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Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours looks to expand Water Street operation

by jmaloni
Sat, Nov 13th 2010 12:00 pm
by Joshua Maloni

Water Street Landing may soon receive a major facelift.

On Monday, Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours President John Kinney informed the Village of Lewiston Planning Board of his intention to add a multi-story addition to the north side of the restaurant building his company owns.

"Thirteen short years ago, we started running jet boat trips here in the village. And we're pleased to say that things have gone pretty well for us," Kinney said. "One of the things that we've done, to a fault, is we've become too good at taking former restaurant space and converting it into jet boat space -- which, quite frankly, isn't that great of a scenario. We believe that our operation has matured to the point where it really demands a professional facility designed to meet the needs of our program."

Specifically, Kinney said patrons need a clear entrance into the WJBT facilities, sufficient bathroom and changing areas, and a retail store located in close proximity to the parking lot.

Currently, none of those things exist. The WJBT entrance is connected to a series of doors leading into Water Street Landing. Bathrooms are scarce; the business actually utilized a portable bathroom trailer over the summer to accommodate tourists bused state to state without a washroom break. And the opportunity to purchase a souvenir often comes when patrons are without their wallets (left on the bus or inside a parked car).

The addition, then, would "be a permanent solution" to address those needs, Kinney said.

He said the construction was "fairly simple"; he estimated it could begin around March 2011 and finish in time for summer.

"The plan is to add an addition on to the north side of the building, that would be a two-story structure (above the current walkway)," Kinney said. "The story that will be at the existing level of the restaurant would be where the pre-trip registration and post-trip retail operations occur."

The facility would include a new, wrap-around balcony for restaurant patrons.

Additionally, "We have added new and improved handicap access to the site," Kinney said. Access to the jet boat launch would be via a small staircase or a ramp.

In total, Kinney said the addition and new amenities would make, "a very clear and distinct entrance to the jet boat tour operations."

He said the project, "would improve the facilities for our jet boat patrons. ... We believe this is a long-term solution."

The Planning Board listened to Kinney, but informed him that was all members could do, as WJBT and the Village of Lewiston are currently discussing property lines and liability.

Moreover, Planning Board Chairman Dave Giusiana said the drawings presented by Kinney and his associates (Jim Fittante of Silvestri Architects and attorney John Bartolomei) did not sufficiently address how the addition fits with municipal code and the zoning schedule. Giusiana outlined several items -- including easement issues, property ownership resolution, environmental assessment, front yard setbacks, area coverage and parking space allotments -- that need addressing before the Planning Board could approve the project. He indicated variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals might be required.

"What I would like to see on the next go-around with the site plan is all the required setbacks clearly delineated, and then describe the process for which the variances are going to be acted upon," Giusiana said.

"We very much want to comply with everything," Bartolomei said.

"I think the next submission with the site plan really should be a zoning schedule shown -- what's required and what you're actually providing, and if you're not providing (something), how you're proposing relief for it," Giusiana said.

The Planning Board next meets at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 13. Giusiana said a special meeting was not out of the question, should Kinney resolve his hindrances sooner.

WJBT land use and property ownership could be discussed Monday, Nov. 15, when the Village Board meets at 6 p.m. inside the Red Brick Municipal Building.

•Members of the Planning Board will hold a work session at 6 p.m. on Dec. 13. Those with questions related to the project submission process are encouraged to attend.

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