Residents protest Cobblestone Creek development

by Susan Mikula Campbell

The Wheatfield Town Board, already besieged by Quasar opponents, faced a new group in Town Hall on Monday as residents who live near the proposed Cobblestone Creek development came to voice their flooding concerns.

In the end, the board couldn't come up with a second for a motion on conforming to the State Environmental Quality Review Act, indicating that the subdivision would not adversely affect health or the environment. Without SEQRA approval, a public hearing on the matter could not be scheduled as planned.

Rosal Homes plans to build Cobblestone Creek off Errick Road, near Lemke Drive. There would be four single-family home lots on Errick and 39 cluster lots on a loop road inside the development.

Kristin Savard of Advanced Design Group spoke on behalf of Rosal Homes. She noted the project is considerably scaled back from when it was first proposed. A retention pond is included in plans to handle drainage from the project. The company has been working on plans for about five years, she said.

"Let's get the drainage system sorted out first before we put those homes in," urged resident Merv Davies.

Lemke Drive resident Carol Heimgartner brought pictures showing how even without the new development, the big rainstorm several weeks ago created a lake in her yard and water went as high as her neighbor's deck.

Sharon Downie, who lives across from Errick Road School, also brought pictures and reported the school driveway where buses pick up the children floods when there's heavy runoff from rain or melted snow.

"If this (Cobblestone Creek) passes, it will be worse than it already is," she predicted.

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Veterans' tax exemption discussed at school board meeting

by Autumn Evans

A Wheatfield veteran promoted the Alternative Veterans' Tax Exemption at the Aug. 20 Niagara-Wheatfield Board of Education meeting at Niagara-Wheatfield High School.

The exemption offers a 15 percent property tax reduction for any veteran who served during a time of war, with additional reductions for expeditionary medal recipients and those who have disabilities as a result of their service.

Veteran Robert Saunderson, whose daughter attends school in the district, encouraged the board to vote for the measure. He said it would make the area more accessible to veterans, who are leaving the area because it's too expensive.

"This is the perfect opportunity for Niagara-Wheatfield to lead, and start making the trend," he said. "This district has the opportunity to make a veteran-friendly area so that we can increase the population."

Unlike the STAR program, the state does not reimburse the district for the taxes veterans would have paid. Instead, the cost is picked up by other taxpayers. The district tax assessor reported there are 2,538 home-owning veterans in the Niagara-Wheatfield school district who currently receive partial exemptions.

The Guilderland Central School District in Albany County adopted the exemption earlier this year and estimated an increase of between 9 to 14 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for non-veteran taxpayers.

Saunderson also asked the board to make more information about the program public, because he and other veterans he knows only found out about it recently.

"I've been helping vets for 12 straight years," Saunderson said. "I am probably one of the most involved people at my age - I'm 38, I've been doing this since I was 25 - and it passed right over my head."

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