OLEAN — City officials will ask Cattaraugus County to chip in toward a new comprehensive plan.
The Common Council on Tuesday unanimously authorized Mayor Bill Aiello to apply for $10,000 in assistance through the county’s Municipal Matching Grant Program to help fund a $100,000 20-year plan update.
“I think this is really one of the most critical needs we have in the city — to guide the ship for the next 20 years,” said council President John Crawford, D-Ward 5, thanking the county for having such funding available to municipalities. .
Comprehensive plans provide high-level overviews of community assets, challenges, and guiding principles for future development. Government and nonprofit grant programs often require a comprehensive plan be in place before application, and evidence provided that grant funds will be used to further goals in the plan.
The current comprehensive plan was approved in 2005, with a 2025 planned expiration date. Several key goals in the current plan have been met, officials agree, including concerted efforts to improve brownfield areas in North Olean, revitalize the downtown corridor, expansion of activities involving the Allegheny River and the city’s park systems, expanding educational assets and promoting health care systems.
While the document has proven useful, city officials agree, it is widely considered to be outdated and in need of replacement. Not only did the document not include the Walkable Olean projects — which were begun nine years into the plan’s lifespan — lists of community resources are full of businesses long closed and decades-old computer systems that have been out of service for almost the entire life of the document.
City officials have also noted an updated plan will help guide redevelopment of sites in North Olean now occupied by Siemens Energy manufacturing, which is closing later this year.
In December, the state announced $40,000 from the 2021 Consolidated Funding Application and $50,000 from Empire State Development for the plan. The sources require a 10% match, or $10,000 for the $100,000 project.
The county program, which run for several years, aims to assist municipalities with at least some of the matching funds typically required by grant programs at the state and federal levels. Matches vary widely depending on the source, from a 5% to 50% local share common.
If the county offers assistance, the cost to city taxpayers is expected to be zero. Otherwise, aldermen will need to find the remaining funds, whether from the annual contingency line in the city budget, from unallocated fund balance or another source.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, aldermen approved the city’s status as lead agency on the Oak Hill Park project, as well as a mandated State Environmental Quality Review declaring no adverse impact on the environment from the proposed $500,000 project in the park.
The project includes an outdoor theater pavilion in cooperation with Olean Theatre Workshop, a dog park, restroom facilities, and overhauls of the ball courts at the park.
Six aldermen approved the resolution, with freshman council member Sonya McCall, D-Ward 4, voting against.
McCall, whose ward includes the park, said she has had discussions with four residents who have concerns over the project, specifically a planned dog park which is expected to bring more people to the park.
“There is significant concern about parking,” she said, with residents concerned over additional traffic concerns with nearby Olean High School.
Crawford said that while it is a concern, an online survey of more than 200 participants conducted in 2020 showed that including a dog park was the highest-rated part of the project, and noted that he has received no recent comments against the project.
“This has probably been discussed off and on over the last year and a half,” he said.
The project was one of a dozen funded in 2018 by the $10 million state Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The project received $350,000 in aid, Crawford noted.
The city will soon go out to bid on the project, he added, and once bids are in the council will discuss if it will proceed with the project or make cuts, in addition to securing city funds for whatever is not covered by the grant.