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Wheatfield considering limit on pets

by jmaloni
Thu, Jul 29th 2010 09:00 am

by Susan Mikula Campbell

When it comes to dogs and cats, how many are too many for pet lovers to have in their homes?

That's the question the Wheatfield Town Board is trying to answer before moving on a proposed local law regulating the number of pets that can be kept in individual homes in areas zoned residential 1, 2 and 3. The law would not apply in areas zoned for agriculture, commercial use or manufacturing.

Currently, the Town Board is considering a household limit of no more than four dogs and no more than 10 cats that are more than 6 months old.

Only about a half dozen residents showed up at the public hearing on the proposal held before Monday's regular Town Board meeting.

"I really am almost shocked more people aren't present," said Town Attorney Robert O'Toole. "I would have expected it would be highly controversial."

Town Supervisor Bob Cliffe and the board decided not to take action on the proposed law until there is more input from residents.

"We'd like to get the law correct the first time," he said.

The town's proposal is based on what other local municipalities have done in view of reports of neglectful pet owners, Cliffe said. He pointed to an SPCA investigation of a complaint of 200 cats living in a Norman Road residence and a smell from the animals that was invading the neighborhood. The investigator said he only actually saw about 50 cats.

A woman in the audience mentioned a neighbor who has more than 10 dogs, and still counting  - "They haven't gotten rid of any. Every time somebody has a litter, everybody stays."

"We're basically looking at the protection of the animals," Councilman Art Gerbec said, adding that if residents had a number limit in mind, the board would like to hear it.

A resident commented that she currently houses six dogs, all indoor pets.

"One of the reasons we moved to Wheatfield 15 years ago was because there were no idiot laws," she said. "In my neighborhood, you can't beat the kids off with a stick ... my dogs are better behaved than the children."

It was suggested that if the family veterinarian can certify the pets are well cared for, a number might not be necessary.

Other questions included whether people who currently have more pets than the limit would be grandfathered in, whether there would be a different limit for people who have both dogs and cats, and how the law would be enforced.

Residents not sure what their zoning is are advised to check with the town's Building Department.

In other matters:

  • Town Engineer Tim Walck reported that the total time and expense cost to his company, Wendel Duchscherer, for modeling and appealing the Federal Emergency Management Agency's floodplain designation in the Bergholz/Sawyer Creek area will be about $16,000.

This is not for the work done for the town on appeals for new areas that FEMA added to the town's floodplain. (FEMA's final maps for those areas, with about two-thirds of the additions deleted, were approved at Monday's meeting.)  The additional remodeling cost is for work done on a map revision request affecting homes and businesses in the Bergholz/Sawyer Creek area on both sides of Niagara Falls Boulevard that have long been required to pay for expensive flood insurance. With FEMA accepting the new elevations modeled by the town, more than 130 structures should be removed from the maps and no longer required to pay for flood insurance, Walck said. He expects to have the new maps for this area from FEMA by early next week.

Cliffe said Wheatfield United has made a study of flood insurance costs in Wheatfield compared to the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland. Wheatfield United's Web page is at www.Wheatfield-United.us. The July 26 issue shows the report and includes the comment: "FEMA's Flood Smart program tells people that ‘you could have a flood even if you live on a hill.' One thing is for sure, it's much cheaper to live by one hill."

Cliffe said Wheatfield United's report shows that "prices here are out of whack. ... Shouldn't the cost be based upon the risk?"

Wheatfield United and the town will contact local federal representatives expressing displeasure with FEMA's policies. Since the town was forced to accept the floodplain maps to avoid problems for residents with bank mortgages, it reserved the right to withdraw from the program in the future if Congress changes the structure of FEMA, Cliffe said.

  • Walck also reported on this month's Planning Board meeting:

A site plan was approved for a 15,400 square foot addition to the Crestwood nursing home off Niagara Falls Boulevard. The addition would provide a 20-bed assisted living unit.

A preliminary plan was submitted for Cobblestone Creek, a planned unit development including four single-family homes, 58 patio homes and 12 condos. It would be located north of Lemke Drive, between Errick and Ward roads.

A sketch plan review was held on 23 single-family homes planned for 7092 and 7062 Nash Road, in the vicinity of the Adams Volunteer Fire Co.

  • Cliffe reported that he had received notice from the state Department of Transportation that the town's request for a stoplight at Sy Road and Niagara Falls Boulevard was not needed at this time. Cliffe said he hoped the DOT would reconsider when it finally got started on the rebuilding of the boulevard. He also said he had received several complaints about the poor condition of parts of Lockport Road. Lockport Road is a county road, not a town highway. Cliffe said he has been told the county is anticipating installing a large water line next year, so it won't do major work on the road until that is done.
  • Town Clerk Kathy Harrington reported that the Board of Elections will be using only the new voting machines at town polling sites this year. A new voting machine will be brought to the town for residents to try before election time as soon as dates are confirmed.
  • The next Town Board meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9.

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