COLONIE — A committee tasked with overseeing the Comprehensive Plan Review for the town of Colonie met for the second time last week, and tried to assure concerned residents that the continuing process would be both transparent and inclusive.
At the meeting, Joe LaCivita, the chairman of the committee, announced the committee’s recommendation that Colonie-based engineering firm Barton and Loguidice be selected by the Town Board to guide the process. Mike Welti, a representative of the firm, said that the Comprehensive Plan Review offers the town a chance to look at its current state of affairs, and zero in on the major concerns of residents. Welti, who worked previously with the town during its 2005 Comprehensive Plan Review, said that the issues addressed going forward need to reflect important community issues.
“We need to prioritize. That’s one of the things that can be really beneficial for this process. What are the things that we want to focus on year one, year two, and so on, and how do we organize ourselves to do those things?”
Welti predicted that it could take 10 months or more to have the plan totally finalized. In the meantime, his firm plans to have multiple public workshops that will focus on educating residents about the process, and the plan itself. He said he plans to meet with the review committee at least once a month going forward. He also mentioned possible school visits and roundtable discussions with town leaders.
“Community outreach is key,” Welti said.
Many residents at the meeting expressed their desire to see materials pertaining to the review process uploaded online quickly. Committee members pointed out that frequently, they’re only seeing documents for the first time during these meetings, and that privileged information such as proposals will not be made publicly available anyways.
However, Town Attorney Michael Maggiulli said that all documents that are not privileged will be made available. He also reiterated that he would be happy to meet with residents who are concerned with the review process and the town, such as advocacy group SAVE Colonie.
“This is going to be a very open process,” he said.
Jessica Mahar, a new resident of Colonie, cautioned committee members against becoming overly defensive when faced with the public’s complaints or criticisms.
“It’s very difficult as a resident to participate in this town when there is a feeling of defensiveness as the public participates,” she said at the meeting. Mahar, who has attended a few planning board meetings as well as other wcommittee meetings, observed that committee members tend to jump immediately to defending themselves against criticism, as opposed to hearing residents out.
“You know more than we do sometimes, and I get that. However, it’s very, very hard to participate when you come to speak, and you’re trying make your community better, and you’re kind of yelled at, or you’re dismissed, or you’re immediately attacked,” she said. “It would be very helpful if we could just adjust [the tone of meetings] a little bit.”
Town Supervisor Paula Mahan, who was also at the meeting, suggested that residents meet with her if they have questions or concerns with the plan review or town projects. She said that meetings will help everyone get a better “global picture” of where the town is, in contrast to where it was before.
“Now we all have to decide where we’re headed,” Mahan said.
The committee will have its next meeting on Sept. 21. All information about the review process thus far may be found at www.coloniepedd.org.