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Comprehensive Plan

About 50 Lansing residents attended a meeting Wednesday to learn about a revision of the Town's Comprehensive Plan (click here to download the current draft).  The last revision of the plan was approved in 2006.  Townspeople have worked on the revision for a half dozen years, but it is still not ready for final approval.  Comprehensive Plan Committee Chair Connie Wilcox joined the committee as Chair last year with the express agenda of getting it finished and approved, she hoped, by last fall, but intensive review by a variety of stakeholders has delayed it, and town officials now estimate that it may not be ready for approval until the end of this year, or the beginning of 2018.

"There are three basic ways comprehensive plans are created and updated: one is the Town Board does it itself," said Lansing Town Attorney Guy Krogh.  "The second way is that the Town Board refers it to a planning board.  The Planning Board does it, makes a formal referral and recommendation within 90 days.  Within 90 days of that public hearing the Town Board must also hold a public hearing, and then they make a decision within a reasonable period of time.  The third way is to refer it to a Comprehensive Plan Committee, which can be generally just about anyone.  This is a bit of a unique process, because Lansing chose to do all three."

Wilcox said it is Krogh who has 'put the brakes' on the process, and Krogh explained that because the Planning Board reviewed the plan so thoroughly, the 90 day period passed, causing him to recommend that the Planning Board hold a public hearing before passing their recommendation to the Town Board, which must also hold a public hearing before voting on whether or not to accept the final draft.

"It was started in 2012," Wilcox said.  "We worked many hours.  Last year we pushed to get it done, and we gave it to the Town Board.  They turned it over to the Planning Board to review.  The Planning Board has spent more time, I think, than they intended to, because they want to make sure everything is right.  They had 13 meetings and were very thorough.  A lot of people have put a lot of work into this, so, hopefully, we're on the right track."

Comprehensive PlanLeft to right: Town Attorney Guy Krogh, Comprehensive Plan Committee Chair Connie Wilcox, Town Planner Michael Long, Lansing Supervisor Ed LaVigne

Lansing Planner Michael Long laid out the history of the plan, starting in 1963 when the first version was created.  In 1997 a Right To Farm law was passed.  The last revision was accepted in 2006, and during the years since then other related issues have been addressed.  In 2009 the Town received an Agriculture Master Plan grant.  In 2011 a public information meeting was used to solicit residents' input.  In 2012 a large Ag district was created on the zoning map, covering about 25% of the Town.  Also that year a new Comprehensive Plan Committee was formed to create a new revision.  A telephone survey was among the methods used to learn what citizens wanted for their town.  At the beginning of 2016 Wilcox was appointed Chair, and said she hoped to get a final draft approved later that year.

It took a little longer than she had hoped for the committee's draft to be completed, by which time town officials had decided to pass the plan to the Planning Board on the grounds that that body is the one that enforces decisions recommended by the plan.

"To the extent that this thing has been vetted to death -- it has.  But there is still a lot more to go, and that's why I put the breaks on it," Krogh said.  "When the Committee had their public hearing and made a referral, the vision was that the Planning Board would do a relatively quick review, and within that 90 day period and prior to 2017 the Town Board would conduct its public hearing and go forward.  The Planning Board took a much deeper and longer look at it than the Town Board anticipated, and the 90 days sort of fell into the memory.  I view that as only a good thing, because the more people that take a deep, hard look, probably the better the better off the product is going to be."

Krogh said the Planning Board has spent close to a year reviewing the plan, updating language and maps, and so on.  Because they went beyond the 90 days, that part of the process restarts in a way: they must have a public hearing and then issue a referral to the Town Board, which in turn, must hold a public hearing before officially accepting the plan.

Comprehensive plans are not themselves laws, but they guide municipal officials as they create and adapt land use and other laws, essentially laying out a vision of the aspirations of the community.  When Lansing passed its Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan, one of the recommendations was that an Ag Committee be formed to develop recommendations based on the plan to the Town Board, which could then enact laws, pursue grants, and set policies.  Town officials would likewise use the comprehensive plan to drive new laws and initiatives toward goals set forth in the plan, making what residents say they would like to see happen actually happen.

Some residents were disappointed that citizen input was not solicited, but the meeting was more of a progress report than an actual meeting about the substance of the plan.  Maps and copies of the plan were made available, and a copy of the current draft and supporting documents may be downloaded from the Town Web site.

Krogh recommended that the Town Board vote on the plan two or three months after its public hearing to allow time to incorporate any last minute changes motivated by public comment.

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