Downtown Potsdam. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

POTSDAM — The village has voted unanimously to send a slate of over $19 million in improvement projects to the state for review as part of the Downtown Revitalization initiative.

After months of planning, deliberation and public input, the Local Planning Committee settled Wednesday on sending a final slate of 14 proposed projects to the state, which will now make the final decisions on what receives the $9.7 million in state funds.

As part of the DRI, all of the projects are sponsored by the village or other organizations and businesses. In most cases, the project sponsor agrees to partially fund the project in addition to a request from the $9.7 million in funds awarded from the state through the DRI. The LPC is asked to submit a slate of projects totaling between $12 million and $16 million. The slate of projects approved Wednesday totals $12.2 million in state funds requested.

The LPC decided Wednesday to cut a project from the slate after several members raised concerns about leaving it up to the state to decide which projects were eliminated or had state funding reduced. As moderators and the LPC co-chairs began voting on the slate, Lee Van de Water from the Cornell Cooperative Extension broke in and entertained the idea of cutting a project.

“It’s still my strong feeling that whittling this down a little bit would be appropriate,” Mr. Van de Water said.

Mr. Van de Water was then joined by several other LPC members including St. Lawrence County Arts Council Executive Director and Village Trustee Maggie McKenna, Rose Rivezzi from Big Spoon Kitchen and Potsdam Town Supervisor Ann Carvill in support of cutting the $2 million village project to establish a whitewater park on the Raquette River.

“The whitewater park is lovely and a lot of people want it. There are some people though who asked is it worth to spend that much money for that project when we have river access in other ways. Maybe not a whitewater park, but we certainly have lots of waterfront access and recreational opportunities on the river,” Ms. Rivezzi said.

The committee agreed to cut the projected without opposition.

After the whitewater park was removed, Mr. Van de Water also entertained the idea of removing a project to establish business incubator space in Damon Hall on Clarkson University’s downtown campus. That was met with more opposition by several members of the LPC including Potsdam Mayor Reinhold J. Tischler, Village Planning Board Member Hugo Attemann and SUNY Potsdam President Kristin Esterberg. The project was kept on the slate.

Following the changes, each LPC individually acknowledged conflicts of interest and stated projects from which they were “recusing” themselves. The slate was then voted on as a whole and passed unanimously. Three LPC members were not present.

The slate will now go to Albany for final consideration. Several projects, including the whitewater park, have also been included on a list of Strategic Investment Projects, which are highlighted as priorities for downtown revitalization.

The DRI featured several public input sessions over the last few months. The last period for public input ended last week. Village Administrator Greg L. Thompson told the Board of Trustees at its meeting Tuesday that 117 comments had been submitted about the proposed final slate of projects. He noted that DRI officials told him this is the most comments they’ve ever received.

Each year, the state awards the $10 million in DRI funds to a municipality in several regions across the state. The village was announced as the 2019 recipient in the north country last October in a visit from Lt. Gov. Kathy C. Hochul. The process was put on hold in March due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but has been back on track since mid-summer.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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