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Geneva City Council meets virtually, discusses COVID-19 pandemic at length

The Geneva City Council met virtually via the Zoom conference call on Wednesday. The majority of Wednesday’s meeting was spent discussing the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis.

Councilmember Jan Regan (Ward 3) spoke of the City’s partnership with the Town of Geneva and BluePrint Geneva to develop COVID-19 resources for the community. Regan stated that what resulted from this effort was a new website (www.connectgeneva.com) that provides Geneva residents with a wide range of community resources. One of the goals of the project was to bring the community together virtually while practicing social distancing. The website is available in both English and Spanish. The partnership also established English and Spanish telephone hotlines to provide information to the community. The English hotline is 315-333-0399 and the Spanish hotline is 315-333-0382. Regan also stated that residents would receive a bright orange post card in the mail with tips about how to protect themselves during the crisis along with a listing of some of the resources available to the community.

City Manager Sage Gerling stated that emergency services are still operating and responding to all needs during the COVID-19 crisis. She also emphasized that parks are open for running and walking only and are not available for group activities. Gerling also indicated that the Foundry project had been designated as an essential activity and would continue going forward. Gerling added that a link for Foundry project updates would be added to the City’s website.

Throughout the meeting, Councilmembers unanimously expressed their support for the work being done by first responders and other essential employees during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Council only considered two substantive actions Wednesday. First, a resolution was presented that proposed modifying the deed restriction on a property that the City sold located at 97 Hillcrest Avenue, Geneva, New York. The restriction required that the property remain owner occupied for 5 years from the date of sale. The current owners wanted to stay in the property for at least 5 years when they purchased it from the City, but are now forced to sell the property even though they are only about halfway through the 5 year deed restriction period. A potential buyer wants to purchase the property, remodel it, and then immediately sell it. The potential purchaser asked the City to lift the owner-occupied deed restriction because he believes it would impede his ability to sell the property.

The proposed resolution generated considerable discussion amongst the Council. Most councilmembers believed that the deed restriction should not be lifted because it was designed to encourage owner-occupancy of properties sold by the City. Councilmembers were concerned that lifting the restriction would detract from the City’s goal of encouraging owner-occupancy and would limit such deed restrictions effectiveness in the future. While Councilmember Ken Camera (Ward 4) expressed that he was conflicted on the issue because he would like to see the property renovated but is also concerned that lifting the restriction would detract from the City’s goals, only Councilmember John Pruett (Ward 6) spoke in outright support of the resolution. Pruett argued that the best approach for the City would be to get the property remodeled and back on the tax rolls at a higher taxable value to increase revenue. Mayor Valentino said that he opposed the resolution because he felt that the policy of deterring landlord owned property remains valid to encourage building stronger neighborhoods. The Council voted to reject the resolution.

The second action item for the Council was appointments the Industrial Development Agency (Geneva IDA) and the Historical Districts Commission.

Carole H. Brown was unanimously appointed to the Geneva IDA.

The Council also unanimously reappointed Victoria Lehman, Sharon Best, Henry Roenke, and Tim Buckley to the Historical Districts Commission. In addition, John Brennan was submitted as a candidate for a vacant position on the Historical Districts Commission. Brennan’s nomination created some discussion. Councilmember Camera stated that he believed that the Council should not appoint Brennan because Brennan’s career as a developer was a significant potential conflict of interest. Camera expressed concerns that Brennan could use his position on the Commission to support or oppose other projects that might impact his own projects. However, other Councilmembers felt that there were adequate safeguards in place to ensure that Brennan would recuse himself from taking part in Commission actions that impacted his own projects. The council ultimately voted to appoint Brennan to the vacant Historical Districts Commission position.

The Council is next scheduled to meet on May 4, 2020 for a work session and May 6, 2020 for a regular meeting. The location of these meetings will be dependent on where the COVID-19 crisis stands at that point.

In other City business, prior to Wednesday’s City Council Meeting the Geneva IDA met. The Geneva IDA voted to approve a $25,000 expenditure for renovations at the Geneva Enterprise Development Center (GEDC) to permit Pretzel Logic to expand their current business operations at the GEDC.



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