December 29, 2006

Proposed building has neighbors concerned


Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — If a 5th Ward meeting at the Cortland County Office Building Thursday night is any indicator, the county can expect vocal opposition to its proposal to build a Public Health building on south Main Street.
County officials said at the meeting they will work with the city and area residents to alleviate concerns.
More than 20 residents who live in the neighborhoods along south Main, William and Randall streets voiced concerns at the meeting, primarily that a proposed parking lot for the facility would greatly disrupt their neighborhood.
The Legislature voted Dec. 28 to buy 2.46-acres of land that includes the currently vacant Moose Lodge at 157 Main St., Robbins Vending on Main Street, two houses on Randall Street and two on Williams Street.
“I think the building is beautiful as drawn, but the parking lot is just a Goliath that destroys the nature of the neighborhood,” said Pete Snell of 15 William St., who pointed out during the meeting that the border of the parking lot in the county’s early renderings of the facility would be 17.5 feet from his house.
Snell and his neighbors stressed the proposed facility would potentially be bringing 200 county employees and another 200 patients to the neighborhood daily, creating potential safety issues. The estimates for employees and patients were prepared from County Administrator Scott Schrader.
“I can’t fathom all the traffic this would create, especially with the elementary school right down the road and all the children in the neighborhood,” said Helene Maxwell of 10 William St. “Frankly, it’s frightening to think about.”
Peter Hans, who lives at 8 William St., agreed.
“My biggest concern, having two small children, is increased traffic on William Street as well as south Main,” Hans said. “But I’m also worried about the lack of green space, the runoff — I think the building’s a good idea, but there’s so many issues they haven’t considered.”
Alderman Dan Quail (R-5th Ward) agreed.
“I’m really disappointed in the communication, or the lack thereof,” Quail said. “I like the rendition of this on south Main, no question, but I think we need to look at the impact this will have on that area.”
Schrader, Legislator Ron Van Dee (D-5th Ward), who called the meeting, along with other county officials in attendance, attempted to assure those on hand that the county will heed all of these concerns as the project moves forward.
Schrader said that, although it isn’t required to, the county would adhere to the city’s site plan review process, and was confident the concerns of residents could be alleviated with proper planning. Municipalities are exempt from site plan review.
The renderings of the proposed 15,300-square-foot facility released by the Legislature so far are extremely preliminary, Schrader said. Formal site plans would have to include trees for buffers, fencing between residences and the parking lot and various other mitigations that would minimize any negative impacts on the community.
“I truly believe that, given the chance, we can satisfy 90 percent of the people here tonight,” Schrader said after the meeting. “Just give us an opportunity, let us come up with a design and plan that attempts to mitigate what are certainly legitimate concerns.”
The Legislature, to date, has only voted on the property acquisitions, Van Dee said, and any plans to build will likely be contingent on the county’s ability to satisfy residents’ needs.
“Those people who live in that area take great care of their property and they have a right to be concerned, but I’m hoping that once we get some engineers working on this, we’ll be able to find ways to correct these problems,” Van Dee said. “If we don’t, if the people who are willing to have an open mind and work with us aren’t satisfied, then there’s no way I can vote to build this.”
In response to numerous suggestions during the meeting that the county look elsewhere for the placement of the parking lot, Van Dee said he intended to go out with Schrader in the coming weeks to look at alternative properties along south Main Street.
“I’ve been saying from day one that I’m not in favor of putting a parking lot there,” Van Dee said. “I knew people were upset, I’ve gotten an awful lot of phone calls, and I’m not sure if we’ll find a better option, but we’re going to try.”
Kathy Wilcox, of 60 Church St., who said she had contacted a number of her neighbors about Thursday’s meeting, said she was unconvinced by the county’s assurances.
“I don’t think the people here were heard — I think they’ve made up their mind,” Wilcox said. “The most important thing is the kids walking back and forth from Randall School, but we’re also going to see our property values go down significantly with a parking lot there, and our whole neighborhood is going to change.”
Still, other residents said they could get behind the project if the county effectively mitigated their concerns.
“If it’s done right, I could probably be happy with it, but it’s just difficult to say at this point because it’s such a vast change from what it was before,” Snell said. “I’m going from having two next door neighbors to 400, not to mention noise pollution, light pollution — it’s going to take a lot of work and better communication.”
Legislator Carol Tytler (D-3rdWard) said the meeting was an important opportunity for residents to voice concerns and to give legislators an idea of the challenges they’ll face.
“We really haven’t been able to work on this at all so far, but now we can take this information and hopefully we can improve some things in that neighborhood,” Tytler said.



Homer merchants want more business zoning

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The Homer Business Association is lobbying for more business zoning in the town’s proposed zoning plan, and the town’s zoning committee says it will take the suggestion into consideration.
The association recently formed a subcommittee that has met once so far to review the proposed zoning map and text and offer recommendations, said Larry Jones, head of the subcommittee.
Dan Gustafson, chair of the zoning committee, said the proposed plan, which should be finalized in the coming months, results from a three-year effort to update the town’s 40- to 50-year-old zoning document.
Jones said the Homer Business Association has recently voiced concerns to the town’s committee to update zoning.
“Basically we’ve given the town two different letters,” Jones said. “A first letter stating the HBA wanted to be an active participant (in drafting the zoning plan). The second letter said we felt business zoning was insufficient for the continued growth of Homer. We suggested zoning that would allow more development.”
More area on the towns’ state routes should be zoned for business, Jones said.
Ward Dukelow, who is not part of the subcommittee but an executive member of the Homer Business Association, agreed.
Dukelow said the new document allows for fewer businesses along those routes than the current document.
Under the proposed plan, certain areas, such as Route 13 around McGuire’s Drive-In in East Homer, have been changed from business zoning to agricultural or residential zoning.
“The only area they’re proposing that would be business is along the west side of Route 11 to the north of the village of Homer,” he said. “That’s where the gravel pits are.”
Gustafson said the subcommittee is correct that the proposed document does not allow for a lot of business zoning in the town other than on Route 11.
“So we are looking at putting a lakeside district around Little York Lake that would allow for small businesses up there,” he said.
He said the committee would also consider adding more business zoning on Route 13.

Woman continues wait for transplant

Patti Prince hopes for  double lung, liver transplant as she endures cystic fibrosis.

Staff Reporter

Amid rising medical costs and a lifelong battle with a deadly disease, Homer native Patti Prince is still the strongest person Beth Odell knows.
“Her spirits are high,” said Odell, Prince’s best friend. “Her strength is not so high, but she is still Patti.”
Prince, who lives in Yorkville near Utica, has struggled with cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease, which affects the entire body, but mostly the lungs, which can become severely damaged by thick mucus secretions over time.
To overcome the disease, Prince needs a double lung and liver transplant. Odell said the transplant is not a cure for the disease, but it will give Prince 10 to 15 good years.
Prince completed a two-month stay at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio on Dec. 1.
There were three offers on transplants at the clinic, said Joan Peak, Prince’s mother who now lives with Prince and her husband Nathaniel.
In one instance, everything was a match, both lungs and liver, but the final tests revealed the organs were infected with hepatitis B. In another instance, the lungs were good, but the liver was damaged; in the third offer the lungs were too small for Prince.
Odell said the doctors want the organs to be from one donor because the organs would have less of a chance of being rejected by Prince’s body.
Prince said she was No. 1 on the clinic’s transplant list, so all she can do is wait.
“I’ve lived with this all my life,” Prince said. “I don’t know any different.” Prince added that she had a lot to live for being married with a home and her son, Brady, who will soon celebrate his first birthday.
Odell said her best friend’s biggest fear was not getting to see her son’s first birthday or spending his first Christmas with him. Prince said her family had a good Christmas. Brady will celebrate his birthday on Jan. 10.
Odell said that donations of any value are welcome.
“All the financial help anybody is willing to give us will be fine,” Odell said.
Prince said she had to be airlifted twice and each flight cost $10,000; the insurance only covers half of each flight. Prince’s medication costs approximately $15,000 a month, she said, much of which is covered by insurance. The bill for her two-month stay at the Cleveland Clinic has yet to arrive.
Donations can be sent to Beth Odell, 4000 West Road, Cortland, or dropped of at Total Auto Care at 2. S West St. in Homer and if someone wants to send money directly and anonymously they can go to the Web site for more information.
Odell said the goal is to raise $30,000 to help cover the cost of medical bills. Previously, $10,000 was raised, but the money was used for clearing mold from Prince’s basement and traveling expenses for Nathaniel when he went to visit Patti.
Odell said she was not sure how much money remains.
Peak said since her daughter was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 6 months the family has heeded the advice of their doctors, which is, “take it one day at a time.”




Groton schools given positive review in state comptroller’s audit

Staff Reporter

The Groton Central School District received a solid review from the state Comptroller’s Office, according to an internal controls audit that was released Tuesday.
The audit, which is designed to “identify areas where schools can improve their operations and provide guidance and services that will assist school district officials in making those improvements,” found that district officials are properly taking care of the school’s assets.
“We determined that the board has established and designed appropriate internal control policies and procedures over purchasing and that these policies and procedures are operating to protect assets,” the audit states.
The audit examined a period from July 1, 2004 through May 16, 2006. It included interviews with administrators, review of travel expenditures and credit card purchases and evaluation of compliance with the district’s purchasing policy.
The Groton School District has approximately 1,096 students and 140 employees, according the audit. Its 2005-06 budget was $13.8 million.
In a written response to the Comptroller’s Office from school board President Dave Parsons, Parsons said he was pleased with the results of the audit.
“The Groton Central School Board, administration and staff are committed to excellence and the result of the audit highlighted how a small district can build controls and processes to protect the investment of our taxpayers and to hold ourselves to a high level of fiscal accountability,” he wrote. “We feel this positive audit is a clear demonstration of our strong financial program and we appreciate the comptroller’s office recognizing our district as an exemplar in the area.”