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DEBATE SPIRITED AT PUBLIC HEARING ON PARK PLAN

The head of a state association of campground owners led the opposition Wednesday at a public hearing on a proposed Cattaraugus County park viewed by local officials as a way to spur tourism.

Representing 236 privately owned campgrounds in the state, including seven in Cattaraugus County and five in Allegany County, Robert C. Klos, executive administrator of the Campground Owners of New York Inc., said Cattaraugus County already has 1,850 campsites.

"It is inconceivable that Cattaraugus County could even consider developing a park that would offer camping facilities," he said.

He was one of 25 people who spoke about a generic environmental impact statement prepared for a 400-acre site off Route 98 in Farmersville.

Saratoga Associates prepared the plan and described the details of potential development, economic impact and that it will not negatively impact the environment.

Proposed options include a nature preserve and developing some limited recreational facilities, a 20-person primitive camping area, 17,500 feet of trails and a picnic area.

A "full park build out" was described by the consultants as an expansion of the preserve and expanded developments funded by private investors including a 23-acre amphitheater, 18-hole golf course, a five-acre recreational vehicle camping area, 11 acres of athletic fields and an educational farm.

The site has been targeted by Integrated Waste Systems of Buffalo for development as a landfill and recycling center. The firm is in the process of seeking a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to begin construction.

Several Farmersville residents who spoke said the park would boost the economy by creating businesses and jobs.

Klos said his group opposes any new development that will directly compete with them, noting existing campground owners are taxpayers. He said local campgrounds are showing occupancy rates of less than 50 percent and can easily handle any more campers coming into the area.

The Dansville resident pointed out that the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in a statewide outdoor recreation plan indicated camping is not a recreational need for Cattaraugus County.

He listed 18 reasons why the county government would have a competitive edge over a private investor developing a park. They include being subsidized by public taxes, real estate exemptions, no motivation to earn a profit, self insurance and using bonds to raise money.

"Campground Owners of New York is not opposed to the development of a park in Farmersville," Klos said, but to the "use of tax dollars, grants and volunteer help in direct competition with any private enterprise."

Franklinville Mayor Judy Harrington was one of several local government officials who encouraged development of a park.

"We could see a renewed vitality" in the village, she said.

Franklinville Central School Superintendent Richard Wachter said the decision to go ahead with a park is a "no brainer." He said he was speaking "as an opponent of the landfill. You have a difficult problem, but I think you can modify it to appeal to all."

Gregory Photidias, attorney for Integrated Waste, said: "We urge the county to abandon this effort for a park, having already spent $300,000 in legal fees."

He said IWS has spent $11 million and needs only to complete another form with the state.

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