D&H Yards Debate Renewed
By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Anti-gas activists from around Otsego County returned to Oneonta Tuesday, June 18, with the same message: The environmental review to allow redevelopment of the D&H Railyards is not detailed enough.
And Mayor Gary Herzig repeated the same response he has since a stormy hearing Tuesday, March 5 at Foothills: If someone shows up with a plan to actually do something, a more detailed environmental review will be done.
In an unusual change in procedure, no public comment was permitted at this Common Council meeting before a 7-1 vote was taken accepting the final GEIS (general environmental impact statement) the state requires of any prospective development.
Then, as expected in advance reports, the Concerned Citizens of Oneonta and allies as far away as Cherry Valley accused Common Council of ignoring the concerns they’ve been raising.
Otsego 2000 President Nicole Dillingham, Springfield Center, said City Hall has not fulfilled its “function as a lead agency.” Instead, she said, “you have simply deferred everything.”
“Only handed-in comments were included in the study. Spoken comments were not, making it incomplete,” added the Citizens’ Colleen Blacklock, who lives in the city. “I don’t want to live in a community with this kind of plan. This is unacceptable.”
Herzig has said all 80 people who raised concerns have had those concerns addressed in writing, as required by the SEQR Act.
The sole supportive voice came from Dave Rowley, West Oneonta, the former city school superintendent: “Your process was incredibly open and I think it will lead to something great for this community.”
His remarks were greeted with applause.
Before the Council voted, Delaware Engineering Vice President Mary Beth Bianconi also tried to reassure attendees: “The intention of this document is to be a planning document or a marketing one. A developer will learn what barriers and impediments there might be to building on the site.”
Blacklock disagreed: “We don’t want to just have boxes checked.”
Herzig added: “It would not serve as final approval of a large industrial development. They’re simply adopting the document.” A developer would be subject to full environmental and land-use review, he said.
Another objecter, Rachel Soper, tried to tell Council before the vote that her comments had been left out, but Herzig ruled her out of order.
“It may just increase taxes for us instead of actually helping with poverty, she added.
Seth Clark, who is running for the Council’s Ward 4 seat, raised his concerns of the high poverty rate in Oneonta and the high number of stores and restaurants on Main Street going out of business.
“Amazon is probably the reason for businesses closing, and it’s happening nationally,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean we can’t brainstorm and find solutions.”