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What’s the hurry?

By Sharyn Duffy

I would like to respond to Ted Universal’s commentary appearing in the April 24, 2008 edition of the Livingston County News, entitled “Build that Lowe’s already.”  What is the rush?!  With the national economy in distress as he says and the county population not growing, it does not seem like the best time for a Big Box Home Improvement Center to be successful here.

Since building my home in the early 1990s, many large suppliers, Standard Builders Supply, Grossman’s Lumber, Hechinger, Builders Square and more recently Chase Pitkin have gone out of business in Rochester.  We are fooling ourselves if we think Lowe’s is immune to these difficulties.  Home Depot just announced that it is closing 15 under-performing stores and has canceled plans for 50 new stores! An empty Big Box would be a real blight on our environment and economy as we all discovered when the first Wal-Mart was vacant for almost two years.

Mr. Universal says that Lowe’s is going to sell us refrigerators, stoves, lumber and hardware, but we already have three appliance stores, a lumber company and a hardware store right here in Geneseo and many more in nearby towns.  This seems like a good example of robbing Peter to pay Paul, Inc.

Unlike the national chains, these locally-owned businesses put much more of their revenue back into the local economy.  The owners live here paying personal taxes and contributing to our charities, community and county.  I wonder if Mr. Universal or our local politicians have ever shopped them.

When building my home, I got the best prices on appliances from Livingston County Appliance and lumber, windows and doors from Nunda Lumber not the chains.  They also deliver and set-up without any surprise add-on costs and they are here to provide service if any problems arise.

Conrad’s and Geneseo Hardware & Rental carry specialty items.  Conrad’s, for example, carries a full range of Eureka vacuum cleaner bags. At Geneseo Hardware & Rental you can find Orek vacuum cleaners bags and parts and you can probably find that one bolt you need without buying a whole package.  Geneseo Lumber also has all the standard items you might need at spur-of-the-moment and usually at better pricing –and you don’t have to fight your way up Rt. 20a and hike across a huge parking lot.

I agree with Mr. Universal that Lowe’s did not cause Geneseo’s traffic problems, but they could be the tipping point that puts traffic way past tolerable, not to mention all the retail business that will try to follow which would bring even more traffic.  Lowe’s wants more traffic as does the County.  They do not care if our quiet residential streets and peaceful country roads are altered.

The County wants the sales tax.  The percentage of that sales tax that comes back to the towns is only about 5% and that is shared by all 17 towns.  Yet the support services and infrastructure costs will fall mainly on the backs of Geneseo taxpayers and those will be substantial.  Lowe’s will also get property tax breaks for ten years.  The estimated net increase in school tax revenue from Lowe’s is around $123,000 in the first year.  This year’s proposed local school tax levy is $8,925,034 making Lowe’s share less than 1.5%.  Hardly a dent!

Mr. Universal indicates that much of the traffic problem lies within the village.  This is true, but we people who live in the country on Lima Road seem to be forgotten.  Most of us bought property to be in the country and pay substantial taxes for the privilege.  Since I built here traffic and accidents have more than doubled.

Like many of my neighbors I keep horses on my property. The equestrian industry, both for hobbyists like me and larger commercial operations is an important part of our local economy, but it requires open space and peace and quiet to survive. We are rapidly losing that on Lima Road and throughout Geneseo!

I do not have current data, but in 1995 there were 11 reported accidents on Lima Road and 24 reported in 2004. That is just the reported accidents. I have had vehicles drive through my fencing and leave. Just in the last few weeks there have been three accidents that I know of on the road. Recently, around 4:00 pm on a Wednesday, a resident of Groveland was visiting in my driveway.  With surprise they commented “Wow, you really do have a lot of traffic here!”

With the construction of the new Super Wal-Mart on Volunteer Road there has been a doubling  of traffic using Lima Road with more commercial vehicles and commuters using it to avoid NYS Route 20A’s traffic and construction.  Perhaps it is easy to be gung-ho about having a Lowe’s when you live in other parts of the town that will have no impacts.

We need to come up with creative solutions to our traffic problems before they get worse not afterwards as Mr. Universal suggests.  What good is it to close the barn door after the horse gets out? We need to be proactive and not reactive. If you care about the future of our community, please contact our town planning board members and urge them to vote “No” on this project at the important May 12 meeting next week!