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What's next for waterfront development?

WATKINS GLEN—The village of Watkins Glen and the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) held a spring 2010 Reevaluating, Restructuring, and Reprioritizing public workshop for the Lakefront and Development Strategy. This was held Tuesday, April 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the village of Watkins Glen Community Center on Clute Park Road in Watkins Glen.
Members from the Laberge Group, which specializes in engineering, architecture, surveying and planning, have also been added to help guide the process. Together they are creating a lakefront management and development strategy for the village’s waterfront and surrounding area that could affect 333.5 acres of a primary location and 329 acres of a secondary location.
About 50 residents, property owners, civic groups, business owners, community leaders, boaters, fishermen, those involved in real estate and all other interested stakeholders attended and participated in the workshop, to provide comments and feedback to help guide future projects and ideas regarding the Watkins Glen area and waterfront.
A Plan Advisory Committee for the development was present to provide an informative overview of the current planning process, a brief review of recommendations from previous planning efforts, an update on what was happening with each of these recommendations, possible changes to improve aesthetics, how basic organization can be improved, and the creation of green space, public access, pedestrian and vehicular improvements, and other redevelopment possibilities.
Over the past 20 years plans and ideas have been in the works to improve the village of Watkins Glen and over $31 million has been invested into projects. A number of these projects have been accomplished, including  The Harbor Hotel, racing museum, renovations to Clute Park, the bird conservation area and many more.
“There’s still a long way to go, but it’s a very exciting time,” Mayor Judy Phillips said.
This particular workshop was designed to help accomplish future goals that have been previously recommended, revaluate and reprioritize them into a preferred “Community Vision.” In order to gain a new and unique vision for the village of Watkins Glen, strengths and weaknesses need to be identified, characteristics need to be in balance, and natural and cultural resources have to be protected.
“We are not working with community that is falling apart…We are working with strong businesses that want to build upon their strengths,” Ben Syden, from Laberge Group, said.
Additional recommendations were also added and will build upon the current strategy in hopes to promote development and provide a sound plan.
In order to gather feedback from the community, those who attended participated in a small-group exercise. Large papers separated housing, promotion and economic development, access, parking, waterfront, downtown, recreation ideas, and new additional recommendations. Participants then placed check marks next to each recommendation as to whether they agreed or disagreed. Every person then chose their top three priorities from the ideas, and placed a dollar sign next to the one idea in which they would invest their money.
Among the ideas and recommendations were, building townhouse and condominiums on the lakefront, build a salt, wine or Finger Lakes museum, repair sidewalks and pedestrian access, re-pave and re-paint parking lots, build another or extend the current boardwalk, create a historic district, build a trail through Queen Catharine Marsh, streetscape, landscaping, and many others.
The most popular priorities included moving or getting rid of the current wastewater treatment facility in Watkins Glen, finding solutions to divert truck traffic, increase recreation along the Seneca Canal, and to improve the appearance of the housing stock.
“I hope everyone will stay involved,” J. Kelsey Jones, ex-officio of SCOPED said.
The Laberge Group, the village of Watkins Glen and SCOPED also want to try to extend the tourism season by two to four weeks, catch through traffic interests, solve parking issues, add signage, improve the entrance into Watkins Glen, streetscape, landscaping and make improvements to the area parks, and the downtown area.
A report on the workshop will be constructed within the next few weeks and will be available at
Another workshop with the community will be held in the future after a plan is constructed.
For more call Brian Williams, economic and community development specialist for SCOPED at 607-535-4341.


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