By Howard Appell,
Livingston County News Commentary
When the Livingston County Planning Board gave its blessing to the Lima village/town Master Plan Thursday, it set a double-standard. In essence, the board said that it’s okay for any community in this county to ban big box retail stores, just so long as that community isn’t Geneseo.
Does the county planning board member who thought the board should “take the [Lima] plan as presented” because Lima citizens “had given a lot of time and thought” to their plan think any less effort went into the Geneseo plan? The county planning board turned down Geneseo’s plan because it felt the village doesn’t have the right to deny Livingston County the sales tax revenue a big box store can produce — and that’s fair. But somehow the planning board feels that it’s perfectly okay for Lima to deny county residents more sales tax revenue.
Make no mistake about it. A big box store on the Monroe-Livingston county line would be a bonanza, drawing unrealized revenue out of Monroe County — in fair trade for the thousands of dollars Henrietta and Rochester has taken from Livingston County over the years.
The notion that Geneseo’s proposed zoning would downgrade the commercial status of the Route 20A corridor is untrue. The proposed, new “Mixed” category accepts both existing and new retail stores, while allowing other uses to exist on vacant lots and lots where demolition has taken place.
On June 18 of last year, the county planning board wrote to the Village of Geneseo, explaining why it had disapproved its Master Plan. This letter cites Livingston County’s “vital interest” in Geneseo, the county’s “need for commerce and industry” and the importance of in-county shopping opportunities, especially for senior and lower income citizens.
Are we to think the county does not have a “vital interest” in Lima? That the “need for commerce and industry” has somehow ceased? That Lima’s senior and low income citizens somehow do not need local shopping opportunities?
In May and June, the county planning board meticulously critiqued the survey, which was the basis for the Geneseo Master Plan. Last week, no such scrutiny was applied to the Lima survey. In fact, the topic never even came up.
Robert Yull, the Village of Geneseo rep on the County planning Board, argues that the Lima approval is acceptible because anti-big box sentiment prevailed in Lima’s town election. His point is interesting, but flawed. Courts have ruled time and time again that planning boards should not be swayed by perceived public opinion.
If you are a Geneseo resident, county-level inconsistency should be of concern to you, whether your persuasion is for big boxes or against big boxes. For those against, it confirms your worst nightmare — that Geneseo is being systematically targeted to receive big retail development and all the traffic congestion that implies. If you are for big boxes, you should be concerned that the county is giving such substance to your opponents’ arguments.
It’s almost as if the county planning board is attempting to claim the same kind of jurisdictional power which the U.S. Congress has over the District of Columbia — with the implication that Geneseo’s elected village and town boards are somehow inadequate and inept at administering their community; that 26 strangers appointed by the Board of Supervisors can do a better job governing Geneseo.
Conclusion: Livingston County should be more careful about treating Geneseo as a “special case.” This applies to both slaps and perks.
This commentary appeared in the Jan. 17 issue of the Livingston County News and is reprinted here courtesy of Johnson Newspaper Corporation