Board discusses French Landing HOAs
By Terry Duffy
Issues involving the River Walk subdivision and the new French Landing housing development again occupied significant discussion at a Lewiston Town Board work session.
Monday's session led off with a public hearing on the final plat for the River Walk Phase 4A subdivision, now owned and managed in a partnership with GMB Development and Sam Talarico Development.
As discussed at the Town Board's May 9 work session, the new 4A plat would see the elimination of a cul-de-sac and 10 homes originally planned and approved for the subdivision back in 2005.
It has won the backing of the Lewiston Planning Board, but was met with skepticism Monday by two residents who spoke.
Resident Ellen Correa of River Walk Drive, a member of the Lewiston Taxpayers Accountability and Action Alliance, aired her concerns on Lower River Road traffic associated with River Walk and asked board members to consider its impact.
"I'm concerned about the increase in traffic in speed on River Walk and South River Walk, once the connecting road that is part of the River Walk 4A project is completed. There are no sidewalks on River Walk Drive," Correa said. She raised concerns on the safety of walkers and bikers in the area.
She went on tell the board the new Wolf Run access to the new nearby French Landing would only add to the problem.
"There is no doubt that motorists will only use the new connecting road as a short cut to Pletcher and Lower River Road, particularly in the winter when the road to Joseph Davis Park is closed," Correa said. "This residential road will become a thoroughfare for cars to speed though."
Correa closed by asking the board to further study its impact on safety in the area.
Next up, fellow Taxpayers and Alliance Action member Paulette Glasgow spoke on a number of issues that were subject to review earlier by the town Planning Board as it finalized Phase 4A en route to the final plat. Included were sewer locations and manhole depth issues; the lack of street lights in the development; the lack of a drainage easement on neighboring property to the north, and the lack of a drain pipe on the northern property; and related drainage easements.
Chief among Glasgow's concerns was the need for the town to address the new River Walk development under a homeowners association (HOA) maintenance arrangement.
Glasgow told the board that, as per an earlier suggestion by Councilman Bill Geiben, the town Planning Board, last March, was supposed to address a host of conditions leading to its endorsement or rejection of Phase 4A en route to a negative declaration and final plat recommendation. She then presented questions pertaining to the HOA for Phase 4A, or lack thereof.
"We're these conditions addressed within town code? What is the present legal status of the development per a HOA? Is it still classified as a HOA as originally approved?" Glasgow asked.
She also questioned why Town Attorney Brian Seaman supported the elimination of any HOA - an action that could potentially place the town on the line for funding any required future infrastructure maintenance improvements (i.e., sewers, drainage, including retention ponds) at River Walk, rather than River Walk property owners under a removed HOA setup.
"I'd like to know why he feels comfortable about doing this ... putting the financial burden of the maintenance of the infrastructure on the taxpayers rather than where it should be, on the developer," Glasgow said. "As taxpayers, we are constantly being told that the town's finances are strapped. ... For the taxpayers to once again assume financial responsibility would not only impact our finances further, but we would be taking on responsibility that shouldn't be ours."
While the public hearing closed following Glasgow's remarks, discussions over HOAs continued as the town moved to addressing French Landing and creation of a new special district.
Comparing the use of HOAs to a special district arrangement to cover town cost/maintenance of infrastructure, one that is being considered by Lewiston as Drainage District No. 1 for the French Landing development, Seaman told the board such an arrangement would not throw any cost onus on the town, but rather to the property owners of the subdivision.
"The financial costs would be borne by the people who live there," he said.
Seaman told the board that, under such an arrangement, one that is being called for by new state Department of Environmental Conservation directives covering subdivisions, it would allow for the town to dictate the cost of future maintenance needs and direct that responsibility in the form of a tax levy to be placed on the property owner.
No actual construction/maintenance costs would be borne by the town, Seaman said. He told the board such a special district scenario, versus working via a HOA to cover funding/maintenance needs, could be precedent-setting in how Lewiston handles such arrangements with future developers. He said, under this scenario, any future special district costs to the town as a taxing entity would involve the town working directly with the property owners of a particular subdivision to cover any project needs. The town would be the receiver of a new funding source (tax money derived from the affected property owners of a subdivision), which would allow it to address such items as any future maintenance, construction or inspection costs associated with a project.
On French Landing, the board moved that night to approve adopting a petition on the Drainage District No. 1 special districting proposal and set a public hearing. That will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, June 27, prior to the Town Board regular meeting.
Later in the session, following discussions on stop signs and addressing speed concerns at River Walk, including a Supervisor Steve Broderick advisory against the use of speed bumps on the new town access road in River Walk, the board went on to approve the new Phase 4A amended particulars recommended earlier by the Planning Board.
It other news from the session:
•Town Parks/Recreation Director Mike Dashineau requested and obtained board approval to pursue requests for proposals to address the removal of diseased ash trees at Kiwanis Park, and replace those trees with new plantings.
Dashineau said there are 17 ash trees that need to be cut down in the park, and estimated the entire project to be in the $8,000 to $10,000 range.
Further, Dashineau said he has been discussing the ash tree problem in Lewiston with town forester John Sharpe, and advised the board the ash problem is growing and could become widespread. He said diseased and dead ashes are already affecting numerous town-owned green spaces and private properties in the town, and predicted it's only going to get worse.
"Up to 80 percent of trees in the town could be lost" in the future, he said.
•Councilman Geiben requested and received approval from the board to begin working with town grant writer Bernie Rotella on pursuing Greenway funding toward the potential future creation of a new "Sunshine Park," eyed for a private property at North Sixth and Oneida streets. Geiben said he has been working with interests from St. Peter's R.C. Church, which recently purchased a nearby property with plans to reconfigure its church parking area and create a new playground.
Geiben was approved to begin the Greenway funding feasibility with Rotella.
•Town Finance Director Martha Blazick reiterated her calls to the board for creation of a junior bookkeeper position, one that had been budgeted for earlier but since removed.
"This is becoming critical," Blazick said. She told the board she continues to be overwhelmed on managing the town's numerous financial affairs and would need additional assistance as budget time approaches.
The matter was approved, with Seaman instructed to determine if the eliminated position could be restored or would need to be recreated under civil service guidelines.