Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Town of Amity: Adverse to Site Plan Review Law

Buffalo, NY---Recently the Town of Amity in Allegany County, New York proposed a new Site Plan Review law to its residents.  I was not in attendance at the two Town Board meetings in which it was discussed.  However, I did get the play by play thanks to modern technology.

I am one of the part-time residents that I speak of below.  I own property in the town and might retire there depending upon how things turn out.  There are a lot of ifs in fact.  If fracking is given the go-ahead, if development ruins the rural character, if my land gets contaminated , etc. The meetings on the site plan review law is telling. 

So here is my rationale to my emotion laden friends who are afraid and allowing their fears to dominate the debate without thought to the future of the town or without thoughtful and good neighborly relations:

Some of you are adverse to any type of regulation at all.  That is well known and has been since the Town’s birth well over 200 years ago.  Your existing concept of private property rights was the prevailing law in an agricultural-based economy that pretty much disappeared from the Town of Amity at the time that the Court House was built on the hill in the early 1970s.  The Town of Amity’s economic base is no longer primarily invested in agriculture.  Parts of it still remain; however, what does remain is being consumed by larger agricultural conglomerates or corporate farming if you will.  

 

There are very few small dairy cattle operations or chicken or pig farms in the Town any more. The Town’s economy is now steeped in a service economy or providing services largely involved in retail, food and hospitality.  It is quickly becoming a bedroom community for Buffalo and Rochester full of second residences with part-time residents.

 

The current proposal for a site plan review law did not incorporate what you think of as conventional zoning and the rumors circulated with this assumption were flat out incorrect.  Site plan review simply curtails the impact of land uses on adjacent properties.  What site plan review does is regulate design aspects to comply with what are already common requirements for development in some state statutes or nuisance violations.  It is NOT zoning.

 

More importantly, the site plan review law was for new development only and did not apply to residential development or your existing homes.  The standards are intended to protect common public health and safety issues that could arise from new development like on-site septic and sewer or the ability to not overload existing water resourcesor visual pollution form Las Vegas style signs, noise or odors that could potentially cause peace disturbances and soil erosion that could wash away your neighbor’s driveway.  The law was simple common sense solutions as any industrial or large commercial impact could and would cost the existing residents more in the form of taxes to mitigate those impacts down the road.  Under NYS Town Law, there is even the ability to waive any requirements as the board sees  as making common sense.

 

The proposed law was forward thinking planning for potential high impact development resulting from future gas drilling and its onslaught of workers and their families coming from out of town.  In fact, the law was actually minimal in regulation and very flexible. This is not seasonal and temporary hunters coming in for deer season.  These are workers and their families coming from who knows where and staying for a long time.  

 

The Town is hardly prepared for the gas fracking bust and boom. You might like it at first.  But I am certain that you are not going to like it when it starts to overwhelm services that the town provides.  What you have to ask yourself is this:  Should you want to prepare (be proactive) at least something in case or do you want to react after the fact when it is too late?

8 comments:

  1. Very insightful I WAS at the first meeting, and couldn't make the second. I was discouraged to hear so many pro-fracking comments, because I honestly believe it is environmentally unsound. What I did pick up in the first meeting is this--there are actually two items being discussed: the existence of a planning board at all, and the site plan review law. After talking to several Board members, I was able to learn that the Planning Board is set up to have 5 to 7 members. At this time, there is only one. My suggestion to those interested would be to volunteer to be on the planning board.

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    1. Thank you. In order to serve on the planning bd you have to be appointed by the Tn Supervisor I believe. It depends if the NYS Town Law.

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  2. This is zoning enabling law. Generally you have zoning first and then a site plan review after. With this you have no protection. This more dangerous than zoning districts. This would give few a lot of power to shape the town as they see fit. Because there are no districts for protect It's arbitrary

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    1. On the contrary, it is done quite commonly in rural areas adverse to zoning. I have a Masters Degree in Regional Planning. I have many years experience in planning and zoning, especially at the Town level and; therefore; I know the state statutes very well. The proposal is NOT zoning enabling and it is appropriate to have site plan review and performance standards without zoning code and zoning districts.

      The Town cannot conduct site plan review arbitrarily and capriciously. That would be illegal and subject them to a law suit. However, they do have broad powers for conducting land use decisions and this is rarely second guessed by the courts

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  3. We do have a right to farm law in allegany county. Also there a big rise on small cattle farms.Plus the crop product is only on the rise fuel by high demand.

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    1. I did the socioeconomic study for the town comp plan and therefore, I am very familiar with its economic base. Luckily, farming practices are exempted from site plan review under the proposal.

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  4. Its a shame that you neither read the proposal or attended the meeting because that wasn't what this was about. This was about the town board trying to get complete control over everyones land. There was nothing about Fracking or gas and oil. You may have an education in what ever but you don't know what you are talking about in this case. If you want to weigh in on things I suggest you get your facts straight and actually attend a meeting

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  5. Actually., I did in fact read the site plan proposal. Though fracking was not mentioned per se in the site plan proposal, it will aptly mitigate some of its impacts. Perhaps you might like to join me for a cup of coffee when I have some free time. I usually am working around the house when I am down. I disagree with your analysis on the Town's intent. As I said, most of what the site plan review proposal does is already law under state statute requirements. There is nothing wrong with making sure that you filling up your wetland to accommodate your new driveway to your business is not going to flood your neighbors yard.

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