by Terry Duffy
Lewiston residents attending May 23's Lewiston Town Board session appeared taken back with news of a public hearing on rezoning.
The session, announced with little notice, led off the Town Board regular meeting and concerned rezoning the northeast corner of Creek and Pletcher roads for the purpose of enabling a planned unit development proposed for the site to proceed.
The meeting didn't exactly go as developers had anticipated.
At issue was a proposal detailed at the session by Rhonda Frederick of People Inc. of Williamsville, and William L. Long R.A., of William L. Long Architects of Kenmore. It resulted in generally unfavorable reactions by residents.
The two appeared before the board and presented plans for a mixed-use project at the corner. It included:
•A two-story building eyed by People Inc. for independent Senior Living Apartments, on land located on the northeast end, just adjacent to Darryl Johnson Way, the access road off Creek Road to Lewiston-Porter High School. The building, as described by the applicants would contain 43 units of affordable, independent senior housing, similar to those found in other senior living communities operated by People Inc. in such areas as West Seneca, Hamburg, Grand Island, Cheektowaga and Clarence.
•Eight two-story buildings of multi-family apartments situated in the center and southeast areas of the property.
•Three areas fronting Creek Road, eyed for commercial development, identified as small shops or offices intended to serve the residential community.
•Assorted site modifications, including parking areas, roadways and storm water management areas.
While some voiced support of the senior housing concept discussed overall, the majority who spoke did not respond favorably to the Creek-Pletcher corner as a proposed location, and many questioned the town's informing the residents of it from the start, with some suggesting the town of deliberately moving the project along.
"I didn't hear anything about this until Saturday," said Pletcher Road resident Iggy Manning. "What is the procedure of getting this (informing residents) done?" he continued. "How did you notify us?"
Manning, as did others, complained to the board of no public notification, despite town mailers to nearby property owners and a notice put in another newspaper. "I didn't see it; I depend on the Sentinel to keep me informed."
"I just don't see this as the right way to handle such a thing," Manning added.
Pletcher Road resident Angelo Sarkes questioned town procedure of approvals, saying the county Planning Board has already approved it with the town, and residents in particular, yet to be fully informed. "I called Town Board members today and the two I talked to didn't know much about the project either."
Town Supervisor Steve Reiter and Building Inspector Tim Masters said the project had earlier cleared the town Planning Board.
But both Town Board members Ernie Palmer and Ron Winkley admitted unfamiliarity with the proposal at the session.
Some residents questioned its location, citing traffic issues, the lack of infrastructure, the impact on area sewers, lack of sidewalks, the nearby Lewiston-Porter campus, and the upsetting of the rural character of the area. "We moved out here to be in the country," said one.
Others raised issue with what they viewed as the board's upsetting of the current neighborhood. They said the Creek-Pletcher neighborhood area was moving ahead with a new golf course, new single-family housing. And they questioned the purpose of such a development in the area, particularly the building for senior and multi-family housing and commercial proposals.
Kim Sembert, who identified herself as a Lew-Port staffer, questioned the project's proximity to the campus as well as what she called project "ambiguities" presented by the developers. "You're opening up a Pandora's box there," she told the board.
When it was all said and done, the board voted unanimously to table the rezoning request, saying they wanted to study it further.
Moving on to other news from the session:
•The town announced the Host Community Greenway Fund Standing Committee, reversing an earlier Greenway Commission determination, opted to approve funding for both the Toohey Park and Colonial Village playground improvement projects.
•The board approved $20,000 in capital funds to assist the Village of Lewiston on sewer inflow and infiltration projects. Total cost to the village would be $45,000; the town's assistance, described as "in-kind" would involve equipment, materials and some labor.
•Town Highway Superintendent Doug Janese informed he had corrected drainage problems affecting Creek Road ditches following discussions with town fire inspectors who expressed concerns on accessing nearby hydrants. He also reported the Military Road drainage concerns were being addressed and requested outside engineering assistance for Autumn Lane, which was approved.
Janese also mentioned funding issues, namely overtime incurred from the recent windstorm and a lack of available money in his budget to provide for a summer workers program this year. Neither issue drew any comments from Reiter or the board members.