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Lewiston: Town Board members have busy session

Sat, Mar 2nd 2019 07:00 am

Village playground, Swann Road suit among newsmakers

By Terry Duffy

Editor-in-Chief

Lewiston Town Board members had a relatively busy Monday for a late February session that billed a light agenda. Among the newsmakers, the board:

•Held a public hearing toward approval of a new local law that removed certain limitations on members serving on the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. The hearing itself saw one public inquiry – that from Lewiston resident Paulette Glasgow – which questioned why the measure was being proposed at this point. She noted an earlier conflict existed with Deputy Supervisor Bill Conrad, who also serves as Planning Board chair.

Attorney for the Town Brian Seaman replied the town noted the recent discovery in its codebook and modified the measure to more align with state law. The revised measure specifically removes those seeking elected office from participating. It enabled Marjorie Maggard, who serves as town historian, to also serve on the town’s ZBA.

•Heard a presentation from village interests regarding a proposed Mason’s Mission playground project eyed for Marilyn Toohey Park behind the Red Brick Municipal Building. (Find more at www.wnypapers.com.) Village of Lewiston Mayor Anne Welch requested assistance from Supervisor Steve Broderick for $200,000 in town-obtained Niagara River Greenway funding for the project, pegged at about $700,000.

The request went on to be approved, with village officials stating the other forms of assistance are still being sought, including donations of labor and equipment.

•Heard from Seaman, who reported the town is now facing litigation from the board’s recently approved 43-acre solar project on Swann Road property owned by Town Building and Zoning Inspector Tim Masters. (See www.wnypapers.com for the story.)

“The town was served papers challenging the Town Board decision on the Swann Road solar project. The petitioner is Gormley and some others,” Seaman said.

He told the board he began work on the case and was seeking approval to continue. His request was approved soon after.

•Received an environmental review by town Engineer Robert Lannon of GHD Consulting for the proposed “Lower River Road Town Park,” which is under consideration on Lower River Road, across from the Lewiston Senior Center.

Presented to the board last March by Supervisor Steve Broderick, the plan could, one day, see a town park encompassing some 5.6 acres of land, fronting 400 feet on the Niagara River just north of the Stella Niagara WNY Land Conservancy property.

Owned by the town, the land currently sees various operations, including use by the town Park’s Department, along with infrastructure associated with the Lewiston Wastewater Treatment Plant operations, as well as gas lines under the river. It had been considered as a site for various town recreational purposes over the years, including a fishing dock proposed in the early- to mid-2000s by then-Councilman John Ceretto.

Broderick said that, last year, he wanted to open public access on the sloping land area. Envisioned would be paved area from Lower River Road to the water; the building of pavilions; a kayak launch and park trails.

“There is no park there now; it is property that we own,” Broderick said at the time. “We want to put a kayak launch in; we want to have two to three pavilions down there; there would be handicapped parking down there.”

The town applied for and was awarded up to $700,000 in funding from the Niagara River Greenway Commission to develop the property.

On Monday, Lannon presented for board review a list of site characterization reports he had developed for the property under the State Environmental Quality Review process. His focus included the presence of lagoons and contamination on the property – issues raised to the board last year by Lewiston resident Amy Witryol. She presented documentation to Lannon last year, requesting the town thoroughly examine the lands to determine contaminations related to the use of the property as a water intake plant for Lake Ontario Ordnance Works activities from the 1940s to the 1960s. The property was acquired by the town in the mid-1960s for use as a sewage treatment facility outfall.

“Certainly there has been a lot of discussion and concern over the environmental conditions at the site itself, with the presence of two on-site lagoons that were used for dewatering the outfall back in the early ’80s. That is the subject of three separate rounds of soil samplings and analytics to determine what the characterization of those soils,” Lannon said.

Town Board members received a detailed, 400-page report on the study from Lannon, which provided information on the GHD reviews of the top 18 inches of soil of the two lagoons in the survey. Lannon was vague as to the specifics contained in the report. He said that, other than findings of arsenic on the property, there didn’t appear to be a problem. Lannon provided the board a very brief analysis on a five-page encapsulation of the report’s 400 pages of analytics.

He said various federal and state agencies, including the Army Corps, New York State Parks, the WNY Land Conservancy and the state DEC, plus others, have been involved the project. Lannon told board members he had not received a response from DEC on the lagoon findings.

Town Board members just received the report on Monday night, and had no time for review or discussion. As such, the matter was tabled until the March 11 work session.

The report’s findings are, likewise, not yet available for public review and not expected to be released until all agencies involved sign off.

Broderick said he continues to support the park project, but emphasized that, if any environmental concerns are uncovered, the town would abandon the effort.

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