McMurray: Project ‘is dead again, back in its coffin’
By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray announced Thursday that the proposed Southpointe development project is “dead” and that the developers have informed him it will not move forward.
In a letter to the media (printed in full inside The Dispatch), McMurray wrote: “So, here’s the good news. After months of back and forth with my office and hearing from us the obstacles they will face getting the current version of their plan approved, the developers have informed me that they will not move forward at this time. Southpointe is dead again, back in its coffin. I pray that future boards will keep it there, with the wooden stake stuck deep in its chest. Happy Halloween early.”
Asked about McMurray’s comments, Earl Wells III, president of E3 Communications, consultants for the developer Harold Schertz from SRI, LLC, said: “That is not accurate; the project is simply on hold at the moment.
“I am not going to get into the reasons behind the decision,” Wells said.
Two council members who responded to an email from the Dispatch were unaware of the move.
Councilman Mike Madigan commented Thursday afternoon: “The supervisor’s office is unresponsive and withholding details from the rest of the board regarding the project and it’s status. This lack of transparency has been a chronic and a repeated problem since he was elected – truly outrageous behavior that is a disservice to his constituents.
“The lack of transparency from the supervisor’s office includes (Deputy Supervisor) Jim Sharpe, who rebuked me at an open workshop on Sept. 2 for informing the public regarding the project claiming I was ‘creating a circus’ – he asked me to stop. Jim stated this as we moved the meeting to the courtroom due to high public attendance and interest (conference room was to small).
“I have heard the issue that may have impacted the project is related to wetlands delineation, but this has not been confirmed.
“My suggestion to the public is to stay informed – this project is not and never was a done deal but it is likely not dead either.”
“A key lesson the community learned is that it has influence – a powerful fact that most elected officials and special interests hope the community never learns,” Madigan said.
“At this point, the supervisor’s office has not shared any information with the entire board other than what he shared online,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Baney. She said she found out about the reported withdrawal of the project on social media.
Baney and Madigan both raised discussed issues related to Southpointe in the work session meeting that preceded the regular meeting Monday.
Madigan proposed a moratorium to give time to review and update infiltration and inflow information and sewer data. Southpointe, if approved and built out, would add more than 200 homes to a wooded parcel near Baseline, Staley and Love roads and could comprise a neighborhood of 1,000 people.
Baney, liaison to the town’s Traffic Safety Advisory Board, discussed a request for an independent traffic study of the Southpointe development.
The decision by the developer to put Southpointe on hold comes after attorney Art Giacalone, representing four residents (Linda Hartman of Glen Avon Road, Nicole Gerber and Dave Reilly of Whitehaven Road, and Michael Szumla of Staley Road), spoke during the public comment period at the end of the Monday meeting.
“First of all, I want to say I was very happy to see the progress made during the workshop discussions on the town gathering and making the voluminous documents available for the public. And also that there were real steps to have additional traffic information gathered,” Giacalone said.
“With that being said, I have two requests. Number one, I’m certainly hoping that the town will not make any decisions, vote on any of the pending requests, until the public has had the chance to review the documents and comment on the documents.
“Number two, I believe that (State Environmental Quality Review Law) requires that the additional information that you’re gathering on traffic be done through the SEQR process with a supplemental environmental impact statement.”
He added regarding traffic: “I want to say that it’s important that the impacts of traffic not be just considered the rigid level of service kind of impacts that are being shown in the traffic effects study. ... That any new information needs to recognize that traffic impacts the quality of life of the nearby residents, and therefore the character of the existing neighborhoods. ... I’ve been doing zoning and SEQR stuff for 30 years now. It used to be that the traffic studies showed not only peak hours in the a.m. p.m., but all day long with the hours and for all seven days of the week. That’s how you truly know how it’s going to impact Glen Avon Road.”
Let the elections be the elections
At the end of the meeting Deputy Supervisor Jim Sharpe, who chaired both the regular meeting and the work session meeting in the absence of McMurray, addressed a comment from an opponent of Southpointe, that the voters would not re-elect those board members who do not represent them.
“In closing, I would like to comment back on somewhat of a disappointing comment that was made by somebody that indicated everybody who’s sitting up here isn’t looking out for the very best interest of Grand Island,” Sharpe said. “I can say, I have been working with these folks the last three and a half years. They do have intense conversations. They have diverse opinions. But I will say this, they’re all working strongly on your behalf. And they do diligently look at every detail that comes before them. Southpointe will not be anything less than a document that is thoroughly examined by the board and thoroughly taken on as long as it takes to get it right. And so therefore, let not the elections be a threat, let the elections just be the elections.”