This Editor’s Note was originally going to cover a lot of ground, as we’ve been collecting dozens of questions about government and economic development, but with a forum on the proposed $365 million incineration facility scheduled for Sunday, and the Romulus Town Board introducing a local law that would place a moratorium on zoning variances — we wanted to briefly address some of the questions posed to us by readers.
Many of these answers have been featured in various pieces of reporting on FingerLakes1.com, but this column is an update-and-merging of collected answers.
Q: Does a moratorium, like the one being considered in Romulus, prevent Circular EnerG from building the proposed $365 million incinerator?
A: It does until the moratorium ends. Typically it provides a governing body the opportunity to suspend a law, or regulation. In this case, it provides the Town of Romulus the ability to prevent the Zoning Board of Appeals from granting any zoning exemptions, which would be required to get the proposed facility across the finish line. The moratorium is only a temporary measure, though.
Q: What does it mean for this project in Romulus?
A: Well, it appears as though it’s an effort by the Romulus Town Board to ensure their code aligns with the long-term vision and values of the community.
Q: How expansive is the local law proposed in Romulus?
A: It covers a lot of ground. It would impose a six-month moratorium on all projects requiring approvals by the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Furthermore, the law would prevent issuance of any building permits or certificates of occupancy for any project requiring ZBA approval and reserves to the town the right to direct town’s building and code inspector to revoke or rescind any building permits or certificates of occupancy issued in violation of the local law. The second sentence is important, because it prevents any building permits or certificates of occupancy for projects requiring ZBA approval.
Q: How do these types of planning processes play out?
A: Developers create a proposal. That proposal goes to the planning committee, which is usually the most-difficult hurdle to clear. Due to the concept of ‘home rule’, a favorable decision on the proposal means a variance request would go before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). This are the first two steps of the ‘review process’. The County Planning Committee is involved in the process, but has no authority of denial. The bottom line is that the County Planning Committee can make a decision that runs contrary to the Town’s Planning Committee — but it doesn’t carry any weight. A referendum, if petitioned by constituents is possible, which would put the entire matter before voters. State agencies are also involved. In this case, the DEC plays a big role in making the project cross the finish line. It’s a long and complicated process, but the passage of the aforementioned law slows it down temporarily.
Q: Could this project go elsewhere in Seneca County?
A: There’s nothing binding or exclusive about this proposal. In theory, it could take shape anywhere. However, when projects of this size are being considered by developers — real estate availability plays a big role in determining project viability. Yes, developers could take this project elsewhere, but it likely wouldn’t happen ‘overnight’, like some have asked.
Editor’s Note is a monthly feature by FL1 News Director Josh Durso, which answers questions raised by our readers within major news stories. This column will dive into a wide-range of topics. Let us know your questions in the comment section below, or on Facebook and Twitter. You can also submit questions via email by dropping a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.