OLEAN - What does Cattaraugus County have to offer? What are the strengths and weaknesses? Where can Cattaraugus County be in five, 10 years? Those were the questions recently posed to a room full of residents in the Magnano Room of Jamestown Community College's Cutco Theater in Olean.
The questions were asked to help Wendel Companies of Buffalo figure out what a comprehensive plan for Cattaraugus County should look like. For those in the Olean meeting, it all boils down to nostalgia and outdoor recreation.
Cattaraugus County's natural assets were highlighted as drawing points that should be featured in the county. With the Enchanted Mountains rising over much of the county, trails for many activities, to include equestrian, hiking, snowmobiling and biking, would play into a plan that would be favorable, in the southeastern part of the county. Likewise, a major river runs most of the southern part of the county as well, offering water recreation areas. All of this development could lead to jobs, according to Drew Reilly, of Wendel.
On the jobs front, many calling for more areas to have shovel-ready areas were countered with ideas on both sides of the fence. Cattaraugus County Legislator Dan Hale, R-Portville, said that approach is akin to putting the horse before the cart.
"No one is coming in as it is, what makes anyone think that, if we have places that are ready, people will come in and start businesses?" he asked.
District 7 Legislator James Boser, D-Allegany, agreed with that sentiment.
"We do not make it easy," he said. "With all of the regulations that we have at the various levels of government, why would a business come in?"
Reilly said a step beyond the shovel-ready concept is what may be needed, saying that many of the places that he has worked to help develop in an economic sense have gone through a pre-permitting process that could circumvent at least the local hassles that can arise in going to local zoning and planning boards.
According to Reilly, the plans could be fully established on a site, with permits already in place and when developers come in, if they already have the prerequisites met that have been placed on the land, they would be able to bypass the planning board process and start to develop right away.
A final piece that seemed to permeate the room was the reminiscent ideas of the former Cloud 9, in Olean and Fentier Village, in Salamanca, as well as items like the old barns along the roadside. All of those things, according to a few people in the room, should be eyed, kept and developed into a way to entice the 1.5 million visitors to Allegany State Park, as well as the millions that visit the Seneca Allegany Casino out of the venues and take a trip through the county.
The ideas that were presented will be taken, in conjunction with the ideas that are generated in the next two meetings to be held, and Wendel Companies will compile the ideas for presentation in a second round of public input sessions, "To make sure we heard what you said, correctly," Reilly said.
Second and third meetings will be held at the Machias Library on Thursday, and the final meeting will be held Wednesday, May 14 in the Legislative Chambers of the Cattaraugus County Center, in Little Valley. All of the sessions are expected to start at 6 p.m. with an open house, moving into presentations on the project background and the planning process at 7:15 p.m.