Super Wal-Mart proposal moves forward —

C’ville gets final impact statement


Front elevation of the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter, provided by Bergmann Associates.

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Almost seven months after the public comment period for the draft ended, the town has received the Final Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on Route 13.
A 45-day limit for filing the FEIS after the end of the public comment period — which concluded March 15 — has long passed, but town officials have said the number of questions raised during the public comment for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement made the extra time necessary in the interest of accuracy.
Every question raised by the DEIS for the State Environmental Quality Review had to be answered in the FEIS, town attorney John Folmer said Wednesday.
Town Board members were strongly encouraged, by Folmer, to read through at least the summary of the FEIS, which includes responses to comments by involved agencies, consultants and interested parties, responses to written comments and responses to oral comments.
The FEIS — which is held by two large three-ring binders and another inch-and-a-half thick plastic bound book— is about 1,000 pages, Folmer said.
As lead agency for the SEQR process, the town is responsible for ensuring that an FEIS is completed, Folmer said, and in this case the town asked Wal-Mart, the applicant, and its engineering firm, APD Engineering of Rochester, to prepare the document.
The next appropriate step, Folmer told the board, is to have the town’s engineering firm, Clough Harbour & Associates, review and determine whether or not it believes the FEIS is final and complete. Then the document would be posted on the Internet for the public’s perusal.
Until that point, the FEIS is available at the Town Hall and can be purchased for 25 cents a page.
A Town Board work session that is open to the public, but not public comment, is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 11.
If Clough Harbour is satisfied, the Town Board will then have to pass a resolution saying the FEIS is final.
The Town Board will need to make either a positive or negative declaration of environmental impact. A negative declaration would mean the project is not expected to pose significant environmental risks.
Wal-Mart wants to build a 205,000-square-foot store on a 33.7-acre field southwest of the existing Wal-Mart store on Route 13. It would have one driveway entrance onto Route 13, with traffic signals, and a connecting entranceway from Bennie Road.
The town Planning Board, which needs to issue an official recommendation regarding Wal-Mart’s application to allow for a zoning change that allows for a planned unit development designation, has also been waiting on the FEIS.
The area is currently zoned industrial.
The Planning Board had been waiting to issue a recommendation until all of the details of the project, which would be included in the FEIS, were in place, board Chair Kathy Wickwire has said.
In response to comments by the reviewing agencies and the public, a formerly proposed Tire & Lube Express department has been eliminated from the plans.
During the DEIS comment period, Clough Harbour had asked how oil would be stored and how potential leaks could be guarded against, in the interests of aquifer protection. And, Clough Harbour and Planning Board member Nick Renzi both pointed out that the town’s code does not allow for grease and oil operations over the aquifer.
In his submitted comments regarding the DEIS, Planning Board member James Bugh was a bit more explicit: “The Supercenter is not to have a ‘Lube Express’ over the aquifer.”
At the request of the state Department of Transportation and Clough Harbour, additional traffic analyses were conducted and some of the entrances to the proposed site were revised.
Numerous site plan revisions were also made.
One of the largest areas of concern during the comment period related to stormwater management. According to the FEIS, “the proposed stormwater system was completely redesigned to include a water-quality basin in conjunction with a sand filter and infiltration basin in the southeastern corner of the parcel. This new system provides primary treatment through sedimentation, followed by secondary treatment through filtration.
Some additional testing of infiltration rates and groundwater elevations even occurred during the June 26 and June 27 rain storms, which, according to the FEIS, dropped 7.2 inches of rain in the area over a two-day period.
“Groundwater readings were taken the following day,” the FEIS reads, “which would have produced a groundwater elevation similar to the effect of spring conditions.”


Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The proposed 200,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter on Route 13 has been in the making for more than three years, and has generated controversy throughout that time.
The proposed site location on a 33.7-acre parcel of land just south of the Cortlandville Crossings retail center, is owned by Homer C. Gutchess and is used as a polo field. The parcel is zoned industrial, and has been for sale for about 20 years.
In August of 2003, Wal-Mart asked the town to change the _zoning of the parcel to general business, but the Town Board delayed for almost a year as it prepared revisions to its existing zoning ordinance.
In July of 2004, the big-box store chain changed its tactics and instead applied for approval as a Planned Unit Development.
The purpose of PUD regulations is to allow more flexibility with land development designs, but a PUD also requires more in-depth scrutiny from Planning Board members. More information is required from PUD applicants than from conventional zoning applicants.
The town Planning Board has held off on its recommendation regarding the PUD, pending its review of the Final Environmental Impact Statement that is required under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The Town Board received the FEIS at its regular meeting Wednesday night.
The proposed Supercenter meets the requirements for a PUD as they are currently written, and will not be affected by any changes.
The revisions initially were adopted by the Town Board in May 2005, but were overturned in state Supreme Court as the result of a lawsuit brought by a group that formed partly in response to the Supercenter proposal.
Citizens for Aquifer Protection and Employment formed in late 2003 in response to concerns about the development of the site, which is over the Otter Creek-Dry Creek Aquifer from which the town and the city of Cortland draw their drinking water.
CAPE has also raised concerns over the economic impact of a Wal-Mart Supercenter on the small businesses of the county.
The CAPE organization held an informational meeting regarding the aquifer in October of 2003, and has organized several protests and petitions to try to put a stop to the Supercenter project.
Residents of Walden Oaks, a housing development on the hillside to the east of the proposed project site, have also expressed concerns about water pressure, security and noise, and light intrusion that they believe might accompany the proposed Supercenter.
Despite the organized opposition, about 3,000 petitions in favor of the Supercenter were brought to the town’s attention at a public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement in October of 2003, although the town supervisor at the time, Raymond Thorpe, noted that most of those who signed were from neither the city of Cortland nor Cortlandville.




Homer housing project draws support, concern

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Village residents reiterated concern and support for a proposed senior housing project at a public hearing Wednesday night.
Victor Siegle, who lives on South Main Street, spoke for the longest amount of time, about 10 minutes, asking the Planning Board about 30 questions. About 10 people spoke.
His questions dealt with such topics as the site’s swampy location, whether there is really a need for senior housing in Homer, the amount of hazardous waste at the site, the mosquito problem in the village and the quality of apartments previously built by Two Plus Four Construction, the project developer.
The 24-unit building would be built on a 2.5-acre lot at the corner of Cortland Street and Orson Drive.
Siegle also presented the Planning Board with a document from his lawyer detailing five reasons why the board is in violation of environmental laws under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
Siegle is among four village residents who won a case against the Planning Board in June. They had sued the Planning Board, claiming it did not fully comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act when approving the housing project.
The Planning Board approved the project in January, but a Supreme Court justice voided village approval on June 30.
As a result of the court’s decision, the Planning Board is repeating the SEQR process. In August, the county Planning Board moved the project forward, recommending that a separate 1.4-acre parcel to be used as a storm retention pond be consolidated with the rest of the property.
Wednesday’s public hearing was the next step in the process.
During the hearing, Mary Alice Bellardini, a North Main Street resident and former Homer mayor, said the senior housing project could lower the quality of life in the village.
Many people currently visit the village’s historical district to shop, but that could change with the arrival of the housing project, she said.
Jae Harris, of Stanford Drive, said she would hate to see the housing project, which is intended for seniors, fill up with low-income people instead.
“I’m very concerned the wrong element would come into the village,” she said. “I’m concerned about aesthetics.”
Several people spoke in favor of the project.
Ruth Bradshaw, of Hannum Avenue, said there is no better place to build a senior housing project, as much of Homer is on a swamp, she said.
“Wherever you go, you’re going to run into water problems,” she said.




Cuyler fire department given grant

Staff Reporter

CUYLER — A federal grant will allow the Cuyler Fire Department to completely replace turnout gear for its entire membership.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, a program promoted by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-New Hartford), awarded the department $57,760 as part of its first round of funding for 2006, which included a total of $90 million nationwide.
The money will be used to purchase all new protective gear for the department, according to Wayne Friedman, deputy emergency management coordinator, who helped the department write the grant application.
“Currently some of their members don’t have gear that fits right, it might be out of date, but this new gear will be sized to each individual member, and it will add to safety which is what the grant is for,” Friedman said. “With this money and the acquisition of this gear, everyone in the department will be updated to most current standards, as far as turnout gear.”
The grant will allow the department to purchase 25 sets of gear, covering almost all of its active members, Friedman said, and will also allow for the replacement of all of the department’s air tanks.
“Right now their bottles are older and a little outdated, so they’ll be replacing them with current bottles that’ll be composite, lighter, and should make it a lot easier for the people doing the firefighting,” Friedman said.
Because the department has had to spend money in recent years on a new building and on some new equipment, Friedman said that the funding could not have come at a better time.
“There’s been a lot going on in Cuyler, a lot of costs, and this has kind of gotten put by the wayside — they’ve fallen behind over the years,” Friedman said. “Now if they bring in some new members, they can just buy a couple of sets a year and stay ahead.”
Cuyler Fire Chief Bud Lambert agreed.
“This is going to be a big shot in the arm, especially with the size of Cuyler — for the taxpayers to have to carry that kind of burden would be kind of astronomical,” Lambert said. “This is something that we’ve needed. We were just wondering how we were going to go about doing it, so we’re really glad this came along, and I’m glad I’m going to be able to make it safer for my guys.”