City officials in Plattsburgh held a public meeting Thursday to allow people to review and comment on the draft outline for the city’s Generic Environmental Impact Study for downtown redevelopment. The few people who commented felt they were being rushed.
The city of Plattsburgh will conduct a Generic Environmental Impact Study on the area of the city that will be impacted by Downtown Redevelopment Initiative projects. An initial part of that is the creation of a Draft Scoping Document. Thursday afternoon, the city’s special environmental counsel explained what’s happening at city hall. Miller, Mannix, Schachner, & Hafner, LLC Attorney Mark Schachner says they will guide the city through the process. “What the City Council has decided to do is to conduct environment impact review of a series of downtown development and redevelopment projects and to do it together in a document called a Generic Environmental Impact Statement.”
Schachner adds that the GEIS approach that Plattsburgh is undertaking is not pursued often. “It’s considered a very very responsible way to pursue environmental impact review because it avoids what’s called segmentation or separately reviewing projects that are occurring in the same basic geographical area and that could have synergistic impacts on or with each other.”
The scoping document is basically a table of contents for an environmental impact statement. The Chazen Companies prepared the document for the Plattsburgh project. Vice President of Planning Services Chris Round says among the items included are land use and zoning, visual and natural resources, community character, utilities, traffic, economic, historic and cumulative impacts. “The scoping document outlines in a rather concise way what will the analysis actually provide. And you’re able to provide us feedback on what should the analysis include.”
City resident Sylvie Beaudreau had questions for Schachner about the process. “If we were to submit anything written it would be written requests to add to the table of contents?”
Councilor Rachelle Armstrong: “Any omissions, additions.”
Schachner: “Flesh something out in more detail than it seems to be fleshed out in the table of contents. Something like that.”
Beaudreau: “So it’s not, the idea is not for members of the public to respond to the DRI?”
Schachner: “We’re not at that point in the process.”
Beaudreau: “So based on the scoping document the city will conduct the GEIS and produce a report?”
Beaudreau: “And once the report is produced they will have opportunity to comment on it.”
Schachner: “That is correct. There will be a public comment period and a public hearing.”
City Planning Board alternate member and Environmental Planner Curt Gervich says there should be more alternatives in the draft plan. “It just seems to me at the stage that we’re at that often SEQR analysis have more than two alternatives. The no action alternative is totally appropriate. The multi-story parking garage as an alternative may be appropriate. That’s fine. But I’d like to see more alternatives. People have talked about parks and amphitheatres and lots of different things. But those aren’t appearing as alternatives here and so it seems that the city isn’t hearing that those are ideas that members of community would like to see.”
Resident Joan Janson criticized the timeframe to submit comments. “With everything that we have to look over you want written comments exclusively by Monday! And I just feel that this process is exceedingly rushed and not allowing enough time for all of us and perhaps even all of you to consider everything that’s been put out there. And it appears that this process is being railroaded through.”
Written comments on the Draft Scoping Document must be submitted to the Plattsburgh Common Council by 4 p.m. August 26th.