by Terry Duffy
Dog behavior, boats and windmills - items of interest that occupied significant discussion at an otherwise routine Town of Porter Town Board session Monday night.
Leading off, Porter, as other municipalities, is now dealing with the logistics of dog licensing following state action earlier this year that transferred that responsibility. The Town board held a very brief public hearing with no comments heard on the repealing of a 1980s-era local law and adoption of the 2010 Town of Porter Dog Law.
The new law itself brings limited changes for the town, reported Town Attorney Mike Dowd, saying the Porter Town Clerk's office would now be more directly involved in the handling the chores of processing of tags and related duties previously managed by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. It's now up to the town to determine such items as administration costs, etc., said Dowd.
One interesting area of the law focuses on town monitoring of dog behaviors. Dowd said a little known portion involves the "classification of a dangerous dog." It allows an owner of such an animal deemed as dangerous "to go before a judge to determine a need to see a dog behavior specialist.
"It's a little known provision," said Dowd, joking that even a dog can now have its day in court.
Another portion involved the leash law provision, with board members appearing uncertain of any currently in place in the town. The town's website does note an existing law continuing on the 1980s model that forbids dogs to run at large unless restrained by an adequate collar and leash. Dowd told the board that changes can be made as needed but suggested the new dog law as written has to be approved and filed by Jan 1. "Changes can be amended as needed later on," said Dowd. The board approved the matter soon after.
Speaking of changes the next topic - boats and their storage on properties - saw greater discussion at the session following an informal proposal presented by Youngstown Estates residents to amend the town's recently passed town land use zoning law (Sentinel, Nov. 13).
Residents Dan Stayner and Jim Caprio offered a plan of amending the law to permit parking of recreational boats and trailers of limited sizes and lengths on properties between April and November. Stayner said the proposal was merely intended to serve as a starting point for further discussion. That it did, both in support and in opposition from residents.
One former Riverview Drive resident who now lives in Lewiston spoke out against boat storage on properties, telling the board he felt a parked boat detracts from neighboring properties, particularly those that may be for sale. "A value of a home is enhanced by its curb appeal," said the resident, telling the board he's heard negative feedback from a neighbor and a realtor representing buyers on the saturation of boats at residences in the subdivision and their impact on selling properties.
The comment was challenged by Youngstown Estates resident Pat Gray, a realtor, who spoke in support of the boat owners in attendance. "The Buffalo Board (of Realtors) does not track boat impacts on homes," said Gray. He told the board that any lack of sales in the area has to do with the economy. "It has nothing to do with a boat in a driveway."
Gray went on to question the town's reasoning of imposing boat storage restrictions in the first place. "Let's hide the boats? We're a boating community. What is the rationale?
"Really, how far can we go with this? We're only storing a personal boat," he argued.
Dowd suggested the residents start by following town procedure intended to amend the local law. Included would be petitions and a formal application to the Town Board to initiate action by the Zoning Board of Appeals. The matter would then be reviewed and a public hearing set for further discussion, followed by ZBA recommendations to the Town Board.
Wrapping up the last discussion item came at the close of what was now, by Porter standards, a lengthy board session. It focused on the status of windmill applications, approved earlier, funded by grant money, and eyed for Town Hall and the Highway Department garage on Braley Road. It also revealed some growing differences of opinion among board members.
The board was ready to close for the night when Councilman Joe Fleckenstein raised the issue, questioning the status of the town's earlier approved windmill application, funded by a $319,000 in NYCERDA grant money. "As you know I favor them," said Fleckenstein, inquiring on what the town was now doing with the application.
Supervisor Mert Wiepert said that Somerset and Royalton had both accepted the windmill grant money and are moving with their projects. He added that Lewiston rejected it.
Wiepert then showed reservations on Porter moving on it despite the board's earlier approval. He said there are zoning issues over variances to contend with. The proposed windmills would be 120 feet in height and would require perimeter clearances of 180 feet. Wiepert also argued there are aesthetic issues to consider, particularly related to construction of windmills at Town Hall, along with logistical concerns.
"There's a lot to consider here," said Wiepert. He also raised issue with the proposal of constructing two 10-kilowatt towers versus one 20-kilowatt model.
Other concerns by Councilmen Larry White and Jeff Baker involved the town's return on investment, warranty issues, maintenance costs, and the potential of the windmills becoming eyesores over the years.
Wiepert continued to argue against the current plan, citing problems in zoning. "I don't believe the town can circumvent laws to provide for variances," said Wiepert. "I won't support it."
Dowd told the board he wouldn't recommend circumventing zoning laws to support variances either.
"I just want to go forward" on the application, said Fleckenstein.
The matter closed with Dowd, pointing to the late hour and now questioning the town resolution passed earlier, suggesting that the board needs to clarify exactly what it wants with respect to the single 20-kilowatt windmill plan versus the two 10-kilowatt windmill option.
The board expects to have a new status report by Dec. 29, en route to further discussion on the issue next month.