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Committee finalizes Potsdam’s comprehensive plan

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POTSDAM — Members of the village Comprehensive Plan Committee met for the last time Wednesday night to review the final draft of the plan that will guide the village for the next decade.

It took several months to draft the plan. Board members say they hope to focus on developing the village’s strengths, creating new developments and improvements while preserving Potsdam’s culture and identity.

While some communities hire outside consultants to draft a strategic plan, this was created entirely by representatives from the village.

“It’s important to me that we, as a community, have an idea of who we are and where we want to go,” said committee member Peter S. Brouwer.

The plan also looks at how to deal with one of the village’s most persistent problems. Two-thirds of village property is non-taxable, mostly because of the colleges, which makes it difficult to raise the funds needed to maintain village services.

The solution, according to the board, is to encourage development on existing village properties. They hope the universities will serve as business incubators, and that these businesses will stay local.

“There’s still quite a lot of undeveloped land within the village,” said Planning Director Frederick J. Hanss.

The plan is currently awaiting approval by the St. Lawrence County Planning Board. Once it is approved, it can be officially implemented by the village board, probably on Dec. 17. It was presented to the public at the meeting Wednesday night, although no public comments were made.

One of the priorities over the next 10 years is to conduct a rigorous survey of the community for a better grasp of who exactly lives in Potsdam, how much they are engaged in village activities and services, and what improvements they would like to see in the village.

Committee members say a multi-faceted approach was needed to tackle all the problems and opportunities that are likely to face the village over the next 10 years.

“There’s a recognition in the plan that there’s no magic bullet,” said committee member Robert O. Josephson.

The village wishes to draw more tourists by constructing an arts center and river walk and supporting the construction of a children’s museum, in hopes that encouraging visitors to come to the village, as well as improving services for village residents, will encourage economic growth.

Improving the environment and creating a new, modern village website are also part of the 39-page plan.

Village Trustee Stephen Warr said it is important that the plan be reviewed frequently, as circumstances are very likely to change in 10 years.

“It’s a road map for the village of Potsdam, and it’s something we need to periodically look at to remind ourselves of where we need to be,” he said.

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