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Village of Lewiston: Chamber asks board for more transparency on Center Street closings

by niagarau
Sat, Mar 24th 2012 07:00 am

by Joshua Maloni

The Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees and the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce are still not on the same page when it comes to closing Center Street for festivals or other events.

At Monday's board meeting, Mayor Terry Collesano, somewhat surprised, told trustees he received a letter from the chamber suggesting there is still some uncertainty among business owners as to when, why and how the village's main thoroughfare is closed off to vehicular traffic.

"I don't know what else we can do at this point," short of inviting a chamber representative to the board meetings, Collesano said.

"Right now, we have three closings, and it's the same ones we've had for years," Trustee Vic Eydt said, referring to GardenFest, the Art Festival and the Jazz Festival. "I don't know what to tell them."

Last fall, Collesano created an ad hoc committee to review the street closing process. The panel included Rick Haight, who is the Lewiston Advisory Committee (a chamber board) chairman, as well as Village of Lewiston Police Commissioner Al Soluri, chamber President Jennifer Pauly, Lewiston Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 Chief Kevin Macaulay and Fourth Street resident Pat Walker.

After a series of meetings, the ad hoc committee asked the Village Board to make public any and all requests to close Center Street, and to share the festival/event proposals with first responders and the chamber.

Upon review of this suggestion, trustees decided that the recommended policy was already in place. Collesano said that, between the village's facility contract and one required by the state Department of Transportation (Center Street is a state road), there was sufficient information to make a determination to close the road. 

Members of the LAC took issue with the Village Board's position at a meeting on Wednesday.

"You should ensure the businesses are taken care of," former trustee and current Fine Antiques owner Ron Craft told Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland. "Personally, I'm getting a little fed up with it."

Craft took umbrage with not knowing when an organization will make a proposal to close Center Street, what that will mean (in terms of parking and other vendors perched in front of Lewiston retailers), and whether or not the businesses will be notified.

"I think what you ought to do is take care of the businesses," Craft said.

Angel to Apple boutique owner and Planning Board member Jamie Symmonds asked Sutherland if the board could make a public announcement when proposals to close Center Street are on the board's agenda.

"It's about being able to bring the two sides together," she said.

"If it's out there prior, at least it gives people a chance to come," Haight added.

Artpark Director of PR, Marketing and Development Maureen Kellick warned of a potential conflict between the GardenFest and high school graduations. Thousands of parents and high school students will be at the Lewiston performing arts venue the same weekend as GardenFest, which is June 23 and 24. Not all of them will know how to circumnavigate Center Street to get to North Fourth Street and Artpark.

Moreover, Kellick said thousands of people bypassing Center Street is not good for business.

The LAC suggested such double-booking could be avoided if people in the know are brought into the closing Center Street discussions.

"This kind of input is what the Village Board needs to hear," Haight said.

Sutherland said he would take the LAC's concerns back to the trustees.

"It's been addressed. We'll look at it again," he said.

The Center Street/festival talks last fall quickly took a back seat to conservations involving a proposed recreation center. There was no follow-up discussion until this week.

News and notes

•At Monday's Village Board meeting, Zoning Officer Bill Brodie told trustees he isn't putting up with A-frame or other signs placed on the village right-of-way.

He encouraged business owners to apply for a permit and to learn what is allowable under municipal law. For those who refuse, "If they don't have a permit ... I'm going to pick them up (the signs), and destroy them," within 48 hours of notice, Brodie said.

"I'm not going to stand for it this year," he said.

•Trustees are waiting to receive cost analysis on adding or reconfiguring parking spaces alongside Academy Park and across from The Silo Restaurant on Water Street.

Department of Public Works Superintendent Bryan Meigs said Portage Road, across from the Hibbards' stores, could offer 25 perpendicular parking spots or between 19 and 20 diagonal spaces. He estimated the cost for redoing the curbside project to be about $15,000, which would include materials, striping and paving.

Meigs didn't have a price for Water Street.

"I think it's a good idea," Trustee Ernie Krell said of adding or reconfiguring parking spaces on the two roads.

"I think it's a great idea, really. We need the extra parking," Collesano said.

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