By David Yarger
On Tuesday, the Town of Niagara Town Board held a public hearing regarding the town's comprehensive plan draft. The hearing was held prior to the town's regular monthly meeting.
The town's last comprehensive plan was completed in 1972. In a brief explanation in the draft, "A comprehensive plan serves as a guide for a community, with a well-defined framework upon which future public and private investment, as well as local decision-making, may be based. It accomplishes this by articulating an overall vision for the Town, as well as a means to achieve that vision."
Molly Gaudioso of Barton & Loguidice, who assisted the town with the drafted plan, explained to residents a little about the plan and what it is there for.
"In a way it is a marketing document. It helps guide public and private investment. It's not law, so it's meant to be a tool for the (town) board, the Planning Board and other town officials and decision-makers to utilize that for future decision-making, policy, regulations, programs. It helps get grant money. ... It increases your competitiveness for grants," Gaudioso said.
The hearing about the plan drew almost 45 minutes of discussion, most notably in relation to the Bri Estates development. Paul Torrey, a member of the Concerned Citizens of the Town of Niagara group, pointed out several comments he had regarding the plan. His comments about Bri Estates regarded homes being in harmony with each other. The Bri Estates development proposed 60-foot lot sizes behind 100-foot sized lots on Colonial Drive and Miller Road.
"I notice also in the comprehensive plan that no longer is harmony mentioned, but it's changed to character. ... Does that mean the same thing?" Torrey asked.
Town of Niagara Supervisor Lee Wallace replied, "You know my position on that. Harmony means to me that you don't build a 60-foot house in a neighborhood that has 100-foot fronts."
In a public input session for the plan, the same proposed houses for Bri Estates scored the lowest grades amongst voters, which Torrey pointed out in the drafted plan. Wallace told Torrey the board is aware of it.
In the drafted plan, on Page 29, there was a chart titled "Conceptual Residential Development Standards." In the chart, the lot width for small lot residential and mixed residential was listed as 50 to 80 feet, and 50 to 100 feet, respectively. This drew comments from Torrey and Planning Board member Ed Herman with worries that if attorneys for Bri Estates saw 50 feet listed in the plan after proposing 60 feet lots, that it could possibly cause problems between the town and the developers.
Herman said, "My concern is that we're now documenting - and again I don't think every lot should be 100 feet. I do think 60 if you're doing the amount of 60-foot lots that they are proposing; it is a large number of lots at 60 feet. I'm not saying they should be 100, but maybe 70 or 75.
"I'm concerned that by doing a new comprehensive plan, that that now puts the limit down to 50 feet ... that we're hurting our position by doing this. That Bri Estates is gonna come back and say 'Hey, wait a minute guys. You're telling us you want them (lots) bigger than 60 feet, but you just wrote up a comprehensive plan that says they can go to 50 feet."
Gaudioso reminded residents that according to a parcel study of the town, 60 percent of the town's lot sizes are less than 80 feet. She added, according to recent trends, younger adults and families, and seniors are leaning towards smaller residential lots.
"If you look, the whole point of the future land use plan is if you look at that and you look at the areas that are identified as small lot residential, those are largely the concentration of areas in the town that have lots less than 60 feet in width. The areas identified as large residential are largely those that are 60 to 80 feet in width. So, the point of mixed residential is saying find the middle ground and go from there.
"If you read the text, it talks about phasing development, matching the character of what it's adjacent to and then kind of going from there. Because, obviously, (the) housing market has changed. Demands for smaller lots or smaller houses, less maintenance, all those things do become a factor. So, as you review plans and development proposals that come before you, you can use this information to sort of figure out what's most appropriate in that area," Gaudioso said.
Councilman Marc Carpenter used lot sizes on Fourth Avenue, which are around 50 feet wide, as an example.
Councilman Charles Teixeira reminded residents the comprehensive plan is not just for Bri Estates, and there has to be a variety for the whole town.
The draft of the comprehensive plan was not voted upon during the regular meeting. The draft can be viewed at http://www.townofniagara.com/media/1217/niagara-draft-plan-june-2018.pdf.
In other news:
•The board scheduled a public hearing regarding the 2019 budget at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7.
•Town Clerk Sylvia Virtuoso reminded residents that Halloween trick-or-treat hours are from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday.
•The town accepted a $325,000 grant from the Niagara County Brownfield Development Corporation to pay for the remediation of the "Grenga Site" at 4435-4445 Military Road and authorized Wallace to sign the grant agreement. The town has been looking to get rid of the building, which it called an eyesore to the town.
•The next Town of Niagara Town Board meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 20.