By David Yarger
Tuesday night at the City of North Tonawanda Common Council meeting, the council spoke out about land banking, which is looking towards the future to redevelop certain areas of a municipality.
The council set forth a motion during the meeting to remove an in-rem property for consideration of the land bank. Councilman Austin Tylec said the council was considering a property on Miller Street to be part of the land bank.
"Miller is still on the table," Tylec said. "Although the wording has land bank in there, it doesn't necessarily mean it will for sure go to the land bank. It's holding it back, for now, and deciding if we wanna move forward."
Council President Eric Zadzilka added, "We feel that property is something that should be looked at closely, because there's a lot of things going there"
City Attorney Luke Brown said everyone needs to look at this move from a future standpoint.
"What we're talking about is a long-term strategy here. ... We're talking about lifting up an entire neighborhood, so the idea is we take this property off, consider it for the land bank and if we identify this section of Miller Street to go and fix up, well then, you're fixing up that property, that's going to get reassessed higher. So, your higher taxes there, people are going to fix up other properties on that street; all those assessments are going up. So, instead of getting $15,000 on Saturday, we're talking about the long term of it," Brown said.
Brown added that if the land bank doesn't work out, removing the Miller Street property for consideration still gives the council a chance to put it back into an In-Rem Auction.
Niagara County Legislator Rich Andres also advocated his support for the land bank Tuesday night.
"North Tonawanda has the opportunity to be first out of the gate. We have a vision. I know as some time on the Lumber City Development Corporation we've done this before with some commercial properties. It's not our first time doing something like this, so the model is there," Andres said.
Andres also thanked the council members for "buying in" to the land bank and said it's a process he's eager to take to increase home values and develop neighborhoods.
The Common Council approved the motion to remove the Miller Street property for consideration of the land bank further on in the meeting.
In other news, the Common Council approved a proposed amendment not allowing dogs in the City Market during market business hours.
Councilman Robert Pecoraro said, "As everyone knows that has been there, that is no place for dogs at all. ... I love dogs, however they don't belong in the marketplace."
Next, the council approved to rezone 576 Walck Road from R 1-2 to C2 in order to accommodate a landscape and snow plowing business.
The council also approved the City Hall Skylight Replacement project, which came in under budget, much to the delight of the council.
The Common Council also spoke on improvements to Gateway Park and approved Nussbaumer & Clarke Inc. to construct the improvements. Renovations include bathroom upgrades, dock space, as well as landscaping, lighting and electrical upgrades.
On Nussbaumer & Clarke, Pecoraro said, "It was really an eye opener for me and I think we selected the right one."
Tylec added, "I think it was a good selection. I went through all the proposals. Didn't know the price was the lowest, too, and I would've went for them anyways."
At the end of the meeting, Tylec reiterated support for the land bank and praised the possibilities it could bring to the city.
"The land bank is still preliminary, it's just setting the ground to be prepared for it, because it does have a lot of potential," Tylec said. "I think the Oliver Street area is very neglected and there's some areas that need improvement and this has the potential to really help that and bring North Tonawanda to another level."
Alderwoman Donna Braun added that the land bank is relatively new to the council, as well, so the council is still trying to take in all details related to it.
"We haven't been working on this a long time," Braun said. "This was adopted by the city in September 2017, so that is fairly new. ... This is early and in the works and for us to pull one property out to possibly put in the land bank is a great idea for our Oliver Street corridor."
Mayor Arthur Pappas notified residents at the end of the meeting that North Tonawanda was listed as one of the safest cities in New York according to the National Council for Home Safety.
"I'm very happy to report from their rankings that North Tonawanda is now listed as one of the safest cities in New York state," Pappas said. "That doesn't happen without a very cooperative community and working together community. It's certainly a strong feather in the cap of our police department, fire department and anyone else involved in the security of the city."
Pappas added the city couldn't have made the list without the hard work of the local responders.
The next North Tonawanda Common Council meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20.