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Amusement park plans debated

Utica Observer Dispatch

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August 14, 2007

SYLVAN BEACH Plans to expand the Sylvan Beach Amusement Park were the most popular topic at Monday's village Planning Board meeting even though the project was not on the agenda.

About 20 residents attended the meeting, and several spoke of their displeasure with a recent Village Board decision to allow park owners to set up a miniature golf course in the village park.

But the co-owner of the amusement park said expanding the business' expansion can increase the village tax base, bring in more sales tax and attract people to the village's other businesses, while also preserving a historic part of the community.

"I think anything you can do to stabilize this amusement park is a significant effort," amusement park co-owner Doug Waterbury said when reached by phone after the meeting.

Two public hearings, a Planning Board meeting and a Village Board meeting all occurred July 26 and allowed for the miniature golf course to start operating on about 8,000-square-feet of the park using a seven-day license at a cost of $1 per week, Planning Board Chairman Joe Benedict said.

The license automatically renews each week but can be cancelled at any time, Benedict said.

Waterbury said there haven't been any proposals submitted to the village for expanding further into the park, but long-term plans for the park's $8 million to $10 million expansion call for asking the village for 5 percent to 6 percent of the village park.

During the public hearings and again Monday night, some residents commented that the $1 per week license isn't bringing any money to the taxpayers. Others felt the miniature golf course and future plans don't follow the wishes of the Spencer family, which donated the park that the village now owns.

Ellis Smith, 64, was one resident to speak out against the Village Board's decision.

"I'm very disappointed in the board," Smith said. "They closed their ears to the public."

Although the planning board's approval of the site plan was necessary for the expansion to go forward, it is meant to be a separate decision from the Village Board's decision of whether or not the expansion should occur or how much the fee should be, Benedict said.

The Planning Board's role was just to approve the aesthetics of the course, and the board called for details such as 18 shrubs and a white, rail fence, he said.

Village Board members who voted in favor of allowing the course expressed that the amusement park like the canal and beach are unique features of the village that deserve assistance, Benedict said.

"I think it is part of our identity," he said.

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