by Terry Duffy
Water-related quality of life issues set the tone for much of Monday's Porter Town Board regular meeting. Heard was continuing frustration of boat and property owners over a nagging town law covering storage and locations of boats and recreational vehicles. Also heard was a complaint by a Brentwood Drive resident over a years-old flooding problem and the town's inability thus far to correct it.
The session led off with complaints to the board over the now familiar issue of boat and recreational storage on private properties. Basically, town-wide law prohibits the storage of boats and recreational vehicles in the front of residences, particularly in front of driveways. Boat storage is permitted in backyards or in side areas not considered the front of a residence.
A long time on the books - since 1983 - but an issue only over the past year or so in the town as a result of complaints to Building Inspector Roy Rogers and the board by offended neighboring residents, primarily from Youngstown neighborhoods, the problem has returned this year just as the warm weather has. Boat owners have taken their vehicles out of winter storage and many are again storing them on their properties. And complaints are again coming to the town by neighbors put off at seeing them parked, resulting in letters to offending boat and RV owners that they are in violation.
But many boat owners who visited Monday and at earlier board sessions have steadfastly argued that Porter is considered by many to be a boating community, and that as owners who license, insure and properly maintain their vehicles they should be entitled to do what they have been doing all along: reasonably park their vehicles on their private property. And Town Board members, many of the boat owners themselves, heard it Monday.
"I adamantly object to this," stated River Road resident Andrew Zucker, telling the board they should vote down any resolution on boating storage currently before the Town Planning Board.
The storage issue went to Planning for review following complaints last fall over boat/recreational storage that came to light after revision of the Town Zoning Code, which exposed shortfalls on the boat/RV storage issue, coupled with complaints from the Youngstown neighborhoods.
"This law has been on the books since 1983," said Town Councilman Joe Fleckenstein. "As a board we don't change things until we get complaints."
"There's other groups (in this town) that oppose storage of boats," said Supervisor Merton Wiepert, telling the boat owners group the town has had complaints.
Boat and RV storage opponents were not in attendance Monday, but the boat owners were.
Lockport Road resident Mike Muchowski, who received a letter, told the board he's been dealing with wet grounds which has prevented his boat being parked on the side. "Putting a boat there would only make it worse," he said.
East Avenue resident Dave Kominski said the town would be better off addressing neglected properties and debris problems that are found "all over."
Dino De Lorenzo, also of East Avenue agreed, telling the board the town should better pick its battles. "There's issues all over the town you should be dealing with" that you're not.
Town Building Inspector Roy Rogers who has been fielding the boating complaints as well as handling "lots of others" responded that he's been only doing his job.
John "Duffy" Johnston, Zoning Board chair, told the board that as an owner himself of both a boat and a RV he understood the boat owners' views. He stated he felt the current law could be amended to provide for different time frames.
Town Attorney Mike Dowd, who attends Planning Board sessions, indicated that modifications could be forthcoming. He informed that the Planning Board has been working on recommendations covering such issues as locations, durations, time frames, etc., and that they will likely be forwarded to the Town Board for its review in the future. Any changes would then be subject to a public hearing.
"I think the board's going to learn on what you're saying," Dowd told the boat owners.
Those in attendance were informed that the Town Planning Board would be addressing the boat/RV storage issue at its July 7 meeting at 7 p.m. and it might be in their interest to attend.
Councilman Jeff Baker, a boater himself, said he wanted to get the boating issue resolved once and for all. Councilman Larry White, another avid boater, joined him and commented, "This is getting crazy."
"These protests are going to keep coming," piped in Fleckenstein.
With that matter settled for the night at least, the town heard on yet another water related complaint - drainage problems.
Brentwood Drive resident Sue Campbell, editor of the Niagara-Wheatfield Tribune, visited and expressed frustration on a still unresolved flooding problem affecting her home. "It's happened four times in the last five years," said Campbell, telling board members she summoned Town Highway Superintendent Scott Hillman to her residence in the middle of the night on the latest episode. He came armed with sandbags in an unsuccessful attempt to stem the waters of heavy rains from seeping into the lower level of her split-level, no basement home.
Campbell, who has lived in the home since 1983, blamed the problem on inadequate town drainage installations intended to correct problems, which followed neighborhood building in areas behind her property. That, coupled with variations in land elevations from developments, has created the problem of standing water collecting in areas near her residence, particularly after heavy rains or snow melt, and the nagging backup and continuing damage to her home. "This has been going on for 10 years," said Campbell, telling the board the problem has caused her financial stress and is preventing her from being able to sell the property.
She went on to argue that the problem did not exist until the neighborhood behind hers was built.
Wiepert and board members sat silent and appeared somewhat perplexed on how to respond.
Wiepert told the resident that Hillman and town engineer Dave Britton of CRA Associates had visited the property over the past year and that he was still uncertain if it was a town problem. He said that if it is the town's responsibility, yes, the town should indeed fix it. However he also said that should it be determined to be the landowner's problem, Campbell would be responsible.
Britton commented the town in its drainage corrections should be responsible for "providing a means for private drains to drain." He told the board he felt that Campbell's situation "was a private drainage issue, not the town's."
Campbell went on to disagree with the finding, arguing it could be corrected with installation of a larger pipe. "It is not being handled by the pipe," and she went on to complain about the problems of ants, mold problems and now mosquitoes affecting her home.
After some further back and forth with Campbell and board members, the matter ended with Wiepert instructing Fleckenstein plus Hillman and Britton to work with the resident further.