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Potsdam Planning Board frustrated over lack of information in apartment complex project

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POTSDAM — The Potsdam Planning Board was left in the dark on a student housing project, forced to find out the details of the plan through media reports, its chairman says.

Theodore C. Prahl said he was blindsided by the news that a developer was building dozens of student rental properties on the village’s Main Street.

He said he was led to believe the project was being built for the general population, not for SUNY Potsdam students. And he questioned why the media had more information about the project than members of the Planning Board.

“It makes us look like a bunch of jackasses,” Mr. Prahl said. “At least it did to me. It’s like we don’t even know what’s going on in our own community.”

Two weeks ago, Chason Affinity Companies, Buffalo, announced its plans to build roughly 50 cottage-style rental properties near SUNY Potsdam, housing as many as 300 students. The plans included a community building outfitted with practice rooms for music students, something Mr. Prahl said came as a surprise to him.

Initially, the chairman seemed to direct his frustration toward Planning and Development Director Frederick J. Hanss, wondering why the board wasn’t kept up to date on a project it will have to review and approve.

“I would think that people on the Planning Board and you would have the resources to tell us what the true intent of the project was,” Mr. Prahl said to Mr. Hanss.

Mr. Hanss replied that he had no more information than what the board had been given.

“I guess I kind of take umbrage with that,” Mr. Hanss said. “We passed along as much information as we had.”

It was the developers, not the village or the Planning Office, that sent out the press release with full details of the plan, he told the board.

In the end, the newspapers had more information than the village had, Mr. Hanss said.

Mr. Prahl backed off his earlier sentiments, shifting his frustration to the developer and the media. He found it “unnerving,” he said, that the developer gave out information before handing it over to the village to review.

“The whole nature of the project is suddenly thrown out there,” he said. “They said they are going to build the thing this summer and we are just barely scratching the tip of the iceberg.”

The chairman said he has no problem with the actual basis of the plan, but people need to realize there is a lot of work to be done.

“The cart is way before the horse,” Mr. Prahl said.

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