FLORIDA CITY – The Florida Planning Board on Tuesday resisted pressure to vote on a proposal to rezone roughly 500 acres of farmland to allow a business park in the city’s agricultural district.
The Planning Board indicated at Tuesday’s regular meeting that it intends to submit a Planned Unit Development (PUD) application to the Town Board, but members agreed to pay more attention to information from the applicants and opposing residents.
“I feel like this is being rushed a little bit,” said Planning Board member Peter Raya. “We are talking, we need a decision tonight. Is there a chance to go back a little bit and do a little bit more?
Val Ferro, principal planner with Good Earth Advisors, noted that the board is returning to its previous commitment.
“So now you’re changing your mind,” asked Ferro, the landowners’ representative.
City regulations give the Planning Board 60 days to make recommendations on PUUD applications. City officials believed the clock started after residents spoke out against the application after a public hearing was held in July.
Landowners Karen and Larry Francisco and Nadler Brothers Inc. have submitted a request to the PUD to rezone 500 acres south of the state in Ballston Spa from agricultural to industrial and commercial.
The land will then be used to build a business park on both sides of Route 30 at Thruview Drive and Belldons Road. Initial concept plans call for three warehouse-style buildings ranging from 300,000 to 2 million square feet.
The Planning Board must advise the PUUD for consideration by the Town Board, which has the final authority to approve or deny the application. The Town Board will hold its own public hearing before making a decision.
The Planning Board last month asked for feedback from project representatives over the allotted time, saying bad jobs would otherwise have been granted automatically.
After closely reviewing the law, City Attorney Deborah Slezak informed the board that the 60-day window will actually begin once all application materials and required information are received. That move came on Tuesday.
John Hutchison refused to take more time after promising the board would comment this week, but other members agreed more time was needed to prepare the recommendations, which should be presented as a report explaining the reasoning behind them. They called for a workshop later this month to consider the application in depth.
Ferro countered the request, asking if the city’s ordinance references holding workshops on applications. Slezak said the board has held workshops in the past to discuss various applications and issues as needed.
Disappointed by the business park’s concept plan and its “excessive” size, board member Stephen Vielle said more care needs to be taken into consideration, and he’s asking for changes that could make the project more palatable, possibly preserving more farmland.
“I don’t know what my options are for saying I don’t like it,” Vielle said. I want to look at everything and see if we are making the right decision.
Despite suggestions from representatives that if the PUD application is denied, the properties in question and, more importantly, surrounding farmland could be targeted for large-scale solar projects, Viele acknowledged that any decision could have ramifications for the city.
While this may seem mild to Ferron, she rejects the idea that residents should be allowed to participate in the workshop, taking into account the idea that she has “never had a snowball’s chance” with local residents.
“We’d like to debate with you, we have some ideas,” Ferro said. What we can’t do is overcome some of the polarizing emotions thrown at us that are completely unfounded.
In the rural farming community, residents have protested over the years that any agricultural land should be blocked again. Townspeople displayed signs against PUUD at Tuesday’s meeting.
Local residents have complained about the proposal’s loss of farmland, inconsistency with the city’s master plan, impacts on the countryside, infrastructure problems, an already strained emergency service burden, lack of pollution capacity, lack of community benefits and traffic. Busy area.
A petition was filed with the Planning Board last month calling the proposal an unwanted development that would irresponsibly rezone farmland to a PUD signed by 188 residents.
Land earmarked for the PUUD in 2014 was targeted for projects not normally allowed by zoning, including a proposal that drew the ire of many city residents.
Continuing her argument, Ferro suggested that since the public hearing had been held and closed, she should not consider further comments from residents on the PUD application. Slezak said that at the end of each regular meeting, local residents can discuss any topic on the board’s agenda during a public comment period.
When it was their turn, residents reiterated their concerns about the application and urged the board to have locals at the table during the workshop.
“Consider equal representation from the opposition, so it’s a balanced workshop,” said Ken Moritz.
Otherwise, Moritz argued, project representatives should be left out of the discussion because the board has all the information it needs to reach a conclusion on the application.
Resident Cole Nelson noted that project representatives will have multiple opportunities to speak to the board during the application review. Residents were given just one formal opportunity to comment on the still-changing proposal at a July hearing.
“They had a chance to keep talking, but none of us did,” Nelson said.
City Councilman Matthew Goggis, the planning board associate, informed residents that he would discuss with Slezak whether a public comment period could be held during the workshop to give residents a chance to be heard. He confirmed that the residents of the city could at least attend and observe the public workshop.
“We represent you, we live in the city,” Planning Board Chairman Michael Taylor reminded concerned residents.
The Planning Board will hold a public workshop to discuss the PUD application.
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