What are the concerns of the 'museum neighbors?'
KEUKA PARK—In June, Keuka Lake State Park was announced as the location selected for the proposed Finger Lakes Cultural and Natural History Museum. Property owners on Esperanza Drive, adjacent to the park, have expressed some concerns about the facility and its impact on the immediate area.
During a recent visit to the site, Esperanza Drive resident Lynne Kerwin spoke about several issues the residents (including 22 neighbors) have identified. Kerwin said she is not opposed to the museum, but at one point commented, “The quality of our life will be changed forever.”
Kerwin outlined several questions and concerns that had been brought up during a meeting between museum organizers and Esperanza Drive residents. Contacted by The Observer, Finger Lakes Museum Project Manager Don Naetzker responded to questions via e-mail. His comments follow the concerns posed by Kerwin. (They have been edited for space.)
Kerwin concern: The number one concern is that plans show the building on the shore, “Right next to us.” Neighbors question the location. A concept drawing that was released by the Finger Lakes Museum shows several buildings on the shore near the houses on Esperanza Drive. Esperanza Drive is about 100 feet above the site shown on the drawing. It also shows dockage for transient boats and a tour boat.
Naetzker response: Plans for the museum have not been developed yet. They will be developed early in 2011 after design, environmental and engineering consultants have been hired. Several alternative sites have been suggested including high on the hill near the intersection of Pepper Road and Route 54A, a site near the current park manager’s house, and a site near the gatehouse, among others.
A full environmental review process will be overseen by New York State Parks which will require us to address issues of visual impact, environmental impact, traffic, noise, light, pollution, impact to habitats, safety, alternative solutions and every legitimate concern that the public expresses.
Kerwin concern: Bringing private enterprise into the park. If there is a restaurant, with the park and museum, how many people will come to keep it open? Kerwin said there is no problem with a cafe, but a restaurant is another matter. A nearby restaurant had closed because it was seasonal and no buyer could be found for it.
Naetzker response: The museum will have food service as all successful museums do. Food service is part of the educational experience, and in our case we hope to make it part of the educational experience.
Kerwin question: A big dock is shown on the concept drawing. Will it be used for the Esperanza Rose tour boat and so people can come by boat to the restaurant? Before the early August meeting, the neighbors were not worried about the Esperanza Rose or a restaurant. Kerwin said, “I guess it’s because people who put the package together will benefit financially from the park. We don’t want it at our expense.”
Naetzker response: Plans have not been developed for any improvements yet. Our vision is for a low impact waterfront, consistent with the natural character of the park. Public access to the waterfront will be paramount to our and the state park’s objectives.
Kerwin concern: Control of associated commercial development.
Naetzker response: We signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with local “sponsorship partners.” A critical partner is the town of Jerusalem which controls land use laws. The town has applied for a planning grant to study the hamlet of Branchport and by creating a committee to study land use controls for the Route 54A corridor. We are proactively working to protect the agricultural, rural and natural character of the area.
Kerwin question: What about the cost of sewer and the potential burden on local residents?
Naetzker response: Our intention at this point is to utilize on-site waste disposal. We do not propose sewers, but would support the appropriate agencies if they were to study alternative public wastewater solutions. Our first concern is water quality.
Kerwin concern: Lake ecology and water quality impacts.
Naetzker response: The museum is being established on the premise of protecting the Finger Lakes for our children. The Keuka Lake campus will incorporate innovative storm water practices.
Kerwin concern: Possible demolition of park manager’s house. There has been discussion of that being part of the plan. If that happens, it is not planned until 2013. Yates County has agreed to assist with the cost if the building is removed.
Naetzker response: The state has offered the park manager’s house area as part of the museum site. Depending on the final master plan, museum location and museum design, the house could remain as it is, could be incorporated into the museum site or could be demolished.
Esperanza Road resident Gary Montgomery has spoken to the Yates County Legislature about his concerns. They include the projected number of visitors and their impact on local roads. He said sales tax benefits to Yates County would be eaten up by damage to roads. He said he is not for or against the museum, but wants information.
Earlier this year, the figure of 250,000 visitors was talked about by some people. A local resident stated that number during an informational meeting about the museum at Fulkerson Winery Aug. 26. Contacted Sept. 27, Board President John Adamski said that figure was one that had been heard as a possible “greatest” number. He said the large number was not in museum attendance projections.
The Wild Center in Tupper Lake had 77,000 visitors last year. That facility opened in 2006 and Finger Lakes Museum organizers have received assistance in planning from The Wild Center. The Finger Lakes Museum will be a similar type of museum but will focus on the natural history and culture of the entire Finger Lakes region.