Judge dismisses suit on Upper Mountain tower
By Terry Duffy
" 'Revals' are never a fun word; it's costly; it's necessary."
So commented Town of Lewiston Assessor Linda Johnson to Supervisor Dennis Brochey and the Town Board Monday on the looming prospect of revaluation for Lewiston properties. Johnson said Lewiston's last update of its nearly 7,000 properties, residential and commercial, was done in 2000, and the town last achieved 100 percent equity in 2005.
"The goal is to make residents' revals a fair and equitable process," Johnson said.
No state law exists on calling for reassessments, she said, but one does exist on equalization rates. In announcing her wish to conduct a revaluation program, Johnson said her goal was for Lewiston's to be up-to-date.
While Lewiston currently has no town tax, Johnson said it would most certainly benefit from a revaluation of its properties, pointing to influences from the town's tax base in such areas as sales taxes, school and county taxes, and its ability to handle exemption requests for such groups as seniors and veterans. She cautioned Lewiston's exemption rate is not keeping up with the needs, and that the town's current rate of 79 percent is expected to decline to 73 percent this year.
F. Cindy Baire of GAR Associates Inc. appeared next with a proposal for revaluation of all town properties for Brochey and Town Board members to review. She briefly explained the procedure - how it would involve an informational and educational process for the community, from the introductory phase to follow-throughs after appraisal.
The Town Board took no action on the GAR proposal and is expected to consider it, and likely others, as it moves toward considering the revaluation process.
Moving on to other financial news, Town Finance Officer Martha Blazick offered a clarification on Town Highway Superintendent Doug Janese's comments last month of $200,000 being overspent by the Highway Department for snow and ice clearing on town roads this past winter. Blazick said the $200,000 in question was actually classified in another account and no shortfall existed.
"A total of $11,000 actually was overspent, not $200,000," Blazick said. She expected to have the accounts fixed for the board to formally move on, adjusting the matter by its next meeting.
Other news included:
•Town Attorney Mark Davis reported the State Supreme Court dismissed the town's challenge to construction of a fire and first responders' communications tower by Niagara County on property behind Upper Mountain Fire Co. on Moyer Road May 6. Davis said the presiding judge, the Hon. Mark A. Montour, presented extensive arguments on the statute of limitations on the case and said it expired with respect to the town and area homeowners who were challenging the tower's construction.
"But it was unclear on when the time element (raised by the judge) began," Davis said. "There's no definitive details on the statue of limitations, when it began or concluded."
He said the town entered into a legal battle with the county in late 2013-early 2014, and the judge's ruling failed to consider an actual timeframe with respect to when the statue expired.
Davis said the town was not engaged in what he called a "short-term" Article 78 in its challenges of the county's decision to construct the emergency communications tower. Rather, he said the town was seeking a longer, six-year timeframe, which challenges the tower's construction was done by the county without prior notice to Lewiston; that no consent was given as to its location; and town zoning laws were not followed.
Davis said Montour's argument of a statute of limitation timeframe simply was not applicable.
"It (the Upper Mountain Road location) was a proposed site; it was not a finalized site," Davis said.
The town unsuccessfully argued it was in violation of zoning laws, with respect to the town's tower law.
Davis said Montour issued the order abruptly, and a court order to dismiss had yet to be drafted. He said the town does have the option to appeal. No further discussion on the matter was heard Monday.
•The Town Board gave its official endorsement to a proposal by Lewiston Greenhouse LLC to submit an application to the state Health Department for approval to begin operating a medical marijuana growing facility on Pletcher Road.
If approved, the facility would be housed in the same location as the 12-acre Modern H-2-Grow hydroponic tomato-growing plant. The Lewiston site would be one of five to be permitted by the state for the production of medical marijuana.