CLPRA Represents ‘Cross Section’ Of Stakeholders

For the newest entity concerning the health and future of Chautauqua Lake, County Executive George Borrello wanted a “cross section” of stakeholders, including government representatives and business owners, to give input regarding what could be a future tax district set up to raise funds for the care of the county’s most impactful natural asset.

The Chautauqua Lake Protection and Rehabilitation Agency is a committee formed pursuant to a resolution of the Chautauqua County Legislature passed in December 2017 that detailed how an agency would gather information to decide whether forming a “lake district” would be a worthwhile endeavor and make a recommendation to the legislature so that group can make an informed vote.

While the CLPRA first met publicly earlier this month, some have been wondering why agency members were selected compared to other possible candidates. First off, the resolution described how two county legislators, three town elected officials, two village elected officials, one lakefront business owner and one member of Chautauqua Institution would be chosen to represent the county on this matter.

Borrello’s main job was to appoint these members other than the legislators, who were appointed by County Legislature Chairman PJ Wendel. He otherwise serves to provide assistance to the agency if he’s requested.

“We literally looked at the map and the towns around the lake,” Borrello said. “We tried to make sure geographically we were hitting as many places as possible.”

This is why every town is represented in some way. Chautauqua Town Supervisor Don Emhardt, Ellicott Town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin and North Harmony Board Member Louise Ortman were all chosen to represent their residents in the agency.

Even though the towns of Busti and Ellery aren’t represented directly, Borrello said having Lakewood Trustee Ellen Barnes and Bemus Point Mayor Bryan Dahlberg on the agency make up for it geographically speaking. He wanted nine members on the agency and no more, so that everyone was able to give substantial input.

That meant one business owner was chosen to represent local businesses on the agency, and former legislator, SKF Industries Manager and Bemus Point resident Mark Tarbrake was chosen. Since Chautauqua Institution is its own self-contained community, President Michael Hill was chosen to represent his employer, with Vice President of Campus Planning and Operations John Shedd substituting for him when Hill can not be present at meetings.

In terms of legislators, Pierre Chagnon and Lisa Vanstrom were chosen by Wendel. Both legislators represent lakefront districts, and Chagnon is also the chairman of the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance. Borrello said the agency members voted on a chairman of the CLPRA, which also turned out to be Chagnon.

“Pierre has been very active on the issues of Chautauqua Lake,” Borrello said.

Borrello continued to speak on the qualifications of the agency’s members as they have worked and lived here for decades, all the while becoming more familiar with the needs of Chautauqua Lake. He said Emhardt brings a lot to the table due to his long history here.

McLaughlin, Borrello noted, has been a strong voice on issues of the lake, particularly ones that are happening in his area like the recent fish kill due to weed buildup in Burtis Bay in the village of Celoron.

“He has a good knowledge of the issues of Chautauqua Lake,” Borrello said.

Borrello also noted that Ortman brings an agricultural perspective to the agency since there is more farm land in North Harmony than there is in other areas. Barnes and Dahlberg then represent the two biggest villages on the lake.

“I wanted to have a good cross section,” Borrello said, elaborating further by saying not necessarily having all supervisors on the agency was a good fit, so the members bring different legislative experiences to the table. “The idea was to get a good geographic cross section and a good cross section of people who represent different interests.”

Borrello said that Dahlberg represents summer tourism needs in Bemus Point while balancing the wants of permanent residents as well. Chautauqua Institution is also driven by substantial tourism, and Borrello said that representing the properties assessed at $1 billion through their community leadership was important. A taxing district would potentially impact anyone from Chautauqua Institution residents to people who live on the outer fringes of Ellicott.

“(Tarbrake) also brings a great perspective,” Borrello said since Tarbrake has both business and government experience.

CLPRA members would like to use the lake to its fullest recreational potential as many of the citizens they’re representing would. For example, McLaughlin is an avid fly fisherman and has lived in Ellicott for almost 30 years. Barnes similarly calls Lakewood her “adopted home” of more than 30 years and said she used to enjoy boating and waterskiing on the lake.

“We’re just trying to help the lake,” Chagnon said.

Borrello said there is no deadline for the CLPRA to make a recommendation regarding the formation of a tax district to support the lake. He said the legislature will vote based on their recommendation when it comes and that the agency should take its time gathering all necessary information. Borrello would like to see a recommendation be delivered some time in 2019.

“Ultimately, this is going to be something they’re going to recommend to the legislature,” Borrello said. “And I want to make sure that proces is going to be as pure as possible. They’re off to a great start.”