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Lansing Comprehensive Plan

The Lansing Town Board held a special working meeting Wednesday to iron out issues in the Town's Comprehensive Plan Update.  Councilman Joe Wetmore brought a number of concerns, especially regarding future zoning, he said should be carefully reviewed before voting on the plan.  But Supervisor Ed LaVigne said that many of them could be concerned in other deliberations after the Comp Plan has been accepted, adding he felt like the Board was being rushed into considering new issues when they already have a Comprehensive Plan in front of them that had already been reviewed and revised by multiple stakeholders and committees.

"We got these between 12 o'clock and 1:30 today," LaVigne said. "You're asking us to absorb a lot of information and make drastic changes that could impact a lot of things.  We've been going at this (revision) for six or seven years, and the Planning Board has been going at it for nine months.  I'm wondering if these are things that if we had more time to discuss them we could do that as we move along.  Does this have to be done before we approve this?, or can these be discussed later?"

Attorney Guy Krogh said the Town Board has the right to update the Comprehensive Plan any time it chooses.

"Let's say you did adopt this now, and two months from now you said, 'Nope, this should not be there - we need to amend that map'," he said. "Then you amend the map."

Wetmore said he based his recommendations on public comments.  Councilwoman Katrina Binkewicz advocated that the Board go through Wetmore's suggestions, but Planning Board chairman Tom Ellis said the zoning proposals in the existing draft of the plan were broad enough to pass the plan, and make changes when the time comes to consider actual zoning changes.

"I don't think you want to get involved in these very descriptive zones at this level," Ellis argued.  "It's the wrong message to send.  I don't see the need for it."

Before the consideration the public was allowed to weigh in once again.  School Board Chair Christine Iacobucci read a letter from the school district.  She said the Board of Education wants to partner with the Town as work on the comprehensive plan continues, and asked that school district representatives be included in all future discussions about the Comprehensive Plan.  She listed concerns about zoning around the district campus, that may impact traffic and safety or allow businesses to locate near the school buildings; housing that may impact enrollment increases; and growth patterns that may impact the crime rate.

Lansing Town BoardCounter-clockwise from front/center: Town Clerk Debbie Munson, Town Attorney Guy Krogh, Councilwoman Katrina Binkewicz, Councilman Doug Dake, Supervisor Ed LaVigne, Councilwoman Andra Benson, Councilman Joe Wetmore, Planning Consultant Michael Long

Planning Board member Dean Shea read a couple of comments from residents, asking to extend the process for another two to three months, and concerns about zoning the Bell Station land.  He added his own comment that any rezoning of Bell Station should include neighboring parcels to avoid the accusation of spot zoning.  Finally he urged the Board to vote on whether to accept the Plan as soon as possible.

"It has come to my attention that there is a half million dollars split between grant money and matching funds that will go away if the Comprehensive Plan is not in place by the end of May," he said.  "Given the previous commitment by the Board in December of 2017 to get the Comprehensive Plan done in the next two to three months, what is the commitment of the Board now, three months later.  Will the Board commit to get this plan done by the end of May, and, if not, how does the Board intend to replace, for the local taxpayers, this half million dollars in funding?"

Last week Board Members said they want to approve the plan by May 2nd, because not having an approved plan would take Lansing out of the running for a half million dollar grant for improvements to Myers Park that would include a second bathroom structure, reconstructing the pavilion near the kayak racks that is currently listing to the east, and to dredge and reinforce the side walls of the marina so it will be safe for boats to enter.  $250,000 would come in in-kind labor by the Town Highway Department, with the other $250,000 granted by the State.

Planning Board Chairman Tom Ellis urged the Board not to create an Environmental Review Board.  He said a similar committee, the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission (ILPC) has gained so much influence that it in Ithaca routinely halts or slows down building projects in the city.

"It's a step that's really not needed in this town," he said. "Is this the type of oversite we need in Lansing?  No, it isn't.  This is looked at over and over again."

After public comments, Wetmore said he thought his zoning descriptions describe 'what we want' rather than 'what we have right now'.  Binkewicz said the suggestions make the zoning suggestions more general so that there is more flexibility when zoning law changes are considered later.

In all the Board considered the proposals for over two hours, and agreed to consider them more in a working session appended to next Wednesday's regular Town Board meeting.  Krogh advised that so far the Board had not made any changes major enough to make changes in the environmental review, thus holding up approval of the plan.

LaVigne said he doesn't disagree with Wetmore's suggestions, but he would like to move forward with changes made Wednesday, and make further changes after approving the plan.  He said a paragraph or two could be added to acknowledge more changes are being considered.  Despite push-back from Wetmore, Binkewicz said the changes could be incorporated in six months, after approving the current draft in time to qualify for the grant, if the Board decides to do so.

"We have a working meeting in May," Binkewicz said. "Our goal is still to pass it in May."

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