Residents question Upper Mountain towerby jmaloni
LPD petition declared null and void
by Terry Duffy
It was another one of those Lewiston Town Board meetings this past Monday.
A host of items were covered. Included was a questionably built communications tower erected behind Upper Mountain Volunteer Fire Co., supposedly without following proper procedure, ongoing concerns of equate applications on town farm lands and talks for a moratorium/local law, the controversial Lewiston Police Department voter referendum to dissolve and consolidate with the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, River Walk sidewalks, Country Club Trail sinkholes, green space issues and more.
All were of equal prominence, but perhaps the one that stood out over others among the crowd was the building of a 219-foot tower, apparently done without town knowledge and consent.
Yes, as they say ... only in Lewiston.
According an earlier announcement by Bill Ross, chairman of the Niagara County Legislature who serves as 2nd District legislator for Lewiston and Wheatfield, construction of the tower was done as a result of a federal radio narrow banding mandate. It came to reality following negotiations done earlier between county public safety officials, Upper Mountain Fire Co. and former Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter.
Problem is no further communication followed from that, and the tower apparently went up virtually unannounced, very much to the surprise of residents, and particularly those at Town Hall. "Residents that live near the tower site have expressed concerns and raised questions, and we want to ensure their voices are heard," Ross said in announcing plans for a community forum held Wednesday, Aug. 20, involving county officials and Upper Mountain and other officials on the matter.
But apparently that session failed to satisfy many who attended the Town Board session and made their feelings known to Supervisor Dennis Brochey and the Town Board this week.
Resident Paulette Glasgow led off the comments, followed by Upper Mountain Road residents, who all questioned the building of the tower, and the apparent lack of county notification with the town and the proper following of procedure. "Last month, Niagara County constructed a 219-foot steel lattice tower. ... This was done in violation of the Lewiston tower law," said Glasgow, arguing that Niagara County established itself as the lead State Environmental Quality Review agency and did not follow procedures.
"Since this ... tower is located within the Town of Lewiston, one would most definitely assume the town would be an involved agency and the county should have coordinated the SEQRA process with the town."
They didn't, Glasgow said.
"There are questions that need to be addressed and the county refuses to address them. The only resolution to this matter is the dismantling of this tower and the taxpayers of Lewiston to be exempt from its dismantling."
Upper Mountain Road resident Barry Deal couldn't agree more. Deal told the board the tower is located within 60 feet of his property, and raised a number of violation problems. Included were the tower being of lattice tower construction, built within 500 feet of a residential property, and within 100 feet of a clear zone. Deal told of fears of the tower falling on his home, of it falling on Upper Mountain Road, and of electromagnetic field concerns. "What is the town of Lewiston going to do on this illegal issue?" Barry asked.
"We're not sitting on this," replied Brochey, telling the resident the matter will likely be going to litigation.
"It smells bad to me," said council member Al Bax, who is also an attorney. "The town was circumvented by the county on this," he continued, telling of past communications by the town's Tower Committee and the county. "The county did not abide by the wishes of the Tower Committee," he added.
Also at the session, the equate matter came up, with a public hearing held that night to consider a six-month moratorium on the permitting of any applications of equate on town lands prior to Lewiston considering the enactment of a local law to ban the practice. It came to be following news that the Department of Environmental Conservation had issued permits to allow for the equate, processed by Quasar Energy of Ohio, and containing sewage residue, to be applied on town lands.
"We shouldn't have to be here considering this," commented Swann Road resident Tobin Gormley, one of the few who spoke at the session.
The town moved to close the session soon after, with the only significant change to the moratorium being considered an amendment change on Section 6, clarifying applications to conform with Modern Disposal's Community Host Agreement. The matter was not finalized that night.
Still another contentious issue came with the LPD voter referendum. Following comments by petition sponsor Ron Craft and resident Jacqueline Lampman that the town was allowing the issue to become sidestepped and transparency was not being followed by LPD, came word by Town Attorney Brian Seaman that the petition was not valid in his eyes. Seaman indicated a referendum of this type cannot be initiated by a resident but would need to be pursued via the Town Board, which it wasn't. As a result, the matter is moot. "No inclusion for a citizen-induced petition exists in Law 150-4 cited by Craft," said Seaman. "I'm pretty confident it's just not allowed under the law. There's no provision that allows the Town Board to do this."
Moving on to other news:
•River Walk Drive residents again visited to ask about the delays in sidewalk repairs. Highway Superintendent Doug Janese replied he had been waiting on county equipment to help him finish the job on a private property as well as in other areas of the subdivision. The matter was settled with the board approving the town Highway Department to finish the job within two weeks.
•Janese also reported that Country Club Trail on the escarpment was falling apart with sinkholes. "Structural issues do exist," said Janese, telling members that due to questionable construction, many areas around sewer grates on the roadway were caving in. "There's several thousand feet of concrete around drainage that's falling apart," he said.
The matter was left as yet another item on the list of highway and drainage concerns that Janese and Brochey were to look into.