The Canandaigua City Council held its June meeting on Thursday. Due to COVID-19 the meeting was held via Zoom conference call and was simulcast on Finger Lakes Television.
The Council was originally scheduled to hold a public hearing regarding proposed amendments to the Canandaigua Comprehensive Plan. However, Mayor Bob Palumbo announced that the public hearing had been postponed until the Council’s July meeting on July 2, 2020, at 7:00 p.m.
The Council considered three resolutions and one proposed amendment to the Canandaigua Municipal Code.
The most controversial item on the meeting’s agenda was Resolution 2020-044. Councilmember James Terwilliger (At-Large) introduced Resolution 2020-044 which called for real property values to be reassessed in 2020 for the 2021 Assessment Roll. This resolution was a requirement of State Law and simply acknowledged and supported the annual reassessment process for 2020. Normally, Resolution 2020-044 would have likely been a routine action item for the Council, but COVID-19 turned it into an item that split the Council.
Councilmember Uebbing (At-Large) questioned whether the City should do the reassessment this year or wait a year due to COVID-19. Uebbing was particularly concerned that by doing the evaluation this year the City could be locking in property tax values that residents would have to live with for four years despite property values potentially fluctuating dramatically due to drastic market changes that may be caused by COVID-19. Councilmember Robert O’Brien (At-Large) stated that he would oppose the resolution because he believed the City should wait until the COVID-19 crisis passes. O’Brien was concerned that conducting reassessment in 2020 would lock residents into property values that are too high and felt that the City should not expend the $6,000 cost of the reassessment given the current sales tax revenue shortfall expectations. Councilmember Renee Sutton (At-Large) agreed that the market may look extremely different in a year and consequently felt that the City should hold off for a year on the reassessment process.
Terwilliger stated that he was also torn on the issue but believed that the City should go forward based on the City’s previous crisis experiences where property values remained fairly stable.
City Manager John Goodwin indicated that the purpose of a reassessment was to make sure all residents are paying their fair share of property taxes. Goodwin also stated that the State would reimburse $1.50 per parcel for the reassessment, which he believed would come close to covering the $6,0000 cost of the project. Goodwin also felt that indicators were that the Canandaigua real estate market was strong. Goodwin also indicated that the City could conceivably do a reassessment annually.
Since the State would reimburse almost all of the cost of the reassessment, Councilmember Dan Unrath (Ward 2) stated that he supported doing the reassessment in 2020 because it was the fairest way to make sure everyone is being treated evenly. Mayor Palumbo was the last to speak on the issue and stated that he supported the resolution.
When the vote was tallied Resolution 2020-044 narrowly passed by a split majority vote of 5-4.
Councilmember Unrath introduced Resolution 2020-042 which proposed that the Council hold a public hearing to obtain public input regarding a New York State Office of Community Renewal Project. The project was initiated to assist the establishment of a restaurant at 170 South Main Street in downtown Canandaigua. The project was funded with a Small Business Economic Development Grant from the New York State Office of Community Renewal. The proposed public hearing was part of the process to close out this grant project. The resolution scheduled the public hearing during the Council’s regular July meeting on July 2, 2020, at 7:00 P.M. and was approved unanimously.
Councilmember Uebbing introduced Resolution 2020-043 which proposed amending the 2020 agreement with Finger Lakes Television (FLTV) to increase the number of meetings televised by the station. The City of Canandaigua originally contracted with FLTV to broadcast all City Council and Committee meetings at a cost of $23,000 annually. The City also assisted FLTV in obtaining an additional $10,000 grant from Spectrum Communications for a total 2020 annual contract of $33,000. The COVID-19 crisis resulted in the City asking Finger Lakes Television to broadcast additional meetings that were not anticipated under the original agreement. To date, FLTV had broadcast six extra meetings and additional extra meetings were anticipated. The resolution proposed contracting with FLTV for the extra meetings at a rate of $490 per meeting and allocating $6,000 in unallocated outside agency funding to cover the cost of the extra meeting broadcasts. In addition to the per meeting cost, FLTV would charge a $2 per minute fee for closed captioning rebroadcasts of meetings. City Manager Goodwin stated the $490 per meeting was for a 2-hour meeting and that if the meetings lasted less FLTV would reduce the per meeting charge based on a pre-approved fee schedule. The additions would be implemented via a contract addendum. The resolution passed unanimously.
Councilmember Sutton introduced Ordinance 2020-002 which proposed amending Chapter 600-12 of the Canandaigua Municipal Code related to snow and ice removal services. The amendment changed the current ordinance so that charges for City Public Works staff having to clear sidewalks of ice and snow would be set by a Resolution of the Council. The ordinance amendment also mandated that residents would be charged for a minimum of ½ hour of work instead of the current 1-hour minimum. The ordinance amendment passed unanimously.
During the Council meeting, it was also announced that the City would not have its typical 4th of July celebration and parade this year due to COVID-19. Instead, the City encouraged residents and businesses to celebrate a socially distanced 4th of July by decorating their homes and businesses in the theme of “Unsung Heroes” for a community judged contest. Interested residents were asked to enter the contest by June 19, 2020, and were requested to have decorations up by June 26, 2020. The City posted details on the contest at https://www.canandaiguanewyork.gov/.
The City also announced that they hoped to open Kershaw Beach by June 27, 2020. The date is tentative and subject to the progress of New York’s COVID-19 reopening process. The City also cautioned that activities at the beach and the number of people allowed on the beach may be strictly limited due to COVID-19 reopening guidelines.
Denise Chaapel from the Canandaigua Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) indicated that BID canceled the 2020 arts and music festival due to COVID-19. The group planned to try and undertake small events as the COVID-19 reopening process allowed. Chaapel also shared that a new business, the Canandaigua Record Exchange, was slated to open in Downtown Canandaigua on Mill Street on June 6, 2020. In addition, BID announced that almost all restaurants in Downtown Canandaigua would try to reopen using sidewalk and rooftop dining options. However, BID wanted to explore limited closures of Phoenix Street because the sidewalks along this street were not wide enough to permit restaurants to have sidewalk seating in this area.
Finally, many at the meeting spoke positively about the Black Lives Matter protests that have been taking place in the City. Speakers were impressed by both how the protesters and the Canandaigua Police had handled the situation. Mayor Palumbo was a bit taken aback by some of the comments made at the protests about issues experienced in Canandaigua’s schools. He stated that he wanted to work with members of the community on those issues. In addition, Chief of Police Stephen Hedworth stated that he was pleased with the working relationship the Department had established with protest organizers and indicated that he was already talking with some of the protest organizers about working on issues that had been raised by speakers at the protests. Hedworth thought this would end up being a long-term effort. Hedworth was anticipating an additional protest on the evening of June 5, 2020, and based on communications with protest organizers thought it would be as peaceful and productive as had been the previous protests.
At the request of Corporation Counsel David Hou, upon adjournment of the regular Council meeting, the Council moved into an Executive Session to discuss pending litigation. The Council is next scheduled to meet on July 2, 2020, at 7:00 p.m.
Todd covers local government in the Finger Lakes. He has a JD degree the Lincoln Law School of Sacramento. Send tips to [email protected].