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Porter's waterfront future discussed

Sat, Apr 8th 2017 09:00 am

WSS Planning officials meet with residents on LWRP

Staff Reports

Porter residents learned more on "what's involved" in the particulars of planning the future for the town's waterfront areas, in an informative session Monday at Porter Town Hall.

Urban planners Wendy E. Weber Salvati, AICP, and Ellen Parker of WWS Planning in Clarence, both formerly with the Wendel group, discussed the wants and needs of Porter's future before roughly 50 visitors in attendance.

Residents are an integral part of the process, the women said.

"It's a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. It's really a comprehensive plan for your waterfront. (It) focuses directly for your waterfront," Salvati said.

Included in the LWRP are all Town of Porter waterfront areas - from the lower Niagara River north of Pletcher Road at the Lewiston-Porter boundary, up to and including the Village of Youngstown, and extending out east on the Lake Ontario shoreline from Fort Niagara State Park to the Wilson town line; and also including water areas - to the U.S.-Canada border in the mid-river and out to 1,500 feet off shore in Lake Ontario.

Residents heard the effort aims to continue what began with the town's comprehensive plan, completed in 2004.

"It has a lot of useful information that we can build off of," Salvati said.

She explained the LWRP is derived from the New York State Coastal Management Plan, adopted in 1981, essentially taken from the federal government's coastal management plan, and then brought down to the a local level.

"This will allow you to take the state's program and refine it, localize it. ... You can get more value out of it," Salvati said.

She noted the LWRP, once complete, would provide guidance on improvements and future development to the various Porter boards - Town Board, Planning and Zoning boards - while also specifying potential avenues for funding to fulfill the town's future waterfront needs.

"We'll identify projects, studies, actions - things that can be undertaken to bring about improvement, fix things on the waterfront," Salvati said.

She said that, once town waterfront needs are identified, various grant-funding measures could then be pursued by the town to make this a reality.

Salvati said the town, through its five-member Waterfront Advisory Committee formed last October, has been working behind the scenes with a purpose of identifying programs. It's working with the two urban planners under contact with the town, and with the Department of State to ultimately carry out the development objectives. Town committee members include Tony Collard, Supervisor Mert Wiepert, Dotty Riordan, Wendy Shaw and Kathy Zasucha.

 "The (state's) policies are the foundation ... they're the goals, the objectives - the things the town wants to do or doesn't want to see happen," Salvati said.

Topics discussed Monday include expanding the town's coastal boundary areas inward into both Youngstown and northern sections on the town, enabling more town areas to be eligible for improvement/development. Also, taking an inventory of the town's existing waterfront conditions and resources; and reviewing and localizing the state's 44 applicable waterfront policies that could be factored in any future development.

During the session, input by attendees was sought in select areas - waterfront impressions; opportunities for waterfront revitalization; constraints/obstacles facing the waterfront and waterfront revitalization; and opportunities or waterfront visions for the future.

"We're here to get some impressions on the waterfront," Salvati said.

Responses were plenty in all areas.

In the "impressions" category, responses focused on the waterfront's peace, quiet and beauty, as well as its noncommercial uses and future needs to maintain and improve on green space preservation. Visitors also stressed a greater emphasis on utilizing Porter on the Lake Park.

"Opportunities" discussed focused on the waterfront area becoming more welcoming to Canadian visitors - namely boaters and a possible return of the Youngstown-Niagara-on-the-Lake ferry service; extending the bike path from Pletcher Road north on the Niagara Scenic Parkway; employing a greater use of Porter's waterfront resources; and boosting overall community pride.

"Obstacles" mentioned ranged from the involvement of multiple stakeholders (private and public properties); lack of access; concerns over better property maintenance and lack of enforcement; nonsewer areas and water quality issues; farming influences; and an overall lack of property monitoring/enforcement by the town.

And "wish lists/visions for the future" included such areas as improved overall water access; a stable shoreline; the potential for commercial development, i.e. a hotel or a marina; a linking of all state parks in the area; improved boater access and kayak launches; cleaner beaches and improved water quality; and a curbing of any new jet boat operations.

Throughout discussions, the concerns of Lake Ontario erosion were mentioned.

"That seems to be the biggest issue we have," one resident commented.

Salvati said the LWRP, with its 44 policies, places a high emphasis on erosion.

"We will be taking a look at that," she said.

Salvati said the International Joint Commission, through its recently adopted 2014 plan addressing Lake Ontario lake levels, now finalized by the U.S. and Canada, has taken an approach of allowing nature to take its course in the future with regard to controlling lake levels - an area many in attendance were not comfortable with.

Salvati said the town intends on approaching both the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps with respect to the erosion concerns and what recourses can be done to address them.

"We cannot use this document as a means of undoing what the DEC does, but what we can try to do is create a partnership with the DEC; use the document to strengthen" this, Salvati said.

She said the LWRP could not be used as a tool to undo IJC decision-making. "But at least we can take it into consideration and try to help the Town of Porter plan effectively" to deal with it.

Salvati told attendees the town's LWRP effort is just at its starting point, and that the involvement of the community is vital to reaching its objectives. She said WWS Planning would be working further with the town's Waterfront Advisory Committee, reviewing the town's comprehensive plan with such agencies as the DEC and Army Corps, and meeting further with residents to formulate a revitalization effort. Future meetings with residents are planned.

"The LWRP is the voice for local communities," Salvati said. "It's a means of getting residents a better voice."

For more information on the Porter LWRP, Salvati can be reached at 716-870-2724 or by email at [email protected].

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