Proposal now goes to Lewiston Village Board for final approval
by Joshua Maloni
While audience participation was significantly different than one month ago, the end result was the same. The Village of Lewiston Planning Board unanimously approved Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours' President John Kinney's request to build a two-story addition to the U.S. home of his binational company.
Planning Board Chairman David Giusiana said the plan fits with village code and was ultimately accepted because "the jet boat (representatives) listened to those concerns" expressed last month by his colleagues "and made alterations."
"I think you've done your homework," Planning Board member Dave Maslen said.
The proposal will now go to the Village Board of Trustees for final approval. Members meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Red Brick Municipal Building.
With less than a handful of residents on hand, the expansion was approved rather uneventfully. Just four weeks prior, more than 100 people attended a Planning Board meeting, argued the proposal's pros and cons, and witnessed the keepers of the codebook offer conceptual approval of the WJBT first draft.
On Monday, a second submission was presented to the Planning Board. This design is 10 feet narrower on the north side (closer to Water Street Landing, which it will abut), and a total of 120 square-feet less on the street-level deck. The stairwell leading down to the river-level changing areas is no longer attached to the outside, but rather sits inside the addition.
"We figured that opened the (Niagara River) view for people coming down the hill quite substantially," said Kinney's plan designer, Jim Fittante of Silvestri Architects.
All along, Kinney stated one of the prime reasons for the now slightly less than 2,700-square-feet expansion was to provide additional wash and change rooms for jet boat participants. His new building calls for eight new bathrooms for women, and nine for men, all on the river-level floor. These bathrooms will also be open for the general public.
Fittante addressed Planning Board questions relating to railings and columns - both will look similar to those at the restaurant - and brought siding material samples.
As Kinney hypothesized about various opportunities for WJBT and Water Street Landing to collaborate on events - or even offer additional lounging or smoking spaces - Planning Board member Loretta Frankovitch asked Kinney about the street-level deck.
"I need more definition on what you envision that space to be," she said.
He indicated the deck would mostly be open space, allowing for a view of the river. From May to October, it will serve as the starting point for jet boat riders, and feature counters where tickets will be sold and merchandise (commemorative pictures, videos, hats, T-shirts) will be available for sale. It is not designed for live entertainment, Kinney said, but he did not rule out such usage.
A sticking point for the Planning Board was the new plan's addition of sliding glass partitions, which would encase the expansion. Kinney said such an amenity would look classier than the canvas and acrylic suggested in the first plan. The doors would serve as a more robust break from any inclement weather, and provide additional shelter for people soaking wet after a jet boat ride.
Board members, however, expressed concern over the open-air concept turning into a fully enclosed structure. Such a creation could lend to safety modifications and changes in the bathroom count, they said. The Planning Board voted to approve the new design with the old partitions. That being the case, Kinney was told he could come back in the future and submit a request for glass partitions, should he wish to do so.
The Planning Board also added the caveat that WJBT cannot host live entertainment on the street-level deck without special approval from the Village Board.
Businessman Jerome Williams has filed an Article 78 lawsuit against the Village of Lewiston over what he calls an "illegal transfer" of property that enabled WJBT to procure variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Those variances allowed the Planning Board to approve the expansion.
His motion is slated to be heard Feb. 10 in State Supreme Court.