By Mindy MacLaren
The recent overwhelming response in favor of Saving Shadow Pines from development is proof that Penfield residents care about how development impacts quality of life, including natural spaces. While many of us were focused on the fate of the former golf course, other issues of concern were inching their way toward completion.
One such issue is the request by Glendoveer’s…the catering business and banquet hall situated on Old Browncroft Rd….to take out a hill in order to expand their parking lot. What makes this issue a concern is that said property is located in an ‘EPOD’ or ‘Environmental Protection Overlay District’. According to town code: “The purpose of the Environmental Protection Overlay District…is to provide special controls over land development located in sensitive environmental areas within the Town of Penfield. These districts and their associated regulations are designed to preserve and protect unique environmental features within the Town as much as possible, including but not limited to wetlands, steep slopes, floodplains, watercourses and woodlands.” Further: “An EPOD designation gives the town extra leverage in negotiation with possible development because of special environmental physical features such as pond, wetlands, streams, slopes and woodland which must be given protection from abuse by potential development.”
The hill in question is considered to be a “steep slope” EPOD and is zoned R1-20…single family houses…but the business located there operates within a “pre-existing non-conforming use” designation. Glendoveer’s claim is that “because the market for banquet facilities is competitive, they need to expand in order to grow their business.” Due to a “shortage of parking spaces, patrons are forced to park on both side of Old Browncroft Boulevard,” and they need to expand parking to 37 new spaces. In this instance, a lack of proper parking was described as an “unnecessary hardship;” more parking spots, it was stated, will serve the “public welfare.” With more traffic entering onto Browncroft Blvd….a stretch of road with a speed limit of 55 MPH…the case can be made that this decision would NOT serve the public welfare and, in fact, might endanger it. Our concern has absolutely nothing to do with Glendoveers, its success and need to grow; that is to be commended!
And, we are absolutely not against development. We are concerned about the permanent removal of an EPOD for a parking lot. What is the purpose of having laws, codes and regulations to protect sensitive natural areas (or anything else) if they can be overlooked? We are already seeing the fallout of this kind of decision-making along Empire Blvd. with 330 apartments along the southern end of Irondequoit Bay (another area of steep, sandy slopes and sensitive wetlands). To respond in favor of Glendoveer’s proposal means undermining the integrity of this EPOD. With potentially 3000-3500 truckloads of soil to be removed for 37 more car spaces, the steep slope is sacrificed. The interests of the business are privileged at the expense of the land. Only the Town can represent, speak for, and act on the best interests of the land consistent with town code.
We at The New Penfield Optimist are asking our neighbors to consider contacting the Zoning Board to ask them not to approve this parking lot expansion. If you feel moved to speak out on this, please do so ASAP as the next meeting of the Zoning Board is the evening of March 15, 2018. Any written comments will be entered into the public domain; please direct your email to: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we saw in the case with Shadow Pines, many voices get attention and eventually, action!