On Wednesday Geneva City Council took action to increase winter parking violation fines, heard another ethics violation complaint against Councilor Laura Salamendra (Ward 5), and established a registry for vacant and abandoned properties. In other routine actions, Council, scheduled several public hearings, heard the first reading of an ordinance amendment regarding no left-hand turns, considered a resolution of opposition to Greenidge Power Plant expansion permits, and made several Board appointments. These actions took place during the same meeting where Council approved the Geneva Police Review Board (PRB) on a 6-3 vote.
Mayor Steve Valentino read another Board of Ethics complaint issued against Ward 5 Councilor Laura Salamendra. The latest ethics complaint related to Salamendra’s conduct at the November 30, 2020, Special Geneva City Council Meeting. The Board reviewed a total of eight submitted video clips. The complaint stemmed from Salamendra’s actions where she was said to have:
- Personally attacked Mayor Steve Valentino;
- Accused Valentino of ignoring her;
- Interrupted Valentino on multiple occasions;
- Disregarded Valentino’s call for “order”; and
- Made inappropriate comments such as “As long as you can get your jabs in Mr. Mayor”.
The Board reported that Salamendra responded to the complaint by stating that she was being treated similarly by her fellow councilors, that she was elected to “zealously represent her constituents” and “passionately argue her beliefs”. Salamendra also contended that sustaining anonymous complaints ran the risk of impinging on First Amendment free speech rights and discouraging other working-class women from running for a council seat.
The Board of Ethics concluded that Salamendra violated Tenets 3, 5, and 16 of the Geneva Code of Ethics. The Board recommended the sternest possible warning against repeating such disrespectful behavior and requiring Salamendra to issue a private apology to Valentino. Council took no action on this Board of Ethics complaint. In fact, Council does not appear to have taken action on any of the complaints filed against Salamendra or other Councilors.
Assistant City Manager Adam Blowers presented Resolution 13-2021 to Council which proposed increasing the fine for winter parking violations from the current fine of $20 to $75. The fine increase was proposed because of continued violations of the winter parking rules that make plowing streets difficult for the City. Council approved the new winter parking fine on an 8-1 vote with only Salamendra voting no. The new $75 fine will be enforced as soon as the City can have new tickets printed.
The Council also considered Ordinance #1-2021 to establish a roll of vacant and abandoned properties in the City of Geneva. The list of vacant and abandoned properties created under this ordinance would be a public document. For a property to be deemed vacant and abandoned, the enforcing officer would have to visit the property at least three times at different times during the day and each visit would have to be at least 30 days apart. The owner of property determined to be vacant and abandoned would have four months to appeal the determination. The vacant and abandoned property list would allow staff and residents to better track these properties. The process would also allow an expedited tax foreclosure redemption period allowing the City to take ownership over tax-delinquent vacant and abandoned property to get it back on the tax rolls quicker. Council approved the Ordinance on an 8-1 vote with only Pealer voting no.
Staff presented a resolution seeking the Council’s approval to abandon an easement at 280 Hamilton Street, which is the old Arby’s property on Route 5&20. The easement was originally placed on the property to facilitate City utilities. However, the easement had been determined not to be needed, and Council was asked to abandon the easement to facilitate the sale of the property. The measure required a 2/3 vote of Council for approval. Council unanimously approved abandoning the easement.
Council also passed resolutions scheduling three public hearings. The public hearings were all scheduled for the Council’s regular March monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, at 7:00 P.M. The hearings will allow the public to comment on the City’s proposed sale of property located at 107 Wadsworth Street and a small strip of land on Lochland Road next to Geneva By the Lake. The third hearing will consider the public’s comments on the City’s application for funding under the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The City may apply for funding for infrastructure, community planning, microenterprise assistance, housing, and small business and economic development activities. Each of the public hearing resolutions were approved unanimously.
Councilor Ken Camera (Ward 4) brought Resolution 17-2021 to Council calling on the development of a full environmental impact study before the Greenidge Power Plant in Dresden, New York is allowed to operate at full capacity. Camera brought the resolution to Council because the facility has a long history of environmental problems and the facility has proposed to significantly increase its output to run a datacenter for Bitcoins. The Resolution was proposed because many believed the expanded operation of the power plant would have negative environmental impacts for Keuka Outlet and Seneca Lake. Camera also argued that these negative environmental impacts would be bad for the Finger Lakes economy, particularly the tourism segment. Council unanimously approved the Resolution.
The Department of Public Works also brought forth a proposal to amend City Ordinance Sections 335-12 related to no left turns on North Street. The no left turn rules on North Street were enacted because of the proximity to a school building. The Ordinance proposes changing the no left turn time restrictions from the current restricted time period to 7:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. to 3:30 P.M. on school days. This change was proposed to be more consistent with school operations. The amendment also proposed creating identical restrictions when turning from North Street onto North Brook Street. The City would incur expenses of $300 for the new signage required by the amendment. Council approved the first reading unanimously. Before the Ordinance amendment would be implemented, Council must consider the ordinance amendment on a second reading at the March 2021 Council meeting.
In its final action of the evening, Council unanimously reappointed Mary Salotti and Ford Weiskittel to the Historic District and Structures Commission, and Tamarie Cataldo to the Board of Assessment Review.