by Terry Duffy
Issues from green space to drainage, new ice rink operations, a highway fund transfer and plans for an expanded Hospice Dash were the newsmakers at Monday's Lewiston Town Board regular meeting in Town Hall.
"It's a board decision, you could sell the land," explained Town Attorney Mike Dowd to Supervisor Steve Reiter and board members on the town's green space options in the Lewistowne Park housing subdivision. Lewiston, which years ago was deeded a number of green space lots of varying size by the subdivision's developer for recreational purposes, has since been contending with access, significant natural overgrowth, maintenance and liability issues in many of the non-developed land areas which border private properties. And the Town Board has been considering options, which include selling off small individual parcels to adjoining property owners, selling off bigger lots, possibly for single- family homes, or maintaining status quo and holding onto possession of them.
All combined, the lands, which are found in the interior areas of the now fully developed subdivision, amount to roughly 80 to 100 acres, Dowd told the board. The town had transferred other green space areas it owned which border the Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Course to Seneca interests as that facility was developed.
Dowd said the lands were not deeded for recreational purposes, do not carry any restrictions and could likely be disposed of without the town having to pursue any alienation processes. "The town needs to consider how the lots would be sold off," he said.
Reiter and board members had stated the intent of the town was to relieve itself of the maintenance and liability problems associated with the lots. Council member Ernie Palmer questioned the impact of any town decision on existing property owners, particularly any that might involve possible new construction on the larger lots. Dowd told the board the town could divest of them by selling as developable lots. "It would be subject to a permissive referendum," said Dowd, telling the board that affected residents would have to garner by petition 5 percent of the town's population to get such a measure under way.
On a suggestion from council member Al Bax, the matter was left that night with the town to further study the affected green space lots, their dimensions, impacts on adjoining property owners and then consider its possible options to relinquish ownership. Affected property owners would also be enlisted in the process for their input.
On another development-related issue, Reiter and the board heard from Kenwood Drive residents who had been contending with drainage problems and sinking lands on their properties. "My property has gotten really bad," said resident Colleen Thurman, telling the board of land washing away on her property and a patio dropping. Resident Roxanne Cosaro said she has contended with a sinkhole on her property and a yard-size lake last spring. Both said their problems began with, and were aggravated by, new construction at the nearby Oak Run development.
Reiter told the two residents the town would look into the matter, and he instructed Town Engineer Ryan Smith and Town Building/Zoning Inspector Tim Masters to visit the Kenwood Drive neighborhood and see what's up.
In other news from the session:
•Town Parks and Recreation Director Mike Dashineau reported the new 40-by-80 foot temporary ice rink, which opened Thursday at Academy Park, would be a family friendly facility.
"It's geared for families and free and open to the public," Dashineau said. He said it would be staffed by town Recreation Department workers, be open weekdays from 5 to 9 p.m. and weekends from noon to 9 p.m., and would offer a number of amenities. Included would be a fully lit rink for night use, a heated shelter, music and even movies provided for users. "It will be totally geared for families," he said.
He said the rink is not built for ice hockey but suggested it could be used for lesser intensity youth hockey with players using balls versus pucks, for example.
Dashineau also said the town is in the process of preparing a vendor's contract for area restaurant operators who may be interested in offering food and beverage services at the facility over weekends this winter. He said, thus far, The Silo Restaurant and Casa Antica have expressed interest, and that The Silo would serve this weekend.
•On advice from Dowd that a vote was required, board members summarily approved an earlier Highway Department fund balance transfer request of $60,000 to cover personnel costs from last April's windstorm and other highway staffing costs. The town is expecting reimbursement from Federal Emergency Management Administration storm assistance to cover the transfer.
•Youngstown resident Paul Beatty, who serves as chair of the Jack Beatty Hospice Memorial Regatta and the Hospice Dash to benefit Niagara Hospice, appeared before the board and discussed plans for an expanded Hospice Dash format next year, asking for the town's support.
"We have some big plans," said Beatty, telling he board that Niagara Hospice is securing a grant-funded staffer for 2012 whose job will be to engage a regional and national marketing effort to promote the Hospice Dash to a far greater audience. "We want to take this to a much higher level," said Beatty. He said Dash organizers are aiming at registering upwards of 5,000 participants for 2012, up from the 1,000 who participated in the fall 2011 event that started at Artpark in Lewiston and stretched through Youngstown to Porter on the Lake Park. "We're expecting a lot more people," he said, adding the town entire northern Niagara County region would benefit from a positive impact and tourism and greater economic activity.
All Town Board members appeared receptive to the plan and offered their support. "It's a great event," said Bax. Lewiston Police Chief Chris Salada added his Lewiston officers along with those in Youngstown would work with Hospice race organizers as needed like they have in past years.