By Joshua Maloni
Four community leaders have formed the "Alliance for Historic Lewiston."
As Village of Lewiston residents continue to meet and ponder courses of action related to the possible creation of an Ellicott Development mixed-use plaza on Center Street, the watchdog group intends to "gel the disparate discussions" and hold elected leaders accountable.
The Alliance for Historic Lewiston "was created to provide a voice for all Lewiston residents and business owners who are dedicated to protecting and enhancing the unique historic and cultural nature of our village center," its mission statement reads. The purpose, "is to support the vision outlined in the 2004 master plan for the Village of Lewiston ... which ensures the future of a welcoming, walkable village by calling for input from citizens and businesses, careful guardianship of historic sites and buildings, as well as the advancement of residential and business districts through responsible, sustainable growth and adherence to existing zoning code ordinances.
"Our primary goal is to provide a forum where the needs and the concerns of both citizens and the business community can be heard and assessed during the decision-making process."
The alliance was not formed solely for the purpose of responding to the plaza plan, but that project is certainly on the group's radar.
Village resident W.E. "Skip" Hauth, one of the alliance creators, said, "It is the historic village that we are looking to support, as opposed to bringing ourselves together for a particular task. Our concern to start with was the fact that we got some things that are on the village agenda that we think need to be more attuned to what is being discussed within the village, but it's intended to have more longevity. It's intended to be a forum that, when future issues arise, that seem to be of interest to the community, that there's a forum there to go to, as opposed to having to recreate it and call it something new and have a new face to it."
He added, "We want to have people view this as a credible place to participate and to air their opinions."
Alliance co-creator Jamie Symmonds, a former business owner and mayoral candidate, said the project process, which oftentimes involves multiple village boards, "is a complicated process. So I think, sometimes, people don't know what to do. I've heard many times, 'Well, what do I do next? What can I do next? What is next?' A lot of times people feel they have no power, or just don't know the process itself. So, I think it's important to have a place, a forum, where people can go to and get that information, and know how they can get involved - know how they can make their voice heard."
The Alliance for Historic Lewiston does not have a brick and mortar building, or a set meeting time. The first step, organizers said, was to identify the group. The next step is to establish credibility within the community.
To do that, and to recruit new members, petitions and informational handouts will be placed at Jane's Café Express and Hibbard's Liquors, both located within the Hibbard's plaza; and at Center Street businesses the Orange Cat Coffee Co. and Antique to Chic.
There are two petitions - one for residents/business owners, and one for interested individuals visiting the village. Both documents read, "I, the undersigned, support the efforts and vision of the Alliance for Historic Lewiston.
"I believe in the importance of maintaining the historical integrity of the village while enhancing the residential and business community through smart, sustainable growth; to maintain the village as a cultural, economic and historical center while enhancing the residential and business community through smart, sustainable growth; to maintain the village as a cultural, economic and historical center.
"I believe that, in order to ensure the preservation of the historic character in the village, we need to follow local law No. 1-1978. The overall intent of this law is to protect, enhance and perpetuate building, structures, sites or districts of a historic nature.
"I believe in the implementation of our master plan and its overall vision for the village. Specifically, in regards to development plans and Section 10-R, which states, "uses proposed will not be detrimental to present and potential surrounding uses," and that "the proposed development is in conformance with the general intent of the comprehensive master plan" for the Village of Lewiston (i.e.: maintain current amount of green space, continued enhancement of streetscape and waterfront district, proper overview and enforcement of the planning and zoning code ordinances)."
The final step is action, and to appear before "groups that should be hearing from the alliance," Hauth said.
Accordingly, the petitions ask for contact information from the signors so alliance members can contact petitioners and provide information on future meeting dates and times, or proposed courses of action.
Alliance co-creator Eli Cobti, who has worked on regional political campaigns, and whose family runs Syros Restaurant, said the alliance wants "responsible development that sets precedent for the future."
"We all want to keep Lewiston moving in the right direction," he noted.
Alliance co-creator Judy Munzi, one of the co-op co-owners at Antique to Chic, said the goal is "smart, sustained growth."
"We're not against growth, by any means, but what we want is something that's more in keeping with the master plan that the village came up with," she added.
The alliance members can be contacted via email at [email protected].
DOWNLOAD and view the Petitions: