By Allison Deutschman
Following a public hearing addressing property maintenance, traffic issues, traffic control on Water Street and parking in Youngstown, a motion to approve Chapter 232 Article X did not pass.
The board meeting room was over capacity Thursday, with all of the seats filled and attendees spilling into the hallway to listen. Public commentary took over an hour and all of those interested had the opportunity to voice their opinions either at the beginning or close of the session.
The main topics of conversation were motor coaches and tour buses. Chapter 232 Article X, a law that was being entertained by the board to better control where these vehicles are permitted to operate in the village, would drastically impact local businesses and residents, many argued.
"It seems to me if you just abandon the idea of buses on Water Street it would solve a lot," Youngstown resident Ron Mort said. His suggestion was met with applause from attendees. "It's time you stand up for the village residents and say no buses on Water Street. Period."
"If it were that easy and that simple to do it, it would have been done by now," Mayor Raleigh Reynolds responded. "The fact is that Water Street is a public street and you just can't say no buses on that street."
"Are you just going to wait for a fatality? Is that what you're waiting for? Because that is what is going to happen," said Betty Warrick, a member of the Youngstown Yacht Club, which is next door to many of the buses. She said she was concerned for residents' safety.
Chapter 232 Article X provided a suggested route for the buses to follow, limiting their use to April 1 through Nov. 1, forbidding idling time and only allowing one to pass down Water Street at a time.
After the public hearing was closed, at the end of the meeting Deputy Mayor Tim Lockhart made a motion to pass Chapter 232 Article X, with minor amendments removing Article C pertaining to the bus route. Lockhart said improvements needed to be made to that portion of the law.
Trustee Steven Zastrow seconded the motion to pass the law. Reynolds and Lockhart voted for it, while Zastrow and Trustee Tim Adamson opposed it. Trustee Stuart Comerford was absent and, as such, the tie meant the law could not be passed.
There was the threat of a discrimination lawsuit from Niagara Jet Adventures, represented by attorney Damon DeCastro, if Chapter 232 Article X passed. DeCastro said the law would be put in place with the intention to negatively impact Niagara Jet Adventures.
DeCastro also claimed he was open to scheduling a meeting with the board members at the past three meetings he attended, so they could further discuss how to make the situation work best for everyone. Such a meeting, he said, was never arranged with Youngstown attorney Tom Caserta.
Caserta was absent Thursday evening due to a work conflict in New York City.
"We've had conversations about having meetings, but nothing has ever been done," DeCastro said. "We can fight this out in court or we can schedule a meeting and I can come back at your convenience."
DeCastro spoke out promptly before the board's vote, an opportunity that was not provided to any other public participant until later on. He left afterward.
Once the public participation segment was reopened, the crowd in attendance, which had shrunk to half the size over the nearly two-hour meeting, offered additional comment.
"I don't think it's appropriate that, during your meeting, someone gets a privileged status to try and intimidate the board," Pauline Kaiser said.
Resident Howard Noonan said, "I find it really unfortunate that Mr. DeCastro was here and our own lawyer representing the village couldn't respond, because he wasn't here, and that we don't have the full complement of the board here this evening. The outcome of our vote could have been very different."
Reynolds said that, due to the schedule change from the typical second and fourth Thursday evening board meeting dates, Caserta already had commitments. There was no reason provided for Comerford's absence.
"We have had several delays on this issue. By the time we get around to this, the season will be over," Noonan said.
News and notes
•Local Law 162-5(K) was updated and unanimously passed. It will now be enforced that lawns are to be maintained to no higher than 6 inches and that bushes, shrubs and hedges will be trimmed regularly. Any cost incurred by the village as a result of this will become part of the property taxes.
The next Youngstown Village Board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 14.