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To the Editor:

Onondaga County has proposed building an amphitheater complex on industrial wastebeds


lining the western shore of Onondaga Lake. In response to public concerns, the County Legislature
provided a short pause in the headlong rush to approve this project, giving affected communities more
time to review an environmental impact assessment and raise concerns. After additional study of the
issues, we remain concerned about acknowledged traffic and noise problems, inadequate review of
other issues, and the failure to consider meaningful alternatives or demonstrate economic viability. The
County should slow down, do the evaluation necessary to understand costs and benefits, and generate a
better project that will prove a sound investment for the millions in taxpayer dollars already committed.
The amphitheater, according to the Countys Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), will
generate significant traffic delays. Sold-out concerts at the 17,500 seat stage would draw up to 7,000
additional cars, jamming I-690 at the heart of rush-hour. Proposed improvements, like manned
intersections, changes in traffic signal timing, and adding lanes to some roads, are not expected to bring
traffic flow to acceptable levels. The DEIS states that unidentified long-term improvements would be
required. In other words, traffic is a problem that the County doesnt know how to fix.
The DEIS also found that concerts would routinely violate noise ordinances in nearby
communities, like Lakeland. The Countys experts suggested solving the problem by having residents
leave the area or go indoors during concerts, effectively limiting use of outdoor space on weekend
evenings throughout the summer. Even this pessimistic assessment likely minimizes impacts, since it
doesnt recognize that noise travels farther over water or evaluate acknowledged changes in sound
transmission under specific wind or other atmospheric conditions.
The County assumes that other harms will be prevented through future planning processes. The
County relies on a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan to control run-off of sediment, automotive
fluids, and landscaping chemicals; a Site Management Plan to manage construction hazards; and a site
clean-up plan to protect the thousands of people being invited to recreate on a Superfund site, parts of
which are contaminated with mercury, chromium and other industrial pollutants. Because none of these
plans have been developed, neither the public nor the County can assess their effectiveness.
Other issues are simply ignored. The project will remove almost one-fifth of the last minimally
developed stretch of lakeshore, contrary to public preferences for preserving natural areas around the
Lake. Bald eagles, osprey, endangered bats, and other wildlife have found a rare refuge in and around
the site, but the DEIS presumes they will be untroubled by frequent loud concerts, lightshows, and
thousands of additional visitors. The amphitheater will limit use of the newly opened West Shore Trail,
but the County paints the project as increasing public access to the lake shore. The County doesnt
consider viable alternatives sites that could avoid identified impacts or alternatives uses for this site that
would honor public preferences for a natural shoreline. Perhaps most importantly, the County provides
no evidence that the amphitheater will make money or that nearby towns will share in any profit that
might be generated.
Despite the rush to break ground on the amphitheater project this fall, we have time to raise
concerns. Public comments will be accepted through September 5 and at a public hearing on Tuesday,
August 26 at 6 p.m. at the County Courthouse in downtown Syracuse. Please tell the County to take the
time required to do a full assessment and plan an environmentally and economically viable project that
will benefit, rather than burden, the community. For more information, visit www.scribd.com/CFABP,
www.facebook.com/CitizensforaBetterPlan or ongov.net.

Katharine Lewis and Carol Baum
Citizens for a Better Plan