To Postpone or Not To Postpone: An CRITICAL Assessment

Amherst Municipal Building / Amherst Town Hall

Town of Amherst 2020 Property Assessments Process Begins

Our new world of the Corona virus infection/COVID-19 disease has caused the Supervisor to order the cancellation and postponement of many significant functions of town government as part of his “A State of Emergency” powers.

http://www.amherst.ny.us/content/cancellations.php

Given that most of us are more concerned for the our own health and safety these days than the activities of the Town of Amherst or the Supervisor, this appears to be a prudent precaution. But in some cases the town continues to operate what it considers critical operations, albeit many times using Zoom video technology.

One of these critical operations the town has already started is our 2020 Property Assessments. It started today at 8 am (May 26th) with a Zoom meeting of the Board of Assessment Review.  Frankly, probably most of us had no idea that it already had begun.

Information about our 2020 Assessments can be found on the town website.

http://www.amherst.ny.us/content/departments.php?dept_id=dept_02&div_id=div_02&menu_id=menu_02

 

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Town Board Meeting Tuesday, May 26th

Amherst Municipal Building
5583 Main Street Williamsville, NY 14221

There is another Town Board meeting on Tuesday, May 26th at 4 pm. Presumably it will again be held using Zoom video conferencing, and recorded for posting on the town website sometime later this week.

Agenda: http://amherstny.iqm2.com/citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=14&ID=2663&Inline=True

Apparently this is the new normal for Town Board meetings. No more attendance or participation at meetings, everything we need to know is in the final video.

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Planning Board Meeting Thursday May 21st

Source: Z-2020-05_500 Maple Rd_052120_Drawings

Just a reminder that the Planning Board will hold five PUBLIC HEARINGS this Thursday May 21st at 6:30 pm via Zoom video conferencing.

Agenda: http://amherstny.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=14&ID=2635&Inline=True

The last two public hearings concern the preparation of 14.97 acres of the Audubon recreational area for sale to a private owner. The fourth public hearing is to discuss if the Comprehensive Plan should be amended to allow this rezoning (RC to CF).  Expect a quick positive vote with little discussion so they can move on to the main event of the evening, the rezoning request.

The fifth and final public hearing is to discuss the rezoning of a portion of 500 Maple Rd (Audubon) by Audubon Park MOB LLC, petitioner. Also expect a rather quick positive vote with little discussion. The deal to get a UBMD facility built on this parcel has been in the works for months. Over a year ago the town’s started the process to request that the State grant the alienation 93 acres of Audubon property in anticipation of selling some or all of it.

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He feels the NEED… the NEED for SPEED…

Source: Z-2020-05_500 Maple Rd_052120_Drawings

The agenda of the May 21st Planning Board meeting contains two public hearings related to the 500 Maple Rd rezoning that must be held quickly in order for the Supervisor to get his Audubon parkland alienation/UBMD/Westwood/Ciminelli/500 Maple Rd rezoning deal done on time.  But the clock is ticking, TICK, TICK, TICK!

How much time remains to get this deal done you might ask. The short answer is apparently 9 months after Oct 3, 2019. The Governor signed Senate Bill S6285A into law for the Audubon parkland alienation on Oct 3, 2019.


For those who want the messy details, let’s start with Town Board Resolution 2019-617 of May 20, 2019 which states at one point that …

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a signed MOU for the Town’s question of  Westwood must be in place within 9 months or the Town Board directs the Town Attorney to re-designate the Audubon property as inalienable parkland,  and

Resolution 2019-617:  https://amherstny.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?ID=20469

But it wasn’t until Aug 19, 2019 when Resolution 2019-990 was adopted that the unsigned MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) first appeared in public. This MOU contained a 9 month “Exclusivity” clause between the Town of Amherst and Bones&Guts, LLC, a legal entity insulating other involved parties.

Resolution 2019-990:  http://amherstny.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?ID=20882&highlightTerms=2019-990

Will the Town of Amherst hold true to it’s promise of a 9 month window to get this deal done?  The answer is  … MAYBE, it all depends how much we trust our Town Board to act with honesty and integrity.

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Saturday May 16th “Operation Thanks From Above” Led by Douglas C-47

Image Source: National Warplane Museum

The National Warplane Museum located at Geneseo NY announced “Operation Thanks From Above” led by its Douglas C-47 “Whiskey 7”. For those of us in Amherst the estimated flyover at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital is 11:20 am.

The two flight plans (AM and PM) cover a far more extensive area between  Syracuse and Niagara Falls, with flyovers of almost all the hospitals and medical facilities in WNY.

This is their THANK YOU to all the medical professionals and essential workers who have put their lives in danger to protect us from the COVID-19 viral pandemic we all are now experiencing.

Link: https://nationalwarplanemuseum.com/operation-thanks-from-above/

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Planning Board Meeting May 21th

The Amherst Planning Board will meet via Zoom video conferencing on Thursday May 21th at 6:30 pm. The Planning Board “public work session” is 30 minutes earlier at 6 pm.

According to the agenda the public will be allowed to participate this time.  At the last Planning Board meeting on April 23rd the public was not allowed to speak at any of the public hearings.

Agenda : http://amherstny.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=14&ID=2635&Inline=True

There are 5 PUBLIC HEARINGS on the agenda (2) for SITE PLANS (1) for SUBDIVISIONS and (2) for REZONING/BICENTENNIAL PLAN CHANGES. These last two (4 and 5) are by far the most widely concerning to all Amherst residents.

Property located at 500 Maple Road (portion)
Audubon Park MOB LLC, Petitioner

This is the comp plan/rezoning portion of the “UBMD deal” the Supervisor has been putting together. It started with the alienation of 14.97 acres of the Audubon recreational area by New York State. Where it ends is as yet a mystery. More details soon!

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Village Board to hold meeting, work session via Zoom on May 11


Image Source: http://walkablewilliamsville.com/

Zoom video conferencing will be used once again for a Village Board meeting with the Trustees working from home.

Comparing how these meetings have changed over the weeks becomes obvious, the Village has apparently adopted the Zoom video conferencing format of the Amherst Town Board meetings.

The Williamsville Village Board will hold its next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 11, via Zoom, a multi-user video application.

The meeting will be preceded by a 6:30 p.m. work session.

To view the regular meeting agenda, CLICK HERE.

The work session agenda is available by CLICKING HERE.
Read More …

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If a tree falls during a Town Board meeting can the public hear it?

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This saying comes to mind when thinking about the way our Town Board meetings are being run these days.

At 4 pm on Monday May 4th a Zoom video conference will be held among only our Town Board members, the Town Clerk, and a few support staff which the Supervisor claims is an official Town Board meeting. But one thing normally present at all pre-covid-19 meetings is missing, the public!

However if you read the agenda for this meeting there is still an entry for “Public Expression”.  This is a deceptive practice since it is impossible for the public to live stream and comment at this meeting.

Therefore, either remove “Public Expression”. from the Town Board meeting agenda, or allow the public to access the Zoom meeting. Anything else is hypocritical.

Agenda: http://amherstny.iqm2.com/citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=14&ID=2661&Inline=True

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Did the Amherst Planning Board violate NYS Open Meetings Law?

The Amherst Planning Board has changed its reasons for controlling public participation at it’s meetings. Why?

NYS Open Meetings Law: https://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/openmeetlaw.html


From the April 23rd Planning Board agenda …
http://amherstny.iqm2.com/citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=14&ID=2632&Inline=True

In accordance with an Executive Order issued by Amherst Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa, “Planning Board public hearings will not be required for site plan approvals, subdivisions, or recommendations to theTown Board (including, but not limited to, rezoning actions).”


From the May 21rd Planning Board agenda …
http://amherstny.iqm2.com/citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=14&ID=2635&Inline=True

In accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order 202.1 and for public health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, the Planning Board meeting on May 21, 2020 will be held via Zoom. The public will have an opportunity to view and participate in the meeting live.


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TRUST- the “glue” that BINDS the people AND government

Where PUBLIC TRUST starts!

One sad aspect of the closed-to-the-public government in the Town of Amherst during this time of a pandemic is going to be the possible lingering impression somehow town government likes it that way. This is not good for anyone, either the public or town government because it can erode the public trust of town government.

Historically public participation in town government has been lackluster at best, with only a few residents bothering to come to Town Board meetings, and even fewer to Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals meetings. Of course there have been times when public attendance at a specific Town Board or other meeting has been “through the roof”, but these are rare. The recent upset with the proposed changes to the Audubon Golf Course comes to mind here.

It is understandable that knowing that public participation at Town Board meeting is normally quite small that the Supervisor would conclude that there was no need to allow the public to “attend” a video only Town Board meeting. But the recent large and complex Planning Board and ZBA agendas tell another story to those willing to listen.  The Planning Board chairman can be heard on the April 23rd meeting video stating loudly and often that no public comments would be allowed based on the Supervisor’s Executive Orders to that effect.

One blatant example that comes to mind immediately is the seemingly fast and furious effort of the Planning Board and ZBA to move a specific project located on Park Club Lane as quickly as possible past all the hurdles it faced with little/no public participation or potential public opposition.  What makes this process even more suspicious is that the attorney for the petitioner and his support people were allowed to present their arguments for the project inactively over video while all public attendees were continuously muted and could only listen! At one point there were 52 people on this video meeting, but ONLY the Planning Board members, appropriate town staff, or agents for the petitioner could speak (i.e., were NOT muted)

The Town Board was also busy this year providing “Relief of Zoning Condition” for a project on Park Club Lane. Check out Resolution 2020-215  passed at the March 6th Town Board meeting just before the Supervisor’s first Executive Order of March 15th.

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