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Discord over master plan's existence fuels supervisor debate

The race for Orchard Park supervisor is starting to get a bit existential, as in "just what is a master -- or comprehensive -- plan, and why doesn't one exist yet?"

Councilman Stanley Jemiolo Jr., the Republican candidate for supervisor, argues that the town already has a comprehensive plan guiding the town's approach to development and that Orchard Park has already been utilizing a land-use plan finished in 2003.

"We are already implementing items from the land-use study," said Jemiolo. "The reason Eckerd Drugs is not being located on North Buffalo at Milestrip is because the Town Board had already changed the zone to prevent heavier retail activity. The land-use study calls for heavier retail use as close to the village as possible to support the village."

He said other actions, such as commissioning plans for a swimming complex at Brush Mountain Park and creating a trails task force, reflect use of the land-use plan.

Mary Travers Murphy, the Democratic candidate, sees the multiyear effort to complete the update as a campaign issue, and she says the town doesn't really have a master plan guiding its development.

"People feel that Orchard Park is getting away from us," she said. "They have this sense, because of some of the ugly development, commercial and residential, that the developers seem to be calling the shots. And I think that some of the residential developers are equally frustrated with the lack of a plan."

The town's comprehensive plan -- the term now preferred to master plan -- is expected to be completed in upcoming weeks, with public hearings and likely Town Board acceptance to follow in the next few months.

The comprehensive plan as used by the Town Board would be a blanket document linking things such as zoning, the land-use plan and other town materials.

Travers Murphy has released a statement that's sharply critical of the way the Town Board has handled the whole issue.

"Three years ago, the Town of Orchard Park paid $80,000 for a land-use study which has been collecting dust on the shelf ever since. In the last three years, residential and commercial developers have had their way in Orchard Park, and the town is powerless to stop them without a coherent master plan," she said.

Councilwoman Nan Ackerman, who has been responsible for shepherding the comprehensive plan, responded sharply, particularly since the planning process was paid for with a grant from Erie County.

"To say that we don't have a master plan or that we're letting people dictate to us is completely erroneous, totally inappropriate, and it's absolutely self-serving," said Ackerman. "If anybody thinks a document is going to solve all of our problems, they're living in a land of make-believe. It's a guideline."

Ackerman, like Jemiolo, is a Republican.

Travers Murphy said later her reference to who paid for the land-use plan actually referred to all taxpayers.

Supervisor Toni Cudney, a Democrat whose choice for successor is Travers Murphy, has sparred with the all-Republican Town Board over the plan and is still critical of the process, saying it's "indefensible that there's been no comprehensive plan put into place."


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