Yesterday's revelation in the Observer Dispatch answers a lot of questions and leaves many more unanswered. Who were the players, who knew what and when did they know it?
Back in 2005, 2006 and 2007, Joe Yagey was the Chairman of the Planning Board. Hans Arnold did not become Chairman until January 1, 2008.
According to town law relating to development of the Business Park, staff review includes the Superintendent of Highways (Roger Cleveland at the time), the Codes Enforcement Officer (Joe Booth), the Town Planner (Kurt Schwenzfeier) and/or Engineer (John Meagher) and the Planning Board Chairperson or their designee. The Fire and Police Departments and Counsel will be contacted for input as required...
In the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) signed by Larry Adler and dated January 15, 2005, it was noted that Larry Adler did not need any State, Federal or Local government support and he would be working with the Planning Board. That document also has a FAX timestamp of January 16, 2006 at 11:03 p.m. According to Planning Board minutes, Larry Adler stated he didn't purchase the property until late 2005, so did he make a mistake and the date he signed the SEQR was really January 15, 2006? Was it a coincidence that he purchased the property about the time that Earle Reed was elected as Town Supervisor?
According to Town Attorney Green's invoices, on January 18, 2006, Attorney Green billed the town for 2 hours @ $150 an hour (total of $300) for meetings with Roger Cleveland, Larry Adler, and Earle Reed regarding the proposed Business Park. Why was Attorney Green and Earle Reed meeting with Larry Adler prior to Mr. Adler's presentation to the Planning Board?
On January 26, 2006, Larry Adler appeared before the Planning Board for Conceptual Site Plan Review.
On February 6, 2006, Hans Arnold sent a memo to Planning Board Chairman Joe Yagey asking several questions that Mr. Arnold felt needed to be addressed as the Planning Board does their analysis. Mr. Yagey forwarded Mr. Arnold's email to the Town Planner. As of February 1, 2008 when Concerned Citizens FOILed all documents contained in the New Hartford Business Park Planning file, no response to the questions asked by Hans Arnold was found among the documents in the Planning Dept. file. Was this an oversight or were Hans Arnold's questions never addressed by the Town Planner?
Larry Adler appeared before the Planning Board on March 27, 2006 for a Preliminary Site Plan Review. The Planning Board agrees to send it out for SEQR and declares itself lead agency.
On September 11, 2006, Mr. Adler appeared before the Planning Board and received Preliminary Approval for Phase I of the project, and Final Approval for Phase I contingent on the developer providing an agreement for a future Town road.
On September 27, 2007, Town Planner Schwenzfeier sent a letter to Larry Adler informing him of the obscure town law whereby the staff has final approval authority within the Park.
At this point, Larry Adler is merely looking for a PILOT with no deviation; and at the November 7, 2007 OCIDA meeting, a Final Authorizing Resolution is approved for that PILOT.
The next time Mr. Adler is mentioned in the Planning Board minutes is at the January 14, 2008 Planning Board meeting. At this point, Hans Arnold is the chairman of the Planning Board and says that he will be meeting with the Town Planner, the Highway Superintendent and Larry Adler to discuss some matters. This is shortly before the town, school and OCIDA hold a public meeting regarding the PILOT/TIF agreement whereby school, county and town taxes paid by The Hartford will be used to finance the improvements in the Business Park rather than used to offset budget expenditures in each taxing jurisdiction.
So when did the town staff start meeting behind closed doors without taking minutes of the meeting? Was it after the letter was sent to Larry Adler by Town Planner Kurt Schwenzfeier? Did everyone feel at this point that they could use this Town Law to meet secretly to devise a plan for the taxpayers to foot the bill for Larry Adler's development? Who was at those meetings? Was former New Hartford Central School Superintendent Dan Gilligan involved in those meetings?
Was Town Attorney Green involved? According to FOILed copies of Attorney Green's invoices, on September 26 & 27, 2007, just before the Town Planner sent the letter to Larry Adler, Attorney Green billed the town for meetings and telephone conferences with Larry Adler, the Town Planner and former Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland. Is that what precipitated the Town Planner's letter to Larry Adler on September 27, 2007? Did they find a way to keep ALL discussions out of the purview of the public by meeting behind closed doors and not holding their discussions at Planning Board meetings?
Where does the New Hartford Business Park plans stand at this point? Concerned Citizens recently FOILed several documents from the Dept. of Transportation. We will be blogging in a day or two.