As the Canandaigua Area Development Corporation prepares to name a developer, details of a feasibility study for the lakefront development are vague.
As the Canandaigua Area Development Corporation’s (CADC) role in developing 21 acres along the lakefront nears an end, the group’s members remain mum on financial facts and figures associated with the $140 million plan recently dubbed the “North Shore” project.
CADC board members — George Hamlin IV, Canandaigua National Bank and Trust officer and senior policy advisor; Richard Sands, chairman of the board for Constellation Brands; Wegmans Food Markets CEO Danny Wegman; Steve Uebbing, former Canandaigua City School District superintendent; and Canandaigua Mayor Ellen Polimeni — all declined to comment this past week on a project feasibility study.
What is the feasibility study?
When the CADC came together as a group in September 2011 to work on the lake project, Canandaigua City Council passed a resolution to authorize a contract with the CADC and to appropriate $35,000 from the city’s community development fund to help the project’s first phase. The $35,000 was to be used to help cover the cost for the feasibility, marketing and infrastructure definition study. The study was to help determine if a previously conceived 2008 plan for those 21 acres would need adjusting for today’s economy.
But a detailed report regarding the facts and economic figures had not publicly materialized. And that leaves some wondering what has changed.
“I thought we were buying in to determine feasibility,” said Councilman David Whitcomb. “I assumed we would get some report.”
During that 2011 meeting, then Ward 2 Councilman Val Fenti pointed out that the city has partial ownership of this prospective study.
“That’s a good point, we have partial ownership of the study,” Polimeni said during that meeting.
Now, 20 months later, Fenti said the resolution with the CADC was passed with the expectation that something would come back to reinforce or redirect development along the north side of Lakeshore Drive. While Fenti is no longer on City Council, he said he still gets asked about the lakefront often by fellow residents.
“I’m disappointed. We had a a deal, we supported the resolution and I haven’t seen any results of it,” Fenti said. “I think the public is entitled to an update.”
The CADC also had a contract with the Ontario County Local Development Corporation, a not for profit organization formed to assist economic development initiatives in Ontario County. That organization granted $40,000 to the CADC to cover costs of an economic feasibility study.
A ‘tool for the developer’
According to Rich Rising, of HB Solutions, a manager on the project, there is no single feasibility study document. Instead there are individual documents that outline market analysis and land use and traffic assessments.
Page 2 of 3 - Money from the city and the county did not go to one specific area, Rising said. That money was pooled with the rest of the funds and used to complete phase-one tasks, including the aforementioned assessments.
The reason for keeping those documents private is not to hide anything, but instead because none of the data is final, said Andrée Mastrosimone, of Calm & Sense Communications, and a project consultant. She added that the material is just a tool for the developer to use.
On Monday, May 6, Richard Sands said the CADC hopes to hire a developer in the next few weeks. Once a developer is on board, details of the project will be worked out and shared with the public, Rising said.
At that time, the CADC will step aside, Polimeni said.
A four-page public document shared with officials this past March lists some players involved with the project, goals for the development, an update on a Brownfield Cleanup application and wetlands pre-permitting. The report also lists a financial breakdown of phase one.
According to the report, along with the $35,000 from the city, funding also includes the $40,000 from the Ontario County Local Development Corporation, and $45,000 from the CADC. Additionally, property owner David Genecco and members of the CADC have contributed more than $400,000.
According to Mastrosimone, the report was shared with City Council March 19. Mayor Polimeni was the person who distributed the document to council, she added.
While there was an Ordinance Committee meeting March 19, the report was not shared publicly with any council members during the meeting. When asked, Polimeni did not remember when or where the report was distributed to council.
Whitcomb said the report was delivered to his office.
“I remember reading it, there was nothing exciting,” Whitcomb said. “At the end of the day, they need math.” He added that the math he’s looking for is total cost, how much residential area is included and other salient figures.
The minutes for the March 2013 Ontario County LDC meeting indicates that Michael Manikowski, county economic developer, shared the phase-one report with board members during that March meeting.
It was shared with the Daily Messenger via email, following a telephone request from a reporter, on Monday, May 6.
The four-page report meets the requirement to share information with the city and its residents, Rising said.
The CADC declined to share any feasibility documents beyond the four-page phase-one report with the Daily Messenger, although certain documents could be deemed public information if it’s determined that Polimeni is on the CADC board as the mayor.
Page 3 of 3 - Polimeni’s office asserts she sits on the board as a “private citizen.”
However, a state expert in open government law disagrees.
Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, said if project documents were made available to the mayor, then they are subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).
“That entity (the CADC) is not covered by the Freedom of Information Law, but the mayor’s office is,” Freeman said.
“Is she there because she is the mayor — it seems as that is so,” Freeman added, “and (CADC documents she has) would be subject to FOIL.”