By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Pedestrian safety, traffic on Blodgett Drive and water drainage remained the top issues raised during a public hearing Wednesday night before the Oneonta Planning Commission.
About a dozen residents and others spoke during the 45-minute hearing at the Asa C. Allison Jr. Municipal Building. About 20 people, not including engineers and city officials, attended the meeting, which marked the beginning of the formal review of the Environmental Assessment Form, part of the mandated State Environmental Quality Review of the project’s impacts.
Newman Development Group of Vestal has proposed building a four-story, 330-bed apartment complex, Hillside Commons, starting this summer for occupancy in the fall 2014 term. The commission will continue its review of the developer’s Environmental Assessment Form at a workshop session Wednesday night.
The commission will have no more time set aside for public comments, but Chairman Dennis Finn said comments in writing continue to be accepted and entered into the public record.
During the hearing Wednesday, objections again were raised to the Common Council’s approval of a tax abatement plan with the developer, among other issues.
Attorney Steven Feuer, who also is a landlord, objected to the lack of a study by the city that would address the economic impact of the student housing complex. The project will cut his retirement income, he said, and the city’s idea that families will move into vacant student housing downtown housing is a “pipe dream.’’
The community will lose employees at management companies, Feuer said, and the developer will take money out of the area.
Several residents raised concerns the impact of construction and asked that residents be notified of the schedule and dates of large deliveries and unusual traffic.
The EAF review Wednesday night included 20 questions on the potential environmental impact of the project, from construction and use of water and energy resources to demand for municipal services, such as police and fire coverage.
The commission recently received comments from the State University College at Oneonta regarding pedestrian traffic, storm water management and access to recreational trails.
The Otsego County Planning Department also submitted a document with specific comments pertaining to the Environmental Assessment Form.
At Wedneday’s meeting, David Merzig, city attorney, reviewed the EAF questions, Delaware Engineering’s recommendations about whether there were environmental impacts and possible response “yes” or “no” responses by the commission.
Of the 20 questions, eight had “yes” responses and will be reviewed in more detail next week and with consideration of the college’s and county’s comments, Merzig said.
The 12 questions pertained the project’s affect on the physical site, surface or ground groundwater, aesthetic resources, transportation system, character of the existing community and public controversy.
Finn said he wasn’t sure planners would vote on the EAF next week because it is likely they still will have questions about impacts.
The commission must complete the SEQR process before considering the developer’s site plan application.