April 15, 2012

A pearl of wisdom

Bob Pearl brought vision to Planning Board, officials say


PLATTSBURGH — Robert "Bob" Pearl has seen tremendous growth in the Town of Plattsburgh during 46 years of service on the Planning Board.

He was first asked to serve by then-supervisor Bernard Amell in 1966.

"I'm on my second Bernie as supervisor," he said with a laugh, referring to present Supervisor Bernie Bassett.

The chairman back then was Bob Lagoy, who was followed by Ed Coughlin.

After Coughlin became ill, Pearl served as acting chairman for a few years. Then Town Supervisor Arthur Lefevre named him chairman in 1986, a position he has held ever since.

The town adopted zoning in 1969 under Lefevre's administration. There was some opposition to the idea, especially in rural areas, where people didn't like to be told what to do with their own land.

Pearl said other parts of the town, such as Cliff Haven, had a large Air Force population of people originally from other parts of the country — they understood the importance of zoning to protect property values.

"I think Plattsburgh was the only town north of Glens Falls to have zoning," Pearl said.


That zoning was crucial, especially after the section of the Adirondack Northway from Keeseville to Canada that passes through the town was completed in the mid-1960s. The Route 3 corridor blossomed after the exit ramps there were installed, he said. The biggest early growth then was Pyramid Mall, finished in 1975.

That was followed by Champlain Centre North, Consumer Square and the demolition and redevelopment of Champlain Centre South.

The town recently completed a new Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Master plans, Pearl said, are often the dream of the people who create them.

"There's nothing wrong with having a dream," Pearl said. "You have a plan, and then things change."

The town is in the process of updating its Zoning Ordinance. That will help guide future growth.

Some of that is already taking place on Tom Miller Road, which is filling in nicely, Pearl said.

A big piece of the future of the town will be how the former Clinton County Airport is re-used, he said. The plan proposed by The Development Corp. would create a wonderful town center, with government offices and a mix of retail, residential and industrial uses, he noted.


Pearl, a Plattsburgh native, graduated from St. John's Academy. He attended Siena College until his father had a heart attack, then later graduated from Champlain College.

Pearl spent two years in the U.S. Army at Fort Lee, Va., where he was a physical-training instructor. He was next involved with Plattsburgh Dairy, a milk processing and distribution business that he sold in 1970.

Next, he was in business at Westland Homes, a realty business with about 20 properties. Pearl retired from that in 1992 and has spent his free time traveling and playing golf.

He has always enjoyed the training sessions required of a Planning Board member. Those provide a chance to learn from issues others have faced around the state.

It has been a pleasure to work closely with the many Planning Board and Town Council members he has known during 46 years, Pearl said. And he is proud to have helped the town achieve an orderly growth.


Pearl was the subject of public recognition at the most recent meeting.

That night, Bassett said the town is very proud of its Planning Board, but this session was a chance for individual recognition for service rendered.

"This evening is about Bob," the town supervisor said.

Town Councilor Martin Mannix read remarks that U.S. Rep. Bill Owens read into the Congressional Record on the floor of the House of Representatives.

"Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor Robert "Bob" Pearl for his 46 years of service to the Town of Plattsburgh Planning Board. Since his first appointment to the Planning Board in 1966, Mr. Pearl has served as a committed member of his community, dedicated to moving the area forward. Throughout his 46-year tenure on the board and as chairman since 1987, Mr. Pearl has time and again proved to be an invaluable part of what has become a major economic engine in the region."

Town Councilor Gerard Renadette read a New York State Assembly Citation from State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey.

It reads, in part, "in Bob Pearl we have an outstanding citizen, worthy of public recognition ... for continued dedication to public service and commitment to the successful development of the Town of Plattsburgh, and for improving the quality of life in the Town of Plattsburgh and the North Country."


Town Councilor Tom Wood read a Proclamation of Recognition from the Town Council, and Clinton County Legislator Sara Rowden read a statement of Recognition of Excellence on behalf of the legislature and signed by the three legislators who represent the town — Rowden, Robert Butler and Mark Dame.

Town Councilor Paul Lamoy presented Pearl with a plaque that says, in part, "your dedication and vision has made this community a better place to live."

Lefevre then took the opportunity to make some remarks about his longtime friend. He said because of Pearl, the Town of Plattsburgh has been second to none in making things happen.

"You have made a difference," he said. "Congratulations, Bob, on a job well done."

Pearl said he was surprised and honored by the recognition. He said it is a reflection of the entire Planning Board.

"I want to thank all of you for your constant attendance and interest," he said.

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