By Joshua Maloni
Four years after purchasing 4.1 acres of land in the Village of Lewiston, Ellicott Development seemingly has no more hoops to jump through, studies to produce, or speakers to present before receiving a final vote on plans to build a mixed-use plaza.
Trustees in the Village of Lewiston on Monday ruled the Buffalo-based company's plaza proposal does not pose an environmental threat to the community. That determination, paired with variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals and conceptual endorsement from the Planning Commission, paves the way for CEO William Paladino to construct a marketplace and residences on Center, North Eighth and Onondaga streets.
The Village Board will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, before voting on the project as a whole.
"That's the intention," Mayor Terry Collesano said following the work session.
Trustees issued a negative declaration on the plaza proposal's State Environmental Quality Review. They are of the opinion any potential environmental impact produced by the project can be reasonably mitigated.
Since the plaza idea was first proposed in 2013, residents living near the site have argued the project would make the village's congested streets even worse. They've expressed concerns that an overabundance of traffic and parking would spill into surrounding neighborhoods.
Prior to voting in favor of the negative declaration, Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland read a prepared statement. He said, in part, "I would like to thank all our village residents, town residents and business owners for your thoughtful and civil comments concerning the SEQR for the Ellicott Development project. We have researched and I have thought carefully about all of your comments - especially concerning the firefighting, traffic, Center Street enter-only access and brownfield cleanup, to name a few.
"We have listened to all of you, and we have also heard from all the experts. I think we can disagree with the experts, but we have to take into account their experience and professional opinions" that suggest the project is safe and will benefit the village.
Collesano said, "I think we're all on the same page. There were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. Those questions were answered, as far as we're concerned. Now we've got to move on to the next phase of this process."
Some lingering issues headed into the SEQR vote, including sanitary sewer remediation and firefighting capabilities.
Speaking of the former, wherein the applicant has to offset four times the development's wastewater contribution (an estimated 111.2 gallons per minute), Village of Lewiston Engineer Mike Marino said Ellicott Development issued a letter of commitment. The company pledged to compensate the municipality for counterbalance remedial work - namely, repairing stormwater inflow and infiltration.
"In terms of the offset tables of remedial action equals a certain number of laterals complete, (Department of Public Works Superintendent) Terry (Brolinski)'s finishing up some investigative work," Marino said. "We'll probably look to get some sewers lined or repaired for that equivalent volume."
As for fighting fires, Sutherland said, "It was obvious the New York state code was complied with for all aspects of the proposed development, reviewed by the Amherst fire inspector and, most importantly, by our Lewiston No. 1 Fire Department.
"My main issue was, can you safely fight fire in the development. Lewiston No. 1 looked it over, they had Ellicott make some changes, such as another fire hydrant, increase turning radiuses, increase in water pressure, and they will be on top of sprinkler installation once the floor plans are forthcoming. All in all, they said they can safely fight a fire in the development."
Sutherland noted the DOT and Lewiston Police Department favor the plaza's proposed enter-only drive lane on Center Street.
Patrons will exit on North Eighth and Onondaga streets.
Marino explained the plaza's SEQR history. Ellicott Development's representatives completed part one - the applicant's understanding of the site - in January of this year. The village responded in part two by overseeing a coordinated review, holding a public hearing and analyzing all available engineering data over the spring and summer months. Part three, Marino said, is "a detailed narrative of all of that, tied back to these documents that we reviewed."
"Based on our research and our look at this," he explained, "we don't find any significant adverse environmental impacts that will result as part of this project, in accordance with the SEQR law. We recommend a negative declaration."
Sutherland cited the various entities that previously signed off on the SEQR, including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Only one resident spoke at the work session.
"While we're pretty sure now that there's no stopping this development plan, as big as it is, it's obvious it was always going to happen, and neighborhood concerns were going to likely be ignored," said Rich Donaldson of Onondaga Street. He added, "I just ask the board, please consider the future, and please make sure the infrastructural improvements take care of Ellicott, and the residents, too."
Sutherland requested Ellicott Development provide a 3-D aerial rendering of the project, and show how the plaza's three buildings fit within the neighborhoods, prior to the next meeting.
Trustee Nick Conde asked company counsel Peter Sorgi, of Hopkins, Romanowski & Sorgi, if Ellicott Development could extend its sidewalk. Paladino, who was not in attendance, previously offered to install a sidewalk on North Eighth Street. Conde suggested the sidewalk could extend around the corner and include the company's Onondaga Street property.
Sorgi said he would speak with Paladino.
News and Notes
Prior to the Village Board meeting, trustees met with the Town of Lewiston Town Council. Here again, some lingering issues were discussed.
•A permanent Water Street ice rink has been a long-range goal for Collesano and the Village Board, but they were cautioned such an idea might not be practical.
Town Councilman Bill Geiben - a former trustee and mayor who's familiar with the ice rink concept - said the waterfront would be colder in the winter months (deterring crowds), and rink equipment could result in noise and light pollution for neighbors.
Town of Lewiston Parks and Recreation Director Mike Dashineau echoed those comments. He's responsible for the Lewiston Family Ice Rink at Academy Park, and has thoroughly researched ice rink locations, conditions and operations.
If the two municipalities were to partner on a permanent ice rink, Dashineau said a central park area would be the logical spot.
In the meantime, he said Academy Park more adequately shields the public from potentially offensive noise and lights.
Brolinski said the DPW uses Water Street's public parking lots for snow removal.
"If that (ice rink) is down there, and we have a storm at night - that's where we dump snow - there's nowhere else to go with it," he said.
•Both boards are looking into funding and grant sources to restore or rebuild the fish cleaning station and bathrooms on and below Water Street. Preliminary costs to repair are more than $40,000.
•Village of Lewiston counsel Joseph Leone said a police contract is nearing completion. In the past 15 years, the town and village have had somewhat haphazard guidelines as to how much each side would pay for the Lewiston Police Department, and who would have final LPD oversight - whether it was the supervisor and mayor, police commissioners, or some combination of elected leaders and outside persons.
Leone said the municipalities are working toward a more straightforward, fair agreement that will benefit all parties, including the LPD.