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Is there a conflict of interest on the planning board against the proposed VSM campus?

OPINION COLUMN

Southern also said there is no formal membership in the CPCS and therefore he is not a “member” of the group. He said he has attended numerous CPCS meetings in the past “because there’s lot of misinformation out there and I like to keep things clean and up front.” For example, he said that after the Nov. 1 CPCS meeting he spoke to a few residents about the proposed artificial turf field for the VSM campus. They did not understand the materials the turf was made from or the possible environmental impacts such turf could have, and he clarified for them the actual facts.

When I asked Southern a second time if he felt his comments were a conflict of interest, and I read him my report and his exact quotations from the meeting, he replied, “It could be construed that way I suppose. It’s just me as an individual. I’m on the [planning] board. If they have enough information to draw into question the decision we have made [on the SEQRA environmental assessment] I would request that it be reopened – just based on information that comes in after the fact.”

Southern seemed genuinely surprised when I first asked him if his “membership” in CPCS and his comments at the meeting were in conflict with his planning board responsibilities, and I have no intention to impugn his character, but to me this is a serious situation. Just because Southern is an appointed public official does not mean he is not also a resident and an individual, and I have no qualms with him attending CPCS meetings or even being considered a “member” of the organization. He has every right to do both things. Holly Gregg told me that Zoning Board of Appeals chair David Graham is also a “member” of CPCS – but Graham was not at the CPCS meeting and he certainly did not make any public comments advising the group on how to oppose a project in which he is directly involved. And therein lies the conflict of interest.

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Comments

teclo 1 year, 10 months ago

Is there a conflict of interest? You bet. There's a conflict of interest when people like this are allowed to push through their huge million dollar projects regardless of the concerns of neighbors and citizens. There's a real conflict of interests when the zoning board will deny someone from having a pool in the same area for no reason, but then blindly supports something like this. It's a real conflict of interest when a small shop is harassed relentlessly about hanging up a small sign in order to try to do business in the town, but a hundred acre development doesn't seem to be a big deal.

You don't think there's a conflict of interest when citizens show up to get information, ask questions, and express their concerns and they aren't allowed a voice? Or, how about being told that they shouldn't even show up? I didn't see you write a story about that.

Maybe Mr. Southern is the only one smart enough to consider that if there are so many residents concerned with this project and looking for a way to halt it, there might be a valid reason WHY. If you ask me it's about time someone from these boards starts having a little bit of concern for the residents who are trying to simply protect their properties, their village, the watershed, their tax obligations, and their communities, instead of just providing a secret backdoor allowance for every million dollar development that comes around.

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if 1 year, 10 months ago

What is it about this property that garnishes such protectionism. Residents have been against two past proposed uses and it appears these residents will be against any proposed use. The Town should just buy it and make it into a forever wild place so the issue is put to rest forever. Of course the taxes would have to be increased to cover the cost of the purchase - better yet instead of CPCS having a fund raiser for hiring an attorney to go "toe-to-toe" with VSM and hitting them in a good spot (what are we boxing?) use the money to start a fund to purchase the property. "Can't we all just get along?"

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twilliams 1 year, 10 months ago

I am writing to point out what I view as significant and troubling aspects of the “report” published in the Skaneateles Press concerning the proposed Victory Sports complex. Initially, I was amazed with the developer’s statement that the project was not a sports complex and the apparent lack of any curiosity by the “reporter.”

Perhaps it is “Not a sports complex”, with the exception of:

The outdoor athletic fields and recreational areas which will accommodate just about any outdoor sports available, such as football, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, softball, baseball and others …to be utilized by youth, high school, college and professional athletes and teams…

multi-use basketball/volleyball courts, a raised indoor track, group exercise studios, locker rooms, a café/cafeteria for staff and guests, a rock climbing wall, ropes course, indoor courts and fields for multi-use softball/baseball/football/lacrosse/field hockey, which “would be used for practices, games, tournaments, coaching clinics… “

outdoor, covered, multi-use basketball/volleyball and tennis courts, nature trails for hiking, walking, running and biking throughout the complex; and there are plans for playgrounds, ropes courses, and more ….

The representation that the project has not changed in scope also seemed to have been immediately contradicted by the developer’s representative when he acknowledged that the original building plans called for an approximately 100,000-square-foot building , versus the 232,000-square-foot facility now planned. If the reporter is interested, the Village in correspondence dated November 7, 2012 noted that the information provided by the developer to obtain a water district extension to the site represented that the proposed district would serve a 5,000 square foot medical office and a 10,000 square foot indoor athletic field building using approximately 20 gallons of water per minute. The Village recently noted that the actual anticipated water use of 807 gallons per minute is equivalent to the current maximum demand of the entire Village and Town water systems combined and would compromise service to the entire population.

Finally, the ridiculous assertion that a conflict of interest exists where a Planning Board member attends a public meeting open to all, in the presence of a television camera, a representative of the developer and the Skaneateles Press reporter should not be taken seriously when the same reporter failed to inquire about an invitation-only reception held by the developer with Board members which excluded many directly interested neighbors. Where is the hard hitting expose' about that?

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if 1 year, 10 months ago

Jason did not assert a conflict of interest due to the board member attending a public meeting. Jason pointed out the statements and commitments made by the Planning Board member to a group whom met to discuss a project the group opposes is the conflict of interest.

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