PLATTSBURGH — Monday's public hearing will open the floor to in-person comments on the city's Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement, but some local boards have already voiced opinions of the 203-page document.
Last week, the City of Plattsburgh Planning Board held a special meeting to discuss the report and the regular session of the Clinton County Planning Board featured some talk on the document, as well.
Clinton County Senior Planner and GIS Coordinator Glen Cutter spent time late last week compiling the county board's remarks.
"There are a lot of comments," Cutter said. "I think our principle ones are about the parking and the impacts that that has on the downtown."
Written feedback from any entity will be accepted, via submission to the Mayor's Office, through Monday, Dec. 23 at 2 p.m and the public hearing will be held Monday, Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. in the Council Chambers of City Hall.
THE FULL REPORT
As a statute of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement process was a way for the City of Plattsburgh to review any possible impacts of its surfacing downtown projects.
Unlike other review processes, which would analyze the impacts on a project-by-project basis, this route was to take a collective look.
Late last month, the Common Council OK'd the full report, which was prepared by planning firm The Chazen Companies, kick-starting the public comment period.
A range of documentation had been included for each identified initiative, including photographs, project descriptions and project alternatives.
In the statement was also a summary of potential significant adverse environmental impacts and their mitigation measures.
Within that section, none were listed.
Copies of the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement are in the City Clerk's Office or online at https://www.cityofplattsburgh-ny.gov/604/DRI-Environmental-Impact-GEIS.
The 9 downtown projects analyzed within the report included some state-funded Downtown Revitalization Initiative ones and some non-DRI projects, too.
All projects were reviewed for their potential impacts to various city aspects, including:
• Community character.
• Zoning and public policy.
• Aquatic and natural resources.
• Municipal utilities.
• Traffic and transportation systems.
• Fiscal and economic conditions.
• Historic and cultural resources.
• Environmental contamination.
• Recreation and open space.
The City of Plattsburgh Planning Board was listed as an involved agency and, as such, was to review the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement and submit feedback.
The notes, and any responses to them, would later be incorporated into the finalized Generic Environmental Impact Statement.
On Wednesday, Dec. 4, the city Planning Board held a special meeting to discuss the doc and spent some time mulling the mixed-use development project slated for the city-owned Durkee Street parking lot.
That project, part of the state-funded Downtown Revitalization Initiative, has been subject to some scrutiny and a group known as the Plattsburgh Citizens Coalition has even threatened legal action over its current plans.
The city Planning Board made comments on the materials to be used for the development's exterior and how those would impact the community's character.
The board also discussed concerns with turning Durkee Street into a one-way traffic lane, which, per a recommendation from the city's Plattsburgh Parking Advisory Committee, has been a council consideration.
Planning Board member Maurica Gilbert, and others, felt such a change would be a traffic disruption in the city's downtown core.
An analysis, featured on pages 145 through 150 in the document, showed only minor changes in the level of service as a result of the possible change.
"The largest increase in delay is approximately 12 seconds for the southbound approach," the report says. "Which is an acceptable level of service. No mitigation is needed."
But, traffic studies aside, Gilbert was still concerned with the potential impacts there.
"I do disagree with what the flow of traffic would be," she said.
The city Planning Board made added comments regarding document language, pedestrian connectivity and the Plattsburgh Farmers and Crafters Market site.
The board also spoke positively of future city parking, which plans to take the Durkee lot's 289 spaces and spread them throughout the downtown district.
But the Clinton County Planning Board, per Cutter's remarks, didn't seem as sold on the idea.
In addition to parking concerns, Cutter said the county's board will submit comments regarding the combined projects's impacts on local businesses, downtown deliveries, street safety and more.
Though listed in the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement as an involved agency, Cutter said the Clinton County Planning Board was merely an interested party.
"The state decided years ago that county board reviews did not constitute involved agency action," he said. "We're basically an interested party that makes comments if they wish to do so.
"They decided to do that."
It will be later in the process that the county's Planning Board will vote to approve or disapprove the project.
"Which is considered an advisory decision by the state," Cutter said, adding that if given disapproval, the City Common Council would need a majority-plus-one vote to overturn it.
"Even though it can affect the local vote, it isn't authoritative," the county planner said. "It doesn't cause the thing to either happen or not happen."
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