The Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Development will be able to offer minimal help to the town of Dunkirk as it develops a comprehensive plan. That was the word from that department's Mark Geise who attended a meeting of the town's Planning Board as it continued its examination of the process needed to develop a comprehensive plan.
Geise told the board a comprehensive plan was "more an art than a science." "Developing a comprehensive plan is a big effort, a big lift," he added.
Geise said it could be a 300-500 hour commitment if done by the board, or could run between $30,000-50,000 if done by a consultant. Possible funding sources, including grants, were discussed but Geise said he wasn't aware of any monies being readily available, including from the county.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Mark Geise of the Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Development attended the town of Dunkirk Planning Board meeting Thursday to let the board know what assistance his department could give the town as it develops a comprehensive plan.
Board member Craig Lyford asked if the county evaluates comprehensive plans developed by communities, adding he was concerned about a duplication of efforts.
Geise said the county has a comprehensive plan but it is not similar to what the town is looking for.
"Local comprehensive plans are very land-use intensive, the county plan had little to do with land use," he explained.
Discussion turned to state law covering the subject after which Geise pointed out zoning laws can be used instead of a comprehensive plan, although a comprehensive plan is generally the rationale that drives zoning laws.
The cost of doing a plan, possible financing options and avoiding duplication of prior efforts was an overriding concern as the meeting went on.
Geise was asked what the county could do to assist.
"I could see us helping to facilitate, advise or provide direction, I wish we could do more," he stated. "Defining scope of work, helping to define scope of work with you. We'd be helping out with what methodology you might undertake to get to the answers at the end. Helping you with developing the RFP, providing a list of potential consultants that you would reach out to, that you'd send this to. Reviewing of the bids that come in, help narrow them down, maybe helping review some of the documents that are produced as part of this comprehensive plan and some use with maybe the land-use section of the zoning ... and maybe even helping to develop the surveys for public coverage. ... All I can say is that to the extent possible we can help you."
It was noted Pomfret has completed its comprehensive plan while Fredonia's is nearly done. Portland is not quite as far along and the suggestion was made to ask if a representative working on the Portland plan could attend the next Dunkirk meeting.
"Where did you start? What are your frustrations?" board member Jay Warren suggested as some questions to be asked. Warren said he could check with Portland Supervisor Dan Schrantz to find out who the chairman and committee members were.
Town Supervisor Richard Purol joined the meeting at the end.
"Then we have to decide who is doing the comprehensive. Do I fund for just the board to do this or am I looking for volunteers?" Purol asked. "The town has to decide how we're going to work that out too. You can't very well ask town residents to be on the committee if you guys are getting paid and they're not, you know what I'm saying. ... there's a lot of things we have to discuss."
Purol added inviting someone from Portland was fine with him. He also reminded the board the town had not budgeted for such a study in the 2012 budget. He was asked if the town could come up with $30-50,000 over a two-year period.
"I don't know. I would have to see where we took that out of. Your comprehensive plan is going to have to mirror your zoning so what you decide you're going to do with the comprehensive, zoning has got to match it because otherwise you're shooting yourself in the foot," Purol replied. "Zoning would actually override your comprehensive anyway, zoning is your law, comprehensive is your suggestion. ... You've got to have some idea of what you want your community to be and to do and everything else, and this is what we're doing."
After the meeting board Chairman Doug Fenton was asked what the board was looking to accomplish.
"Basically, we are looking at a comprehensive plan because it's something we have not had in place in the town of Dunkirk and we know some of the surrounding townships do have that so we wanted to meet with Mark Geise from the county Planning Department to see what resources they could provide for us just to get the early steps going with the plan," he replied. "Basically it can run to an expense if you hire a consultant. We're hoping to get either, somehow get that expense budgeted in next year in the town budget and then also look for grant funding sources to help us with the consultant."
Fenton added it will be a time-consuming process that will involve town residents, public meetings and likely focus groups.
"It is going to take us a while to get it completed. These are the initial first steps," he concluded.
The planning board's next meeting is scheduled for May 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall.
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