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WJBT expansion: Williams hosts community meeting on Monday

by jmaloni
Sat, Nov 27th 2010 10:00 am
by Joshua Maloni

Developer Jerome Williams and "Save the Lower Niagara River" campaign supporters will meet on Monday, Nov. 29, to discuss their next move, and the Article 78 lawsuit Williams said he intends to file against the Village of Lewiston. The session begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Lewiston Village Pub, 840 Center St.

Williams is questioning the validity of an expansion plan recently proposed by Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours President John Kinney. His lawsuit will contest variances issued by the village's Zoning Board of Appeals, as well as a land transfer initiated by village trustees.

"We believe we have grounds to stop them," Williams said. "We need public support."

He said the meeting is an open forum, and that he plans to offer details on the Article 78 proceedings.

"(Village residents) are not for the jet boats; they're not for the expansion," Williams said.

During last week's ZBA meeting, Williams accused the village's lawmakers of moving ahead too quickly - and without public input or legal counsel (attorney Edward Jesella was out of town).

"They're not making the decision based on what people want," he said. "That's what we're upset about."

Village of Lewiston Mayor Terry Collesano said, "I understand (Williams) is frustrated and he has some problems." However, "I totally believe the Village Board has done nothing we shouldn't have done, and our counsel has said the same."

After the ZBA meeting, one of Williams' expressed concerns was that the village's Planning Board would meet early to consider the WJBT expansion. That board is the next stop for Kinney's proposal.

"Our intention is to meet on our regularly scheduled time," Planning Board Chairman David Giusiana said Wednesday.

The committee he chairs will assemble at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 13. A previously scheduled workshop for business owners will begin at 6 p.m. that night.

Kinney discussed his intention to build a two-story, 2,700-foot WJBT expansion with the Planning Board on Nov. 8. The board did not accept Kinney's plan as an official first submission. Members said the sketches did not sufficiently detail the expansion's conformity with municipal code, required a handful of variances, and lacked defined property lines.

Those issues were resolved last week. Village trustees sold a 196-foot stretch of land to WJBT for $1 on Monday, and the ZBA awarded the variances on Wednesday.

With those items resolved -- pending the results of Williams' lawsuit -- the Planning Board could accept the WJBT expansion plan's first submission next month.

Giusiana said the Planning Board is considering a public meeting, though he said such an action is not mandated in this case. In light of the feedback Planning Board members received when debating the merits of The Silo Restaurant caboose addition, "I think that it makes sense to get some public input" on the WJBT proposal, Giusiana said.

He suggested a public meeting could be scheduled for January 2011. The Planning Board will gather on Monday, Jan. 10, 2011. Following the public meeting, Giusiana said the board could conceivably issue a final judgment on the proposal.

With approval from the Planning Board, the WJBT project would go before the Village Board of Trustees for a final endorsement. Trustees have a regular meeting set for Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011.

Kinney had no comment on Williams' lawsuit, but said his attorneys believe the Village of Lewiston acted in accordance with municipal law. He said WJBT operations would continue next year with or without a new addition. If he is permitted to expand his business center, however, he said, "The building (will be) an enhancement to the waterfront."

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