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Don’t Disregard State’s Denial Of Pops Permits

The state Office of General Services had, before last Friday, reached an interesting conclusion regarding Chautauqua Lake Pops’ use of a floating stage near Lakeside Park in Mayville.

State officials who have no particular dog in the fight decided that the Chautauqua Lake Pops is not a water-dependent activity and then, in a second consideration, found that the Chautauqua Lake Pops’ use of the floating stage near Lakeside Park violated the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan by decreasing lake access for those who aren’t buying tickets to the Chautauqua Lake Pops. The state officials proposed restructuring the concert series with a shore-based platform and a public docking facility for boats rather than the Chautauqua Lake Pops’ plan for private-use docking slips.

It’s important to note the issue raised is the Office of General Services and not the DEC, which means the issue isn’t ecological. Rather than protecting the lake, the state’s objection is the protection of areas of Chautauqua Lake to the general public.

We don’t know why a similar permit wasn’t required when the concert series was located in Bemus Point, though the concerts likely couldn’t have been held at all in Bemus without the stage given the tight space in the area near the former Italian Fisherman. That may have made the floating stage water dependent for activities in Bemus Point. But the argument made by state officials is eerily similar to the arguments made by those who disagreed with the addition of a fence and trees between the street and the pops’ former home in Bemus Point. Too many people were watching the concerts and shows for free rather than buying tickets, so the fence was installed and the trees planted to the ire of many who had been led to believe the concerts were a public good rather than a way for an organization to make money. In the Mayville case, state officials disagree with the proposal to reduce lake access for the benefit of a non-profit organization regardless of the ancillary benefit to village businesses.

Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, put in a lot of work to get the Office of General Services to give a provisional permit for the concerts to continue this season.

Why?

The organizer of the Chautauqua Lake Pops is a shrewd businessman, but we’re wondering why politicians whose job is to represent the whole are caving to the demands of one non-profit organization representative who yells the loudest and organizes a petition drive. Are Mayville officials, County Executive PJ Wendel, Goodell and Borrello in office to represent the owner of a non-profit organization or everyone? The concert series can just as easily be held on a land-based stage as it can on a floating stage. The concerts could just as easily be held with free public access so that public access to that area of the lake isn’t cut off because someone doesn’t want to pay for a ticket to the Chautauqua Lake Pops.

In our view, the state’s requests are not out of line. And, frankly, viewed in a different light, the state’s requests could lead to a more useful lakefront for everyone. A land-based stage with attached boat slips serves the entire village and village businesses throughout the summer months. A land-based stage would also make it easier to collaborate with Chautauqua Institution on lakeside events or a host of events that could add to Mayville’s summertime ambience.

It’s easy to look at the kerfuffle between the state Office of General Services and Chautauqua Lake Pops and think the state is being too heavy handed. In our opinion, the issues raised by the state Office of General Services shouldn’t be casually disregarded. Instead, they should be listened to and acted upon.

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