By Rich Place
The Concord Comprehensive Plan, a document more than a year in the making, will have to wait at least until next month to be approved following a public hearing last week.
The Concord Town Board hosted the public hearing Sept. 13 prior to its regular meeting and heard from three members of the public about the latest draft of the comprehensive plan by Wendel Companies.
The majority of the 15-minute hearing was about language the Gernatt Family of Companies wished to change in the comprehensive plan. Two other comments were about the priority of Rails to Trails in the plan.
Richard Pecnik, who represented Gernatt at the hearing, read from a three-page document he submitted to the board outlining various changes — from language alterations to minor corrections — to the Comprehensive Plan draft.
Perhaps most notably, Pecnik told the board Gernatt disagrees with language in the comprehensive plan that states, “members of the general public wished to see the Town do more to regulate future mining activities in the Town.”
He said he, along with two of his colleagues, attended two of the three public meetings about the comprehensive plan and heard no one outside of the consultant say anything that supports that statement. He said the absence of any public response to a question in the appendix of the plan about controlling gravel mining also supports the opinion.
“I have personally spoken with three Comprehensive Plan Committee members who told me that the committee doesn’t have a problem with the gravel industry and is satisfied with the current level of control,” Pecnik said. “The Draft Plan offers no summary findings from any resident survey or any other public solicitation of comments to support the statement in (Section) 4.3.”
There were also corrections needed concerning Gernatt’s Benz Drive site, Pecnik said, including the plan stating the property is zoned M-R, or mining reclamation. Gernatt has never had a mining permit from state DEC or from the town for Benz Drive, he said.
“Gernatt has never requested that the zoning of the property be changed to M-R, and to our knowledge was not zoned M-R when that zoning classification was created in 2012,” Pecnik said. “To automatically include it in the M-R zoning district, as the draft does, is inaccurate.” It should be zoned industrial, he said.
He also noted another site mentioned in the draft, the Belcher Road site, has never had mining activity and should be removed from the draft plan’s summary of land uses associated with mining. Gernatt formally terminated its mining permit for that site with DEC this year, he said.
There was also, among other changes, the use of the word “quarries” that should be changed because, as Pecnik said, sand and gravel excavations are not quarries and there are no known quarries in the town of Concord.
TWO OTHER AREA residents, Julie Francisco and Alan Chamberlain, commented about the Rails to Trails initiative being mentioned in the Comprehensive Plan as a “medium” priority. They both desired it be higher.
Francisco said the town of Concord needs to be cooperative with Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, other communities and stakeholders about the trail’s development. Town supervisor Clyde Drake told her “at this point, Rails to Trails has to take the lead.”
“We would like to see the agreement so I can have our attorney go over it and see if it’s as ironclad as they say,” he said about the agreement signed in August between Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail and the Buffalo Pittsburgh Railroad.
Chamberlain, who is also a village trustee and was on the committee primarily responsible for the Pop Warner Rail Trail, said that section of the trail has been a huge success after the village took a “leadership role” in its creation.
“I understand your position, you don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse, but it’s an agreement between the municipalities and the towns and the land (owners) and an agreement with the people developing the trail,” he said. “That mutual agreement between them is what makes this successful, not waiting for somebody else to take the ball and run it with it.”
Following the closure of the public comment period, the Concord Town Board discussed the plan briefly, noting the comments will go back to the Comprehensive Plan Committee again. It’s expected this will be the final time before approval.
“There were a couple valid points brought up so we are going to go back to the committee and try to work our way through those,” Drake said during the board meeting.
The Comprehensive Plan has been the subject of multiple public meetings dating back to last year to update the current comprehensive plan that is a joint one with the village from 1999.
The current draft of the Comprehensive Plan can be found on the town’s website, townofconcordny.com.
DURING ITS REGULAR meeting, the Concord Town Board approved two public hearings prior to its next meeting on Oct. 11. It will hold a hearing on CDBG grant proposal ideas at 6 p.m. followed by a hearing on the 2019 budget at 6:15 p.m. Councilmen also approved a special meeting at 10 a.m. Oct. 9 for the board to officially receive the budget prior to their potential approval two days later.
The next regular meeting of the town board is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 11. All meetings are held in the courtroom of the town hall on Franklin Street.