Michele Marconi’s Comments Delivered at the Last Town Board Meeting

A technical amendment to a statute or regulation is by definition a non-substantive change typically fixing misspellings or numbering errors.

It doesn’t change the meaning of the underlying law, but corrects a typo or provides needed clarity in some way. With a technical amendment to the towns zoning code, the change is not parcel specific, it is not associated with a building or an address. Meaning there is no notice to adjacent residents as required under the law because the location is masked. The impact is neither disclosed or discussed nor apparent to the general public. It is very difficult in real time to determine just what the effect will be if one is unaware of the projects in the pipeline. It is apparent in hindsight however and this move has become standard operating procedure in the run up to project approval by the towns development bodies. This is the 10th such technical amendment to the zoning code done in this manner.

A technical amendment to the zoning code is a standard play in a developers playbook and allows zoning changes that can be successfully concealed from the public in preliminary steps of project approval. The Planning Department proposes a series of seemingly innocuous amendments like the ones before you tonight which paves the way in advance for those hearings, like before the Planning Board which must discuss the specific property location in public.

A technical amendment is a back door way to grant a variance or allow a non-permitted use and skirt the public notice requirements under the law. Making it seem as if the project was consistent with the code all along.

The proposed local law before you have 6 sections changing the zoning code. I believe there is only one of the 6 that qualifies as a technical amendment, the clarification of an acronym. Section 2 specifies that LW1 means Live Work district. This is a non substantial change that provides clarity to the code without changing the substance. Section 3 might also qualify but it is hard to tell. Sections 4 5 and 6 are the most problematic with Section 5 being the doozy.

Section 5 is the shortest of the amendments and it says. ADD A CHECKMARK TO INDICATE INDOOR RECREATIONAL FACILITIES IS A PERMITTED USE.

Sounds harmless. It sounds innocuous. That’s all it says.

It’s not a renumbering or a correction for misspelling or clarity. It is adding a new use to a zoning classification that does not currently exist. A change in use is a substantial change in the zoning code. This is by no means a technical change. Section 5 adds an indoor recreational facility to all parcels in the town which are zoned RC. It will allow for the 5th sheet of ice at the Northtown Center and also allow for an indoor soccer or golf dome for example at Westwood as of right and changes the use for thousands of acres of land in the town.

With no public disclosure and no public discussion.

In one sentence, buried as a mislabelled technical amendment in a ruse.

It was with great fanfare that a scant 2 years ago, in multiple rezonings spanning several months that large swaths of parks and green space were rezoned by this board to the new category of Recreation conservation. The creation of the RC zone was well received by the community and viewed as an indication that the town board was serious about the preservation of parkland and green space from unchecked development. It was both obvious and delightful to many of us that indoor recreational facilities was not included as a use in the new RC zone. We took notice that indoor facilities were not listed.

There are only 2 circumstances which can reasonably explain why indoor rec facilities were omitted under RC.

Omission or commission.

It was either left out intentionally as RC is meant for outdoor activities and conservation or green space protection. OR it was left off by mistake, in error or incompetently. Regardless, whether it was left off intentionally or otherwise, adding it back in, masquerading as a technical amendment is an attempt to hoodwink the public in an underhanded way.

And while the TB has the power to approve the amendment before you, I believe you are obligated to conduct the publics business in the open. If you wish to rezone all RC parcels to permit indoor rec facilities, you should have a public hearing on that. If you wish to rezone the Northown center to allow for the 5th sheet and a hotel you should schedule a hearing with that as the topic. And include the $8mm the taxpayers are expected fork over.

But to rezone all RC parcels in this manner, masking the intent, outcome, and effect without disclosure, deliberately hiding the action, mislabeling it as a technical correction is wrong on its face and an improper manner in which to undertake the publics business.

I believe you should amend the proposed LL and approve section 2 only.

One Response to “Michele Marconi’s Comments Delivered at the Last Town Board Meeting”

  1. Lou says:

    This story reveals the corruption that is being masked by the so-called leaders of Amherst. Thanks to Marconi for exposing more treachery. It should not be buried. It should be the lead story. Who cares about Trump and the Pope. We should be focusing on Amherst, at this election time. We all need as much information as possible before choosing the next players. It is a cinch we don’t want clones of who we have. It is clear too party makes no difference. Pay attention to each player, not party.

    Looks like anyone feeling safe because of RC zoning is not at all safe because of the deceitfulness being played out before our eyes. Westwood and other golf courses, among other areas are in their crosshairs. Watch out..the money-hungry rapacious beasts are coming at you.