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Cliffe's bid for term limits fails

by jmaloni
Thu, Aug 30th 2012 04:15 pm

by Susan Mikula Campbell

For the second time since he was elected, Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe sought approval Monday for expanding the supervisor's term of office to four years and limiting each supervisor to a maximum of two terms.

Once again, his request for a second on his motion was met by silence from the members of the Town Board.

Cliffe said he had tried to change the individual board members' minds on the matter since he brought it up in his first year in office.

"I have my views. It's obvious the board members don't agree," he said, adding that it would be the last time he would bring the matter up.

Cliffe is now in his second two-year term. If his motion had succeeded with the board, a referendum would have been included in this November's election, giving voters the final say on the matter. If voters had approved, the change would have gone into effect for whoever was elected supervisor taking office in January 2014.

At a public hearing prior to the meeting, Cliffe had explained that with a two-year term, a supervisor is only in office one year before he must begin facing the expense and time required for seeking re-election. Limiting a supervisor to two four-year terms would prevent any one individual from getting too powerful, he said, noting that a supervisor can control the financial and other information that reaches the Town Board.

He also admitted there were downsides to his plan, such as forcing political parties to look for new candidates (not always an easy task) after eight years, even if the supervisor is doing a very good job.

•The town also held a public hearing on Tuesday evening this week for residents of Wheatfield Lakes.

As a planned unit development, deed restrictions on common area behind patio homes on Skylark Drive does not leave enough space for residents to put in things like fences, pools, or sheds. The common area in the development is controlled by a homeowners associations.

"Some (Skylark) homeowners are not happy with what they bought," Cliffe explained. "The actual site plan shows that, with purchase of their home, most have very little land in front or back of their homes. In some cases, they may only own six to 10 feet behind their back door. So if they want to put a deck onto their back lawn, if they want a fenced in yard, they must do so within that minimal area."

Builder Ryan Homes believes there is enough common land in the development to meet PUD requirements and give the Skylark residents extra room. However, the town's Planning Board is concerned about things such as whether the developer can give away common land which was for every owner in the PUD, whether there is enough room to make changes where homes back up to the pond/lake and property tax considerations. The developer wants assurance that the board will favor the modified site plan before going through the expense of redesign and re-organizing property lines and deeds.

After the hearing, Cliffe said, "It seems that the homeowners from Skylark all wanted these changes, but the folks there from other areas of the PUD didn't like their common land to be given away. They wanted access to the lake."

Any change to the site plan will have effects on ownership of common land and will affect both of the homeowners associations in the area. Ryan Homes will contact the leaders of these groups for a mutual meeting, Cliffe said.

"My view is, I would like to either participate in those meetings, or at least hear that the concerns of the homeowners of the area have been addressed by the HOAs before I will consider adjustments to the site plan of this PUD," Cliffe said.

In other matters at Monday's regular meeting:

•Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey invited residents to attend the grand opening of the new splash park at Oppenheim Park on Niagara Falls Boulevard. The opening is scheduled for 11 a.m. today, Aug. 30.

•The Town Board's next regular meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 10, at Town Hall. Prior to that meeting, there will be two public hearings, one at 7 p.m. and the other at 7:15 p.m.

The 7:15 p.m. public hearing will be on proposed rezoning in the Love Canal Overlay District, in the 102nd and 103rd Street area next to the Niagara Falls city line. A property owner there wants to sell to a construction business and is requesting rezoning to M-1, light industrial, from the current commercial zoning.

The 7 p.m. hearing will be on the local waterfront redevelopment plan for the River Road area. After the public hearing is held, the town will be able to go after certain types of funding for the plan, Cliffe said.

•Cliffe promised to meet privately with residents of one town neighborhood who complained they were being terrorized by a neighbor's pit bulls. The residents said they did not want to identify themselves publicly for fear of retaliation.

•Councilman Gil Doucett noted that the YMCA is looking for suggestions from Wheatfield residents on what types of programs they would like to see offered in the town's Youth Center and gym building on the Town Hall campus. The board decided earlier this month to allow the YMCA to use the facility during times when it is not already scheduled for town programs.

•Cliffe, board members and audience members made a point of thanking the town's volunteer picnic committee for their hard work in making the Wheatfield Family Picnic, held earlier this month, a success.

•Cliffe noted that there is no smoking in town buildings, but people still smoke outside. He said that he has received suggestions that a policy be established creating a 50-foot or 100-foot non- smoking buffer area outside building entrances.

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