Monday, August 4, 2014

On the Fairmount Properties and the Email from Pres. Herbst

by Margaret Maurer
William Henry Crawshaw Professor of Literature

“Fairmount will not be submitting new materials to the Planning Board by this coming Monday as originally planned, but rather, they want to take next week to talk to various members of the community about the things they heard and want to try to work through. 

“I will hold two campus forums for Colgate faculty and staff about this project, and I am also happy to talk with individuals outside of these forums if these times are not convenient.”

                         -- from an email sent by President Herbst to Colgate employees on August 1

            President Herbst’s generous offer to meet with colleagues on August 10 and 11 will doubtless stimulate productive discussions, and I for one will be part of one of them.  All of us who are concerned about this should be.  But at this time of year and with so little notice, there can be no expectation that the issues surrounding the Fairmont Properties proposal for the Wayne property can be resolved.  This is especially the case because of two important facts:

  • However the Fairmont Properties proposal is amended, the only reasonable course of action for the village to take at this point is to deny to issue the special permit.  To grant the permit will set a precedent for further arrangements of this kind being approved and will tacitly endorse behind-the-scenes deal-making in advance of any public proposal.  Amendments and guarantees will have no legal force, certainly not for the proposed structure and even less for structures that might be proposed in the future, citing this proposed one as a precedent.  If dormitory-style student housing is going to be built in the village, the procedures for contracting with developers to do so have to be set out in advance in accordance with some village discussions of the parameters of such a permit.  What Fairmont Properties is proposing to build is clearly prohibited by the zoning ordinance which Fairmont Properties is seeking to circumvent by special permit; and it would be unseemly for Colgate employees to be perceived as taking an active role helping the developer frame guarantees that will have no legal force.  I hope that whatever transpires at the meetings on August 10 and 11, it will be very clear that Colgate employees are not being enlisted to assist Fairmont Properties in persuading the village to take an action so very much against the long-term interests of the village.  Some of us live in the village, and so have a double interest in preserving its integrity; but all of us need to respect the village and resist being part of the “you” in what a non-Colgate villager said to me this morning:  “Of course it will happen; you guys can do whatever you want.
  • One category of Colgate employees, the faculty, have a subset of concerns relating to the strategic plan, which it helped to formulate, and other recent discussions about student life.  These concerns can certainly not be allayed in meetings of Colgate employees convened at a point in the summer when many faculty are away.  

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