TOWN OF LANSING COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
From First to Last
Buried towards the end of Chapter 4 in the Town of Lansing Comprehensive Plan; is a paragraph that should have come at the plan’s beginning – a statement that reveals the true authorship and intent of the town’s future policy making:
“The best way to plan for the long-term future of the Town of Lansing is to decide regionally where the major commercial, educational, shopping, recreational, health care, agricultural, manufacturing and residential sectors will be located. The reality is that our municipalities are not in competition with each other; rather they survive in symbiotic relationships. We should build upon these cooperative relationships in land-use decisions as well, while respecting a town’s right to home rule. New York State Law delegates planning decisions to the town and city levels but does not forbid a more coordinated process.”
This statement unilaterally rewrites the whole structure of responsibility and obligation of town government; and directly contradicts New York State Town Law § 272-a:
“The development and enactment by the town government of a town comprehensive plan which can be readily identified, and is available for use by the public, is in the best interest of the people of each town.”
The Law clearly shows the intent of the law is NOT to make the Town’s comprehensive plan a “regional” decision.
“Among the most important powers and duties granted by the legislature to a town government is the authority and responsibility to undertake town comprehensive planning”
The comprehensive plan is an important “duty” and “responsibility” of the town government – and as such cannot be delegated or subordinated to other agencies or interests.
“The participation of citizens in an open, responsible and flexible planning process is essential to the designing of the optimum town comprehensive plan.”
The Town of Lansing planning process was anything but “open”; with citizen participation relegated to a scattering meaningless pre-planning activities – and offering NO participation for residents throughout the entire decision-making and policy approval process.
Lansing Town Government’s claims of public representation rests on a single telephone survey, prepared and administered by Cornell University’s Survey Research Institute (SRI) [See Ruler of All you Survey for a more detailed examination.] – A survey that was widely attacked by Lansing residents in a Town Meeting. The advocates of the survey retreated – and ended up by claiming that it was only meant to give an indication, and was not to be considered an important policy document. This same survey was later cited and used throughout the final Comprehensive Plan as both a definitive source and as a mandate from the town’s residents.
In this “Community Survey” – 365 town residents were cold-called on issues that had never been brought up for discussion or debate, to reply to a series questions that showed a definite bias in their preparation.
The Survey’s method of formulation and its inclusion as the Town’s only source of policy-defining public participation – shows the ongoing misrepresentation of policy goals and lack of ethical underpinning that pervades policy-making in Tompkins County.
New York State Town Law § 272-a:
“In the event the town board prepares a proposed town comprehensive plan or amendment thereto, the town board shall hold one or more public hearings and such other meetings as it deems necessary to assure full opportunity for citizen participation in the preparation of such proposed plan or amendment”
Everybody I talk to; everybody; believes that there is no meaningful participation by the people in either Town or County government — and the actions of government policy-makers to stubbornly continue insisting that there is meaningful public participation; while refusing to allow public participation and oversight; gives legitimacy to that belief.
The lead writer of the Town of Lansing Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan [from Cornell Cooperative Extension] publicly expressed the opinion that nobody but farmers “deserved to live in north Lansing” [an opinion that no Town official would rebut] – And the entire Plan was prepared while excluding 95% of the rural residents from any participation at all. This “Protection Plan” [including its policy of rural citizen exclusion] was then approved by both the Town of Lansing, and Tompkins County governments – and became an important part of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan’s “vision.”
It’s should be interesting for students of Tompkins County government to note how perfectly both the Ag Protection Plan and the Lansing Comp Plan dovetail together — with both supporting each other and claiming that the other Plan is essential to the success of their own.
Unsurprisingly; the 2018 Town of Lansing Comprehensive Plan echoes the exact same policies and concerns as the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan of three years earlier: Lansing Town Government has abjured their duty to the people of the town — and meekly acquiesced to the County’s primacy by accepting “planning at the county level”.
The Town of Lansing should post a disclaimer on all their documents stating: “No meaningful public participation was used in the formulation of these policies and regulations.”
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