By Allison Deutschman
For nearly two years now, a commercial operation existing in a residentially zoned area on Lake Road has been an upsetting topic for neighboring residents. And throughout this period, as neighboring areas were disrupted, residents have argued the town has not responded as some would have liked.
Monday, the Porter Town Board held a public hearing to determine the future of Local Law 2014-71, approved in June 2014. It permits operations relating to the sales and service of gardening and farming on properties in rural residential areas of the town.
The law has led to complaints by the neighbors of Lake Road resident Mike McCabe, a former councilman who was not on the board when the law was passed.
Cliff Truesdale was one of several who spoke. He pointed to sandblasting and industrial activities on McCabe's property and suggested a decline in real estate values now exists.
Truesdale inquired about tax breaks for neighboring residents whose home values have become negatively impacted. The board did not grant his request.
Councilman Tom Baia countered that real estate values in the town have gone up.
"The houses are selling for more than what I thought they were selling for," he said. "I think the Town of Porter is a very desirable place to live."
Residents disagreed, however, with several providing examples of houses sitting on the market or sold for less than their asking price.
Vicky Berman told the board, "I had a potential offer on my property. They looked at the house across the road and left. They said 'You didn't tell me you were across from an industrial park.' I can't even sell my house."
Following comments, the board decided to set aside the discussion of rescinding Local Law 2014-71. As written, it does not consider the operations of McCabe, and others like him, to be illegal.
Code Enforcer Roy Rogers commented, "What we're talking about tonight isn't a specific person, place or thing. We're talking about 'Should this (the sales and service of farm and garden equipment) be allowed in a rural agriculture district?' "
Councilman Jeff Fleckenstein initiated a motion to table and announced the town referred the matter to the Niagara County Planning Board.
"Before we make any determinations, we already have sent this out to the Niagara County Planning Board for their input, which we probably won't have for at least 10 days," he said.
The Porter Board plans to revisit this topic either at its end-of-year meeting Dec. 29 or the Jan. 11 regular meeting - whenever additional information becomes available.