planning Board has asked Suit-Kote Corporation for more information before making a decision about a proposed expansion at the company’s Lorings Crossing and Polkville sites.
Planning Board chair Kathy Wickwire said this morning that she’s contacted the Department of Environmental Conservation, Health Department, county Soil and Water Conservation District and county Planning Department to bring representatives of the agencies to a special meeting Aug. 21 for a coordinated review of Suit-Kote’s plans.
The motion to not act upon the applications for conditional permits and aquifer protection permits at both sites was proposed by Planning Board member Nick Renzi.
Renzi said he had received “at least a half dozen” telephone calls from concerned citizens, mostly related to odors that result from the asphalt manufacturer’s operations.
“We’re anxious to keep Suit-Kote here, and we’d like to make sure they’re a good neighbor,” Renzi said after reading off a list of information required by the board before the applications can be approved.
Brian Renna, Suit-Kote director of corporate relations, said the company has maintained open lines of communication with the Town Board and the Planning Board.
Most of the requested information had been provided already or was readily available in the public record, he said.
“We’ve gone above and beyond, and we’re continuing to go above and beyond,” Renna said following the meeting. “If this continues to drag on, it will certainly have an impact.”
The board recommended the creation of a committee made up of Suit-Kote employees and executives, neighbors and town and county officials who would help resolve some of the recently contested issues.
“I think when you have more people involved in the decision-making process, the problems will go away,” Renzi said after the meeting.
Renna said that he believed the Department of Environmental Conservation, Environmental Protection Agency, and state and county health departments were well-versed enough to work with the company without bringing in additional individuals.
“If government is going to say that we should invite people to come in and tell us how to do our business, I think that’s going too far,” Renna said.
The configuration of asphalt storage tanks at Suit-Kote’s Polkville site, approved by the town Planning Board a few years ago, is being revised — a single 6 million gallon tank, 40 feet tall and 60 feet in diameter, would replace two smaller above-ground tanks.
At the Lorings Crossing site, the company wants to install seven tanks for storage of liquid asphalt emulsion and 20 additional tanks for a variety of uses.
Neighbors of the Lorings Crossing site and concerned residents have contended odors from the plants are unbearable and harmful to their quality of life.
They want these problems mitigated before the town approves any further changes.


What the board is seeking

The Cortlandville Planning Board asked that Suit-Kote provide:

  • site plans clearly illustrating the existing facilities;
  • site plans for the proposed improvements;
  • a specific and detailed five-year plan for the two facilities that would include potential environmental impacts and the planned mitigation actions;
  • submittal of state Department of Environmental Conservation approvals for the last expansion for any changes to the air quality, major oil storage facilities and stormwater permits;
  • documentation of compliance with the town’s flood damage prevention regulations in connection with the last expansion at Lorings Crossing;
  • documentation for the negative declaration of environmental impact under the State Environmental Quality Review;
  • an official log from the DEC and county Health Department of all complaints related to the environment;
  • a complete description of the actions taken by Suit-Kote to eliminate odors from the two facilities;
  • test results of any groundwater sampling wells;
  • consideration and comment regarding the possible establishment of a committee consisting of Suit-Kote management and technical personnel, neighbors of the two sites, a representative of the county Health Department, DEC, or federal Environmental Protection Agency, and representatives of the Town Board and town Planning Board. The purpose of the committee would be to discuss current problems, future plans and actions that can be implemented to avoid problems and assist in the implementation of future plans.


Judge to rule on firefighter money dispute

Staff Reporter

A Chenango County State Supreme Court justice has until Aug. 27 to rule on a lawsuit between the career and volunteer staffs of the Cortland Fire Department.
The two parties attempted to come to a resolution in closed-door negotiations about annual state money given to the department through an out of state insurance tax but a compromise could not be reached.
Attorneys for both sides argued the case in front of Justice Kevin M. Dowd on June 27.
The suit was filed in Cortland County in December but Supreme Court Justice Philip Rumsey removed himself from the case in May because of a conflict of interest.
The career firefighters filed the lawsuit over annual money provided to the volunteers’ treasury from the state Foreign Fire Tax Program or “2 percent money,” as it is commonly called.
The total amount of the money has ranged from $29,819 to $42,728 per year over the last six years. The money for 2007 was handed out on July 2 and was $37,711.75, said John Rice, the president of the career staff’s union.
Rice said this morning that this year’s money was broken up between 106 firefighters, including the 36 firefighters on the paid staff.
“We’ve gone to this point because could not reach an agreement,” he said of why negotiations failed.
Rice said this year’s money was distributed based on a proportional formula created by volunteer treasure Richard Latham. Rice said he was unsure how the formula was created, but that it still worked out to the same 75 percent to 25 percent ratio in favor of the volunteers that the department has been using since 1978.
Latham could not be immediately reached for comment this morning.
Brad Pinsky of Syracuse who is attorney for the volunteers did not return a phone call seeking comment about the pending suit.
He said in March that the volunteer staff was willing to work with the paid staff to create a better definition of the word active. He said the groups were working on a point system based on the number of events each volunteer firefighter attends throughout the year.
Pinsky said he believed the money should stay with the volunteers because they are not paid and that it is a “thank you” for their service. He said the money goes to banquets and retention efforts within each department.
Rice said the paid staff uses its portion of the money for things such as cable TV, furniture and newspaper subscriptions for the fire station.
The paid firefighters argued in their lawsuit that the ratio should be amended based on the number of active volunteers and the number of paid firefighters.
They claim that some of the volunteers considered active under the current procedure rarely or never attend fires and other emergencies. The suit also claims that many of the volunteer members counted in apportioning the money are only social members, and that some of those counted are dead.


Local a capella group voted off talent show

The local a capella rock band, The Fault Line, was voted off “America’s Got Talent” last night after television viewers voted for their favorite five acts to move into the top 10.
The show aired at 8 p.m. Tuesday on NBC. Members of the band could not be reached for comment before deadline. The results were announced live in the first five minutes of the show. Viewers had two hours after last week’s program to call in and vote for their favorite acts.
The Fault Line consists of four former members of the band Sons of Pitches, including Adam Decker, Justin Adams of Cohoes, Matthew Olmstead of Oriskany Falls, and Jeff Bratz of Minnesota. The four split from the group and formed The Fault Line, picking up their fifth member, Joshua Logan of East Burn. Decker is a 2001 graduate of Cortland High.