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Ogdensburg consultant encourages debate over waterfront concepts

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OGDENSBURG — Green was on the minds of both city residents and consultants hired to work on Ogdensburg’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, but not the same kind of green.

While many residents speculate developing former waterfront industrial sites could create an economic boon for the city and place additional tax revenue into severely depleted city coffers, at a public planning workshop Wednesday evening, representatives from edr Companies of Syracuse suggested some of the properties could be used to restore and preserve the natural landscape along the St. Lawrence River.

“They admittedly did take a little bit of a left turn in the feedback that they had received from city staff, from the community and from the steering committee and took a different approach based on some of their fundamental planning beliefs and what they thought as outsiders would be best for our community as a long-term plan for development,” said Andrea L. Smith, interim city planner.

Jane E. Rice, a consultant with edr Companies, said the plans accentuated Ogdensburg’s best attributes.

“Our philosophy is to pay close attention to the community’s resources, including natural, historic, cultural and scenic resources,” she said. “If you stand on the Diamond-Shade Roller site, you get this spectacular view of the waterfront.”

“We pay attention to natural features, those are assets, and we make sure that communities are able to reclaim those assets,” she said.

At the meeting, residents expressed concern that they were not getting enough development in certain sites, and complained about too much in others. For example, the consultants envisioned a natural waterfront setting for the Diamond-Shade Roller site.

“The community is very savvy in understanding that they have an opportunity to reclaim their waterfront,” she said. “Our thinking there was let’s give them an oversized natural park for the city.”

Ms. Rice said her staff took into consideration all of the comments received by Ogdensburg’s planners over a series of waterfront workshops in the past, but intentionally deviated from some of the public’s wishes. She said the waterfront parcels were private industrial sites for so long that the city should seize the opportunity to create an accessible space.

“We really wanted to push the discussion further,” she said. “We really did push the discussion about what is wanted there and why it is wanted there.”

The idea was to preserve a piece of the waterfront, propose a project that could be completed quickly and attract businesses and tourists to the city, and not to detract from Ogdensburg’s core near the confluence of the Oswegatchie and St. Lawrence rivers, Ms. Rice said.

“We wanted to communicate our concerns about the potential for creating too much distraction or pollution from the final core of the city,” she said.

After the public response Wednesday, Ms. Rice and her staff will revise the schematics.

“It is going to take a few turns. We won’t hit the bull’s-eye the first turn out of the box,” she said. “We will revise these plans to further reflect the community sentiment and comments.”

Despite the criticism, the schematics may have altered the way some city residents view their waterfront, Ms. Smith said.

“We did hear from the community that there may be an interest in preserving some open space on that property, but not to the extent that was represented,” she said. “The concepts encouraged a very lively debate and discussion, and that is always a good thing.”

In January, Ogdensburg hired edr Companies to help finalize its Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan for a sum not to exceed $46,645. Ms. Smith said its work goes well beyond the conceptual plans for the waterfront sites.

“They have reviewed the draft policies that the planning office was working on, they have filled in the policies with some specific knowledge that we do not have in house and they have worked with the steering committee to draft those policies that will be approved by the state and adopted locally,” she said.

Ms. Smith said if anyone is interested in viewing larger copies of the schematics, the plans are available in the city planning office at City Hall, and copies also will be brought to the Ogdensburg Public Library.

The next waterfront workshop June 21 will select priority projects and move the process toward finding implementation strategies for the waterfront plans, Ms. Rice said.

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