Much has been made of the last Seneca Falls Town Council election. Town Supervisor Lazzaro proposes that the election was a vote for Mr. Ferrara, Mr. Ruzicka and Seneca Meadows and a mandate that the future of Seneca Falls should be placed in their hands. I propose that the controversial election was, at its core, a vote against higher taxes. Who, if given the choice not to, would vote for higher taxes?
Well, over 45% of those voting did just that. This election was no mandate for Seneca Meadows. It was a scream from almost half of the Town’s voters who fear for the well being of their loved ones and the security of their largest investment, their home. They dread a future that may force them to leave a community that has been a long term home to their families, some for 4 and 5 and 6 generations. A home they truly love.
What should determine the future of our community and the taxes we have to pay is not the result of a single election but an intelligent plan that will create the best life style for us, our children and our grandchildren. I write this in support of the idea that that plan already exists.
Not that very long ago, partially in response to the loss of several long standing industries in the community, partially in response to a whirl wind of social change occurring at the time, most pointedly the Women’s Equality Movement, a beautiful thing happened in Seneca Falls. All elements of our town; its private citizens, elected officials, corporations and civic organizations worked together and against all odds brought $25 million of State and Federal investment to Seneca Falls with the creation of our New York State Heritage Area and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. Our plan was clear.
It was simple. Our best future should be based upon our healthy, safe environment, our abundant fresh water supply, our unique history and our perfect location to serve as a bedroom community for the ever encroaching Rochester- Syracuse – Ithaca urban sprawl.
As evidence of the impact of that sprawl consider that at the time Canandaigua was a sleepy little town with a dwindling business district much like Seneca Falls. Concurrently the winery industry in the Finger Lakes began to flourish. That unexpected phenomenon only bolstered the viability of the community’s objectives by bringing thousands of upscale new visitors to Seneca County annually.
In addition to all that the community rallied together to resist state attempts to replace Eisenhower College with a prison. That resistance payed off when local efforts, led by Dr. Kenneth Padgett, ultimately brought the nationally renowned New York State Chiropractic College to its new home on the former Eisenhower Campus. In short order, Bonadent Dental Labs brought a multi- million dollar new facility to the community where its’ amazing success story began. They are a perfect example of the type of clean industries that work with our overall plan. Our successes made Seneca Falls a respected and admired beacon for the region. Our citizens were wildly optimistic for our future.
Our sister communities within the North Finger Lakes corridor; Canandaigua, Geneva, Waterloo, Auburn and Skaneateles have selected the same path we did. They have been making the right choices and reaping the benefits. Their fortunes are rising before our very eyes. We, however, are losing our way. The reason is the dump.
It has become a complete distraction. It has knocked us off the exciting and visionary course we worked so hard to create in previous decades. It has caused a lingering sense of unease though out large portions of our population. Its’ perilous placement in the water shed of the Seneca River and thus Cayuga Lake will forever threaten the viability of our biggest asset, abundant fresh water. In light of the dump’s obvious inability to control its odor violations serious questions are now raised. Is this the first of many violations to come?
Despite what Seneca Meadows would like us to think, there is absolutely no guarantee that the dump’s technology can in the long haul protect the health of area residents from other more sinister forms of pollution. Can the release of life threatening compounds into our air and our ground water from one of the Nation’s largest accumulations of potentially toxic waste ultimately be controlled? Why are we taking this gamble? Is it the tax break from Hell?
I think it inevitable that these rising fears will, at some point, begin to negatively impact the value of our homes. If these fears become reality it will be our demise. If this past election said anything valid it is that 45% of voters want an end to the dump.
They are tired and fearful of the unnecessary complications and uncertainties it has brought to Seneca Falls. They realize that the price for their peace of mind will be paid for by some level of tax increase for some period of time but are confident that it will be controllable and money well invested to secure a healthy future here.
It will be monumentally imprudent and divisive if the current Town Council misinterprets or underestimates the depth of anger and frustration in that 45% vote. Any efforts on their part to extend the life of the dump beyond 2025 will not end well.
Home owners in that 45% seeing no end in sight for the dump’s existence and fearing for their well being both health wise and financially will be faced with a decision. Do they remain in a foul aired, potentially dangerous “dump town” for the rest of their lives or do they sell.
It is very possible that many residents, a good portion of them paying some of the Town’s highest taxes, will choose to bailout of their investment here at increasingly bargain prices. If the rush not to be the last one out the door gains enough momentum the glut of homes on the market selling at lower and lower prices could potentially create a massive drop in the Town’s assessment base. As a result, in order to pay the bills, those who do remain here will be left with much higher taxes and the dump.
In this tax payer’s opinion it is now totally obvious that Seneca Meadows is no friend to Seneca Falls. They have been lying to us. In an extensive interview with the Finger Lakes Times several months back, during a period of fever pitched community anger over the trash train issue, Seneca Meadows’s local spokesperson Kyle Black was clear.
He stated that all the mega- company was asking from the town’s people was the ability to continue receiving garbage until the end date set in their current contract. He asserted this would give the company time to recoup their front loaded expenses. I believe many of us saw this as a reasonable and fair compromise for both Seneca Falls and Seneca Meadows, took the company at its word and dropped our guard.
Now Seneca Meadows’s true colors are showing. They wave the saber of legal action over a law that was passed to assure just what the corporation had publicly asked from us. Their fear mongering and pathetic political antics are transparent, insulting and loathsome.
I think it safe to say that 99.9 % of the communities in the world exist without a landfill. It is ridiculous to think that Seneca Falls cannot. Together we will find ways to minimize the long term impact on our taxes by the time the dump stops active operations in 2025. This is all the more doable with the fortuitous development of the amazing del Lago Resort in our back yard. It is insane policy for Seneca Falls to foster or tolerate foul smelling air wafting over the multimillion dollar resort and its main vehicular approaches.
The situation could result in significant losses of revenue for the Resort and our Town. For example, the development of a magnificent outdoor swimming pool complex might help del Lago in its efforts to position itself as the premier destination for Finger Lakes vacationers. What is the likelihood they would pursue such a project if the Resort is repeatedly assaulted with stinking air? Will major convention goers support a return of their event to del Lago if their initial experience there is marred by the memory of that same stinking air?
Will they choose del Lago to be the hub for any future trips to Finger Lakes Wine Country if their attempts to tour the region from the resort are accompanied by hundreds of gigantic garbage trucks and the noise, dust and foul atmosphere they create? Wouldn’t the interests of del Lago and our Town and the whole region be better served if Rt.414 were free of major truck traffic and lined with Long Horn Steak Houses, Olive Gardens, Targets, Kohls, a multiplex theater and other bedroom community amenities?
We must do everything in our power to maximize the Resort’s success and the number of new taxable enterprises its fallout will generate. That fallout will certainly help us with our tax issues. In recognition of our commitment to do all we can to help del Lago be its best self, its owners might be willing to meet with community leaders to discuss the possibility of some form of short term financial assistance to our Town as we transition to a new, more suitable economic base for us and them. Together, with allies such as del Lago, we as a community can once again come together as we have done so many times before to assure our best future.
A first step in that process could be the enlistment of appropriate council to assess the feasibility of filing a counter lawsuit against the ownership of Seneca Meadows for breach of contract unless they cease all legal actions against us. Their facility has obviously become too large for the location it is in. Its management can no longer predictably control the negative impact the dump is having on the quality of our lives.
Its continued existence has now become a threat to the value of our homes and our competitiveness as a major Finger Lakes tourism hub and bedroom community. We can parade hundreds of citizens through any court of law. They will swear under oath that their lives and businesses are routinely insulted by the foul air generated by the dump. It would be a court case that Seneca Meadows knows they cannot win.
I am angered and saddened by what Seneca Meadows has done to the Town I love. It has caused justified and serious damage to our reputation in the eyes of our fellow communities in the resurgent North Finger Lakes Corridor. Its’ management has shown a disdainful and greedy disregard for our governing process. It has placed citizen against citizen, brother against brother, friend against friend and business against business. And, most tragically, it has taken much of the community pride, energy, joy and optimism, so prominent here just a few years ago, from our lives.
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