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Recent columns in Preserving Small Towns:

Goldilocks and the Two Bears
Posted March 12, 2008 There are at least 92 Wal-Mart’s and 51 Lowe’s in New York State. Yet, as far as I have been able to determine, there are only three communities similar in size and circumstances to Geneseo which host both of these Big Boxes.

Phase one?
Posted March 5, 2008
 When Newman Development Group’s plans for a big box retail development in the Gateway were first unveiled in March 2005, those plans included a Lowe’s, a pharmacy, and six to eight other medium and small-sized chain retail boxes. Each store was oriented toward Route 20A, with three curb cuts providing access to 20A [...]

Painted into a corner Posted Feb.28, 2008 Those of us who might be referred to as “Newman watchers,” who have a particular interest in trying to understand and anticipate Newman Development Group’s actions and strategies in seeking approval for its Big Box plans, find these slow periods to be challenging.
What’s going on? Whose move is it, Newman’s or the Town’s? What’s next? [...]

Once more from the beginning Posted Feb.21, 2008 Please bear with me for one more journey through the dusty records of the Town of Geneseo. Having read Newman Development Group’s recently-submitted draft Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), in which they try gamely to make the case that their project really is consistent with the planning for the Gateway District, I thought I ought to take a closer look at the history of the Town’s current Master Plan.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet Posted Feb.15, 2008 I don’t envy the members of the Town Planning Board, positioned as they are between a developer determined to build a Big Box whatever the obstacles, a Town Board that long ago determined to let them, and an opposition committed to using every legal means to stop them.  [...]

A race to the statute books? Posted Feb. 6, 2008  If the Geneseo Town Planning Board and Geneseo Town Board approve Newman Development Group’s Big Box plans, the 25 acre parcel at the northeast corner of 20A and Volunteer Road will be rezoned as a Planned Development District. At that point, the legal question as to whether that rezoning is permissible will become ripe.

Town Enacts Moratorium for Gateway Posted Feb. 1, 2008 The headline above could have run in local papers on June 2, 1995. The previous evening, the Town Board unanimously approved the “Town of Geneseo Interim Development Act of 1995,” which froze submission or consideration of any development proposals in the Gateway District for six months.

The Changing Economics of Housing and Retail Posted Jan. 24, 2008 After years of debate about the impacts of the proposed Lowe’s on Geneseo and the Town’s secretive dealings with Newman to advance this proposal, changing national economic conditions may overtake local political and legal considerations in shaping the outcome of our Big Box battle.  [...]

Planning Board rejected first PDD Law in 1994 Posted Jan. 17, 2008 You may recall that the Town Board proposed the enactment of a PDD law in the spring of 2005. You may also recall that the Town Planning Board, after initially supporting the idea, withdrew its support until after the master planning process was able to proceed. 

A Tale of Two Wal-Marts Posted Jan. 10, 2008  The scene is familiar. A new Wal-Mart is coming, and concerns about traffic and sprawl and the prospect of more Big Boxes (and small boxes) in its wake are ignited. Talk turns to the need for a new master plan, new zoning, and renewed attention to the community’s future and vision.  [...]

Measure Once, Cut Twice! Posted Jan. 3, 2008 In the long interregnum between the November election and today’s installation of a new administration, the course of our Big Box battle has been uncertain.
Knowing only that John Zmich’s distinguished service on the Town Planning Board is probably ending, and not who will replace him (as I write  [...]

Darkness on the Edge of Town Posted December 20, 2007 Although Newman Development Group would have us believe that Lowe’s would never consider closing the doors of a future Geneseo location, anyone not on their payroll should recognize this as nonsense. Big Boxes close all the time, whether because of a shift to a new store design, a larger store, a better location, or poor sales [...]

Stormy Weather in the Forecast Posted December 14, 2007 Clouds are building on the horizon. Beyond the horizon, there are reports of quite a storm. Though forecasts vary, in both the timing and the intensity of the storm, forecasters are coming into the agreement that we are in for some unpleasantness. The elements of this storm are not wind, snow, and frigid temperatures, [...]

Whither PDDG? Posted December 7, 2007 To those of you wondering what has become of PDDG, or of me, or of this column and, most importantly, of our efforts to defeat Newman’s Big Box plans for the Gateway, I would like to offer this update. The outcome of last month’s Town elections was certainly not what I had hoped for or expected. [...]

A closer Look at Newman’s DEIS Posted November 8, 2007 What strikes me most in reading the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) prepared by Newman Development Group is how little Newman is willing to give in return for what they are asking.  [...]

Comments at Newman Public Hearing Posted October 30, 2007 The time I am permitted to speak isn’t long enough to discuss all the problems with this project, all of the traffic and sprawl it will bring, the way in which it will cement Geneseo’s status as Genrietta, all of the many shortcomings of the DEIS, [...]

Full Speed Ahead Posted October 17, 2007 With questions circulating about PDDG’s status in light of Corrin’s “compromise” position on Lowe’s, I would like to offer assurance that I and everyone else at PDDG headquarters remains focused on defeating Newman’s big box plans through every legal means. [...]

Correcting the record Posted October 5, 2007  Last week’s Livingston County News quotes Supervisor Kennison as hailing the Town Planning Board’s “completeness” decision as a milestone in the review of Newman’s Big Box proposal. With this decision, he suggested, the Town Planning Board had completed its review of Newman’s application, finally freeing him to declare publicly his support for Newman’s proposal. [...]

Geneseo is not for sale! Posted September 28, 2007 The arrival of Rochester public relations firm Public Strategy Group on the scene of our local Big Box battle, as exposed in Corrin’s latest column, is certainly a troubling development. To know that a PR firm is working to create public support, or at least the appearance of support, for Newman’s folly should send shivers through anyone that believes in self-determination [...]

Opportunity knocks and the town refuses to answer
Posted September 19 2007 After the Town Planning Board’s August 27 meeting, I had the chance to ask Newman Development Group attorney and “team” leader Ken Kamlet whether he would send me copies of the missing documents we have been trying so hard to obtain. His answer surprised me.  [...]

Renewing our request to be on the agenda
Posted September 8, 2007 Recently, Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo sent a letter to Planning Board Chairman Dwight Folts asking to be allowed time to speak at the September 10 meeting to rebut statements made at the previous meeting about the propriety of PDDG’s access to the DEIS in the Newman matter. [...]

Back to Work
Posted August 30, 2007 Between the start of the new school year and the need to write memos and FOIL requests in response to the variety of outrages at Monday’s Town Planning Board meeting, I have limited time to spend on this column. So, I’ll do you all a favor and keep it short. In no particular order, here are my observations on the return of Team Newman to our Mayberry on the Genesee [...]

Looking for Mr. Lamb
Posted August 25, 2007 As you may have seen in recent issues of the Livingston County News, Greg Lamb,’s most active reader in Florida (my Dad doesn’t use computers) and PDDG’s most dogged critic, has re-entered our local fray with another effort to discredit PDDG and advocate on behalf of Big Boxes. [...]

Appealing the latest FOIL rejection 
Posted August 16, 2007  For my column this week, I am providing the full text of the latest FOIL appeal that I filed this week with the Town of Geneseo. I think the letter speaks for itself. [...]

Newman DEIS Incomplete
Posted August 12, 2007 Last February, the Town of Geneseo Planning Board gave Newman Development Group a list of impacts it had to assess and reports it had to complete as part of the ongoing review of its proposal to build a Big Box Lowes in the Gateway District [...]

How to Zone Out a Big Box
Posted August 3, 2007 PDDG has now completed its initial review of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement submitted by Newman Development Group in support of its Big Box plans for the Gateway District. (It is available here as a pdf).What we found is that the DEIS is seriously incomplete, particularly with respect to the effects of another big box on traffic and commercial development [...]

The Silence is Deafening
Posted July 27, 2007 A few weeks have passed since the release of John Zmich’s affidavit stating Town officials thanked the Newman Development Group for writing the Planned Development District (PDD) law that allowed their Big Box proposal to be considered. Despite initial protests from Town Attorney Jim Coniglio, no admissions, no denials, no official statements, no explanations [...]

Past and future
Posted July 20, 2007 (Amsterdam, NL) With the benefit of a generous per diem from Corrin - but no relief from my duties as a columnist - your intrepid smart growth reporter has traveled to Holland and England this week to check out how the Dutch and British live, work, shop, and get around.
I’ve never been to Europe. [...]

A New Look at the PDD Law
Posted July 11, 2007 The recent published statements of Geneseo Town Attorney Jim Coniglio that Geneseo’s PDD law was based on laws in place in Perinton and Onondaga led me back to our law. Though I’ve already read the law more times than I care to admit, I noticed something in the often arcane language of the law [...]

Questioning the answers
Posted July 6, 2007 John Zmich has made a sworn statement that he was present at a meeting with representatives of Newman Development Group and representatives of the Town (including Town Attorney Jim Coniglio, Town Supervisor Wes Kennison, and Town Code Enforcement Officer Ron Maxwell) at which Coniglio thanked Newman attorney Ken Kamlet for writing the Planned Development District [...]

An Open Letter to Newman Development Group 
Posted June 28, 2007 Now that PDDG’s efforts to obtain the ten missing documents, or further evidence of the Town’s efforts to locate them, have been dismissed by Justice Taddeo, the logical next step is to go directly to Newman. [...]

Grading Geneseo
Posted June 21, 2007 Bad news, folks. As I mentioned in last week’s column (below), the site selection folks from Applebee’s have identified Geneseo as a “C” community. They gave Henrietta an “A” and Canandaigua a “B.” We got a C, barely passing in this era of rampant grade inflation.  [...]

Cheap gas
Posted June 15, 2007 Among the reasons given in support of Big Boxes and in support of Geneseo’s role in hosting Big Boxes is that gas prices are getting too expensive for people to drive long distances to shop. This point was made again at last night’s County Planning Board discussion  [...]

Special Column: Planning, Zoning, and Apple Pie
Posted June 11, 2007 According to yesterday’s article in the Democrat & Chronicle on our local Big Box battle, Town Supervisor Wes Kennison “doesn’t believe it is local government’s job to restrain trade.” To which I say, “then whose job is it?” [...]

Glimpsing our future in Oneida?
Posted June 7, 2007 The serious point behind the playful “Geneseo Yes, Genrietta No” slogan that PDDG adopted long ago is that the retail development that has sprawled out 20A is changing the character and identity of Geneseo. [...]

Another brick in the wall
Posted May 31, 2007 Probably my most commonly expressed refrain throughout what we now refer to as the Big Box War is that we shouldn’t have to be working this hard to stop something that is so clearly wrong and wrong in so many ways. Having now reviewed the results of a public survey concerning the Gateway District commissioned in 1999 by Supervisor Kennison [...]

What’s A Good Democrat To Do?
Posted May 25, 2007 With the unofficial campaign season now underway nearly six months in advance of Town Board elections, it is time for a conversation that I and others have had dozens of times by now to come out into the open [...]

A new anchor for Main Street
Posted May 17, 2007 -The pending relocation of Swain Sports, the locally grown and popular sporting goods store, from Chain St. to Main St. is a great development for Geneseo’s Downtown. Its new home in the now vacant Scoville Building represents the ideal marriage of a large, landmark storefront with an active local business [...]

Planning to succeed
Posted May 11, 2007 - Master plans were on the agenda at two important meetings in Livingston County on Thursday. In Geneseo, the Livingston County Planning Board reviewed the Village of Geneseo’s proposed new master plan. County Planning Board review is a regular step in the review of any new municipal planning and zoning. This review got off to an irregular start, however [...]

 Peace and Good Things - Posted May 2, 2007 - The much anticipated peace banquet, at which Town, Village, PDDG, and media representatives gathered on April 30 to begin to strengthen ties frayed by the Newman Development Group's controversial proposal to build a big box Lowe's was a lovely affair. A multi-course Italian-themed meal, sumptuous desserts, fine wine, and good conversation in the beautiful setting [...]

What is a Big Box? - Posted April 27, 2007 - For all the talk about Big Boxes in this column and in the larger battle to oppose Newman Development Group's plans to build a 170,000 square foot (4 acre) Lowe's, and all the talk about the problems with these Big Boxes, there has been a lot less talk about what a Big Box is. In an [...]

Washington comes to Geneseo? - Posted April 19, 2007 - Sometimes I get so focused on our local Big Box battle that it becomes the lens through which I see the world. Then I look at what is going on in Washington, D.C. and I see Geneseo, and I wonder whether I am seeing straight. When I look at our nation's capital, I see an administration [...]

The Flexibility to Pave Geneseo - Posted April 12, 2007 - Way back in early 2005, when the Town began talking about enacting a Planned Development District (PDD) Law and when I did not yet understand the depth of the Town's commitment to using that law to allow Newman Development Group's Big Box dreams to come true, I wondered why the Town was so eager to [...]

All we want is the documents - Posted April 5, 2007 - As you may have heard, PDDG has sued the Town of Geneseo to recover ten documents the Town identifies as missing and probably destroyed but that should exist and may exist. Though Supervisor Kennison is interested in portraying this action as “bizarre,” as intended to disturb the tranquility of our fair village in this time of [...]

The Advantages of Big Box Blogging - Posted March 28, 2007 - There is no doubt that the transition from the printed newspaper to this on-line forum makes it a bit more challenging for us to share the latest news in our ongoing anti-Big Box battle. As a result, we'll have to work harder to spread the latest word about Newman Development Group's plans to build a [...]

Unfinished Business - Posted March 26, 2007 - Over the past 18 months, in more than 70 columns, I and others have used this space in The Clarion to discuss the many ways in which Big Boxes threaten small towns and in which Geneseo is being sold out to developers. The consistent themes of these columns are that Geneseo's assets are far too many [...]