Onondaga County extends public comment period for amphitheater project
Residents have almost an extra month to weigh in on the initial environmental impact statement for the proposed Lakeview Amphitheater facility along Onondaga Lake. This move follows criticism among lawmakers and the public that the environmental scoping process for the $100 million project was rushed.
The timetable for participation in the environmental scoping process had gotten almost as much criticism as the project itself. New York state and Onondaga County want to build an outdoor amphitheater on the old Solvay waste beds that rise 60 feet above the western shore of Onondaga Lake.
Some community groups have concerns, but criticized the initial 30-day public comment period as being too short. Lawmakers Tuesday agreed to give people an extra 25 days to write, call or email their thoughts and concerns, and there will be another public hearing scheduled for later this month.
Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon thinks it’s enough time to sift through the 654-page draft document.
“I think it gives people the time they need to do their job, without being over burdensome, and just trying to delay," McMahon said. "We’re not here to delay things, we’re here to get answers and if we get the answers we think we’re going to get, or the answers that we feel comfortable with moving forward, we’ll move forward. If we get answers that don’t allow us to move forward, we won’t move forward.”
The chairman also thinks people might not be used to a public project moving along in a timely manner.
“This is the first time in my nine years in government, people have been criticized for moving too fast in government," McMahon explained. "I think it’s something rare and unique that we try to move closer to a private sector timetable. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I think that’s where a lot of the criticism is coming from. People aren’t used to seeing government talk about a project and then try to get it done in a timeframe that makes sense for everybody."
McMahon doesn’t think the extra time will affect the schedule of a project that’s been fast-tracked by the state.
"I don’t believe this will impact the timeline," McMahon said. "I think it’s more work, and more opportunities to get input from the public. But that’s not something that’s a bad thing. Hopefully there will be great feedback from the DEIS (draft environmental impact statement) that can be figured into the final environmental impact statement.”
McMahon says ultimately, between the scoping process, the final Environmental Impact Statement and the vote on the funding, there will be at least three more public hearings regarding the project. If it’s approved, work will get underway later this year, with officials hoping for a first concert at the venue by the end of 2015. The Amphitheater is part of a bigger economic development plan meant to boost the economic viability of the Solvay area.