Natural Resources Committee, Wayne County Master Plan
The meeting was held from 7:05 to 8:50 pm at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Newark. The following people attended the meeting, which was facilitated by Cynthia Hill, Master Plan Consultant, with the help of guest speaker Will Poppe of the Genesee Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council: Glen Wallis, Lyons; Dave Feindel, Williamson; Betty Hill, Williamson; Antje Dirksen-Post, Sodus Center; Kevin Scott, Wayne County Buildings and Grounds/Parks; Pat Sharpless, Arcadia; and Bob Van Lare, Williamson.
The next meeting was scheduled for July 7, 7 pm, at the Newark Cooperative Extension Building in Newark. The committee will decide in July whether to meet in August. C. Hill stressed that, while discussing goals and policies takes many meetings, the citizen-planners are forging a true consensus, which will form the backbone of the master plan. Besides working on proposed goals and policies, the consultant will work during the summer with Glen Wallis to map vegetation. She will also continue work on other maps.
Participants who were present at the last Natural Resources Committee meeting approved the May minutes without changes.
PRESENTATION BY WILL POPPE ON PROMOTING ENERGY EFFICIENCY
Poppe stated that energy efficiency lowers utility bills, which in turn helps keep capital within a community. As such, it is a tool for community development. Energy efficiency reduces pollution
in the form of smoke, dust, fumes, acid rain, etc. Coal is still the number one energy source in the United States, causing much pollution. Natural gas burns cleaner. Of the energy people consume,
50% is in buildings, 38% in transportation, and 12% in industry. Industry ranks second highest, however, if one includes their internal electrical generation in the statistic. These statistics indicate
an opportunity to significantly improve energy efficiency by decreasing use in buildings. Opportunities include using more insulation and more efficient appliances and equipment. Dirksen-Post reiterated that we could better control about 80% of our energy use.
P. Sharpless asked about the danger of increasing indoor air pollution as a side effect of energy conservation. Poppe will research this issue and get back to the committee.
Poppe proposed the following goal: Wayne County recognizes energy efficiency as an important planning principle for protecting our environment, strengthening community viability and overall quality of life through efforts to reduce the consumption of energy in residential, commercial and governmental buildings, and in vehicles and to support renewable energy sources.
The committee agreed to adopt an energy policy in some form. A contingent of the committee felt that government should use the market economy to promote energy efficiency rather than providing grants and funds for the development of otherwise non-economical energy sources. B. Hill suggested that energy efficiency be promoted through education.
The committee agreed that the County should promote a land use pattern that would enable cost-effective public transportation 10, 20, or 30 years down the road. While we have bus service now, many areas do not have enough people to make bus service economically feasible. As the County develops, however, we should encourage development in core areas that would support economical bus service in the future. In addition, we should encourage mixed-use development to allow people to walk or take quick bus rides to accomplish their daily tasks.
Poppe promoted sidewalks. A citizen gave an example of people turning down money to install sidewalks, voicing concerns over maintenance and liability.
Dirksen-Post promoted a policy that when the County retires a vehicle, the County replace it with an alternative fuel vehicle. Scott said that the Buildings and Grounds Department would not be able to afford such vehicles. Dirksen-Post refined her proposed policy to include vehicles for transporting people and cited expensive models in the County fleet that could be replaced with alternative fuel cars.
Poppe promoted environmental business practices such as those used by Harbec Plastics, including cogeneration of energy (using outputs of one industrial or agricultural process as fuel, for example). Feindel suggested that environmental business practices are only economically viable with governmental subsidies, which he doesn’t support. Others voiced support for projects that use methane from landfills as fuel.
C. Hill suggested that we focus on removing governmental regulations that impede private sector innovation, where such innovation would lead to more efficient energy-use and less pollution. Poppe is going to get us more information on what governmental regulations impede wise energy use and which regulations made it hard for Harbec Plastics to install its environmental equipment.
Poppe suggested the promotion of renewable energy sources (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) Dirksen-Post said that in Sodus a landowner had to take down a windmill because it made too much noise to be allowable under the noise ordinance.
Poppe said he would return if requested to provide more information on current governmental programs designed to provide financial and technical assistance for energy efficiency, including low interest loans, energy audits, and the energy star program.
LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS OF PLANNING
Feindel asked if a town had to compensate a landowner if the town down zoned his land, and if that compensation had to be for the highest and best use. The consultant replied that most towns hire attorneys to advise them because each case is different. Nonetheless, there were several principles that have been established through court case law:
Down zoning and other zoning changes are legal if consistent with a municipal master plan and if, when the municipality designates new zones, it clearly documents the public good that will be served through the rezoning.
Spot zoning (seemingly arbitrary designations allowing or prohibiting particular uses) is illegal.
Municipalities must provide a place for most land uses within their borders as long as such uses do not pose a threat to public health and safety.
Master plans and zoning ordinances that are consistent with the carrying capacity of the land, as determined by soil characteristics, slope, hydrology, vegetation, wildlife (endangered species), other natural features, water used for recreation and drinking, and the availability of public water and sewer, generally are legally defensible.
A town cannot take away all uses of a person’s property without providing compensation. Compensation from down zoning is not necessary as long as a landowner still can gain a reasonable return from his property. He does not have the inalienable right to use his land for the “highest and best use” as determined by the market economy.
The value of a development easement is the difference in the market value of a property before and after an easement is placed on the property prohibiting certain uses. The original market value is determined in part by current zoning and current market demand for similar properties. It is not necessary to purchase a development easement when down zoning unless there is a “taking,”
which means that the landowner no longer can gain a reasonable return from the property.
Pat Sharpless of the Legal Resources Committee has offered to provide insights of her unique experience as an Environmental Commissioner in Medford, NJ, which has one of the most legally defensible master plans in the world. The plan and regulations based on the plan have repeatedly been upheld in the courts because they are based on natural features of the land and the need to protect these resources for human use.
Several members of the committee promoted the idea of creating trails at the same time that governments install water or sewer pipes.
Several citizens, after the meeting, voiced approval of efforts to preserve the Gates property (115 acres) along Lake Ontario in the town of Ontario.