by Joshua Maloni
By a unanimous vote Monday, the Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees voted against accepting Primrose Lane, one of two roads in the Gardens at Oxbow subdivision, as a village street.
"This is something that we've been banging around for I don't know how long," a frustrated Mayor Terry Collesano said before the vote. "We've had discussion after discussions. We've spoke with the owners; we've talked with some of the homeowners. We've got a full board tonight, and I thought, 'We better get it on.' Let's vote on it. Whether it's an up or down vote. But the thing is, I think we've had enough discussion on it, and it's time that we take action. Either we vote for it, or we vote against it."
For nearly six months, trustees debated whether or not they should adopt Primrose Lane. They discussed the matter among themselves and with a pool of Gardens at Oxbow residents that faithfully attended Village Board meetings.
Prior to the board's vote, Cliff Swain, a Gardens at Oxbow resident and member of its homeowners association, made one last plea to the board.
"We've been discussing Primrose Lane for some time, now, and we, the Gardens at Oxbow homeowners association, would like to see this issue settled - as I'm sure would (the) council," he said. "Just as a reminder, our goal for Primrose Lane has always been the same. We are requesting that this street be assumed by the village. By that I mean that the street named Primrose Lane would in the future be owned and maintained by the village. ...
"We believe that a decision made by an earlier council has not been in the best interest of the people living in the Gardens at Oxbow. We believe it is almost self-evident that this subdivision should be treated by the village as one entity. ... We want value for our tax dollars, and you are not giving us the value we are entitled to."
Susan Christie of Garden Lane said taxpayer money should go toward the health and wellness of residents.
"It really comes down to safety, because, quite frankly, I don't think any private company can do as good a job (with) a snowplow as what you people do," she said. "And even the mailman said this isn't safe, because it's slippery. And that's the only access some of us have to our homes."
"Can you understand that this is a complex situation - it's a mess," Collesano said. "It should've never happened in the first place."
Collesano said he followed the Gardens at Oxbow development plan from its beginnings with the Planning Board through its final acceptance from the Village Board.
"I brought (the issue of village-maintained roads) up specifically before we voted on this project: I would not ever want to see these roads turned over to the village. And I was promised that evening, at a public meeting, 'Oh, no, it's a homeowners association. The homeowners association will take over the property; they'll take over ownership of these roads.
"Then all of a sudden, sometime after the development started ... the owners came back to this board and wanted us to take over the two roads."
In 2007, the Village of Lewiston accepted Garden Lane as a village road. In doing so, trustees assumed responsibility for the street's maintenance and snow plowing.
That "yes" vote was unanimous. The one for Primrose Lane was not, and, as such, the petition failed.
Collesano voted "no," and said this week that he did so "because I was on my principles of what was told to me and then taken back. And also being an undersized road, I didn't feel that the village taxpayers should (bear) the responsibility of that road."
Village of Lewiston Attorney Edward Jesella, who pointed out he wasn't municipal counsel when the Gardens at Oxbow was approved in 2005, or in 2007, when Garden Lane was made a public road, said, "If you're going to join a homeowners association, you better know what you're going to buy into."
"If the homeowners association was going to take care of both of the roads - the major road has now been taken care of because the village basically already did (you) a favor. But you're still stuck with an undersized road that the homeowners association's supposed to plow. Not the village. And that's the question here. This is the entire question."
"The road doesn't meet the village specifications, though, I think is the problem," Village Engineer Mike Marino said. "At the beginning of the project, was the village going to take ownership of any of the roads? I seem to think it was a homeowners association. But then, because they came close to standards on Garden Lane, the village decided to help out with that piece of it, and take over maintenance on that. But because Primrose was too far off village standards that's (why it wasn't accepted). ... Because originally it was supposed to be completely the responsibility of the homeowners association. All roads - water, too."
There was a debate as to which party is responsible for Primrose Lane's water and sewer lines. Both village Department of Public Works Superintendent Bryan Meigs and Jesella said the homeowners association is responsible, while Bill Game, one of the Gardens at Oxbow developers, said the village is responsible.
"You have paperwork to that regards, and you turned it over to the Village of Lewiston?" Collesano asked. "Because we have no record - we have no record where it was ever approved by a Village Board, which would have to go through a board and they would have to vote 'yes' or 'no' on that. We have no record."
Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland said the village has a water and sewer agreement in place for Garden Lane.
The Gardens at Oxbow subdivision is located between Mohawk Street and Oxbow Lane.
Sewer/Water Rate Deduction
Trustees recently voted to reduce the water and sewer rates, and to eliminate the $5 maintenance fee. On Monday, Collesano said the board was going one step farther.
"All village residents will now also receive a $30 energy credit on their water bill due to a New York State Power Authority settlement agreement," he said. "The village is continually trying to reduce the cost of operating our village, and also reducing the cost for our village residents."
Collesano said this is not a one-time deal. The reduction will indefinitely appear each quarter on residential water bills.
In April, trustees voted to lower the sanitary sewer rate from $4.65 per 100 cubic feet of consumption to $4.59, and to decrease the water rate from $3.55 per 100 cubic feet to $3.49.
The new rates will take effect July 1.
The Village of Lewiston Board will make its appointments for 2013-14 at a re-organizational meeting Monday, July 1, at 6 p.m.
Fourth of July
Fireworks will once again light up the village sky. The annual Independence Day display will begin at dusk on Thursday, July 4.
The Village of Lewiston, the Town of Lewiston, the Town of Porter and the Village of Youngstown, local businesses and private donors all chip in for the Fourth of July fireworks.