Neighborhood opposition continues to grow
By Terry Duffy
With Councilmember Bill Geiben absent from the session, the Lewiston Town Board took no action Thursday on the concept plan for the Rubino brothers' planned unit development off of Upper Mountain Road and Bronson Drive.
But the board heard plenty from residents, as opposition continues to grow from property owners adjacent to the 107-unit development eyed for 80.2 acres of land east of Bronson Drive. Escarpment neighborhood residents, including Don Anderson, Paulette Glasgow and Joe Dimino, all took issue with the project, questioning such issues as traffic studies, or the lack of them for Bronson Drive; the need for additional new builds with large numbers of available housing already on the market; the overall track record of the Rubino brothers' past projects, and their financial ability to take on such a project in Lewiston; and questions over planned blasting of bedrock areas and any impact to the Power Authority reservoir complex nearby.
"We are adamantly opposed to the Upper Mountain Road concept as it currently stands," said Anderson, a resident of The Circle Drive who relocated to Lewiston from Las Vegas.
Anderson questioned what he called the board's "fast-tracking" of the project in light of the building opposition of residents.
"The strategy of fast-tracking this PUD to get answers seems like something a big city would do," Anderson said.
He went on to blast the project as being drastically out of character with the exiting neighborhood, as well as "the large disproportionate numbers" of available housing already on the market.
"Some of those units have been on the market for up to two years," Anderson said. He told board members many units have dropped in value and remain available.
He, as well as others, suggested the Town Board return the Rubino PUD back to the Planning Board for further review.
Earlier in the session, the board, as noted, opted to take no action on the Upper Mountain Road project.
"There will be no action taken tonight," Town Supervisor Steve Broderick said. He went on tell the large number of escarpment neighbors gathered that he and board members Al Bax and Rob Morreale have met and discussed the matter with residents and understand the various issues involved, including the impact to Bronson Drive.
"It is an ongoing conversation with both the residents, the church and the Rubino brothers. ... There will be no action taken tonight," Broderick said.
Bax pointed out many residents raised the issue of the financial wherewithal of the Rubino plan, noting how the town has dealt with developers before who have stalled out after robust starts only to leave the town hanging.
"I have advised Mr. Rubino that it would be our request that they provide the financial documents necessary to prove they can go through all three phases" of this, Bax said.
In other matters on Thursday:
•The town held a public hearing on a plan to amend Town Code sections 360-50, 360-108 and 360-114 to allow for special use permits by first responders in rural areas of the town, namely for establishment of a fire tower training facility adjacent to the Swann Road substation operated by Lewiston No. 1 Fire Co.
Les Myers, chief of Lewiston No. 1, who also serves as chairman of the Town of Lewiston Fire Bureau, spoke in favor of the plan, telling the board the change would enable Lewiston 1 to better train its firefighters.
"Live fire training is a critical component for keeping our firefighters' skills up to date," he said. "Our firefighters must regularly practice their basic skills to remain competent."
Myers told the board that, currently, town volunteer firefighters need to travel to existing training facilities in Lockport or Niagara Falls to participate in required training exercises.
"It limits our ability to conduct the training as needed," Myers said.
However, board members also heard from Swann Road residents who spoke out against the plan.
William Kraft told board members of the potential disruption to the neighbors, from idling trucks and fire company members training on site, and also questioned town zoning ordinances that exist in the Swann Road neighborhood.
"I suggest that the Town Board not grant this, because you will not hear the end of it from these neighbors," Kraft said.
Candice Lajeski, also of Swann Road, told the board the request for a burn tower had already been denied by the town Zoning Board. She also said she feared the value of her property would be impacted should it be built, and that there were the safety concerns of neighborhood children to consider.
Erin Ortner, another Swann Road resident, questioned the frequent sounds of gunshots heard in the neighborhood of the substation. She told board members, "There's gunshots ... it's like living in the hood. ... I'm ready to sell. I'm tired of it; I'm sick of it."
The Town Board went on to take no action on the matter.
"On the local law, there will be no action taken tonight," Broderick said. "We wanted to hear what everybody had to say in regards to it. There will be no action taken one way or the other."
•Town Finance/Budget Director Martha Blazick announced modest changes to the town's $17.287 million budget as it transitioned from the tentative phase to preliminary status.
Included was a 2 percent adjustment to Town Clerk/Tax Collector Donna Garfinkel's salary, from $60,972 to $62,192; a 50 cent increase in the hourly salary to fire inspector Pat Martin; and a $14,536 adjustment in the capital improvements account for the town's waterline project.
"You can approve the tentative budget after these three changes as the preliminary budget," Blazick said.
Town Board members went on to approve the budget changes without discussion.
With that, they also announced a public hearing on the preliminary budget will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 30. The board will also hold a public hearing covering an assessment rule change in Drainage District No. 1.
Electronics recycling day
The Town of Lewiston Highway Department, in cooperation with Modern Corporations, will hold an electronics recycling drop-off day from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 21, at Modern, 4746 Model City Road, Lewiston.
The drop-off is open to Town of Lewiston residents only. For more information, call 716-754-8213.