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Village of Lewiston: Board welcomes Frontier House input

by jmaloni
Fri, Jul 13th 2018 07:05 am
Plaza, board appointments also on Monday's agenda
By Joshua Maloni
Managing Editor
Should the Village of Lewiston finalize a deal to purchase the Frontier House?
Residents will have an opportunity to voice their opinion on the matter during a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday inside the Morgan Lewis Village Boardroom at the Red Brick, 145 N. Fourth St.
On June 18, trustees unanimously agreed to enter into a contract to buy the building and almost one acre of land (including a parking lot) from Hastings Lewiston. The transaction is contingent on the village acquiring financing, the results of a 120-day due diligence period, and input from residents.
Also, it was stated at that time the village might ask the Town of Lewiston for help in obtaining $400,000 of Greenway funding to put toward the $800,000 purchase price.
Since that night, however, the Village Board has changed, with the addition of Anne Welch as mayor and Claudia Marasco as deputy mayor.
As she campaigned, Welch made it known she is opposed to the village purchasing the Frontier House.
That opinion hasn't changed.
"I am not in favor of the village buying the Frontier House, and have worked tirelessly trying to sell it to somebody privately," Welch said Thursday. "I'm hopeful that that's the course it's going to take - that it will remain private."
She explained, "Obviously this public hearing was set before I came into office. Instead of cancelling it, I wanted the people to have a chance to come and speak their mind on how they feel about the Frontier House and the proposed village purchase of it."
Welch has also expressed concern about future funding for the Frontier House. As of now, there has been no revenue source identified to pay for the building's repair, reopening or maintenance.
On election night, Marasco said she would carefully consider both sides of the issue before casting a vote.
Welch said trustees will receive feedback on Monday, but will not take any action.
If the board opts out of buying the Frontier House, it would return back to Hastings Lewiston.
Other agenda items scheduled for the monthly board meeting include:
•An update on the Ellicott Development property at Center, North Eighth and Onondaga streets. Trustees can approve a motion to adopt changes presented to the Planning Board in May. Revisions include a re-subdividing of adjoining property adjacent to the proposed plaza, and the addition of a detention pond along the west-northwest border.
On May 22, the Zoning Board of Appeals said such changes would nullify previously granted variances. The ZBA then offered an opinion that the eight variances were already void, as plaza construction had not commenced within one year of the July 2016 issuance of codebook alterations.
Welch said she's spoken with village counsel Joseph Leone, Zoning Officer Edward DeVantier and the New York Conference of Mayors, and it's her belief the ZBA made a mistake.
"We researched it," she said. "The variances stand and we're moving forward."
Welch further explained, "There was no discontinuance of the project, because they've been doing all this other stuff - the demo, the grading, the brownfields, the drainage. It's been an ongoing process. It's never ceased."
Moreover, Ellicott Development representatives have had regular meetings with the village special projects committee.
•The tweaking of three village boards.
Welch was a member of the Planning Commission in 2016 when that committee lost its historic preservation oversight to a newly created board. She said then and continues to say the Historic Preservation Commission should be comprised solely of village residents.
On Monday, she can make that happen.
The mayor intends to add two village residents to the HPC. One is Rita Geiben, a noted Lewiston volunteer who leads historic tours as part of the Roaming Table, and the wife of Town of Lewiston Councilman Bill Geiben.
Welch was waiting to hear from one additional resident as The Sentinel went to press on Friday.
It's not expected Lee Simonson will remain on the HPC. Simonson, while extremely active with HAL and village monument projects, is a town resident.
Chairman Harry Wright's term has expired and he is not expected back, either.
Welch intends to promote Ken Slaugenhoupt to HPC chairman. He recently served as vice chairman and previously was chairman of the Planning Board.
Jim Fittante and Peter Coppins (alternate) are expected to be reappointed to the HPC. Loretta Frankovitch's term also continues.
This past week, current Planning Board Chairman Norm Machelor promoted member Joshua Krupp to vice chairman, and moved alternate Diana Lewandowski to full-time status as a replacement for Welch. The mayor will make the latter decision official on Monday, and may appoint one additional member, who would fill the remainder of Marasco's term (until 2019).
Finally, Welch is expected to appoint Michael Hibbard, Denham Wilson, Stephanie Gruarin and Richard Ries to the Parks, Recreation and Conservation Board.

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