By Benjamin Joe
The Town of Niagara Town Board listened to the objections of several residents from the towns of Niagara and Lewiston on the subject of Bri Estates, a proposed development north of Colonial Drive in the Town of Niagara, at a scoping meeting held during the board’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.
Its purpose was to formally gather public input that will aid members in the creation of a final scoping document that will be a good indicator of what the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will touch upon when the owners of the property submit it to the board.
“Scoping is a mandatory procedure under the SEQR regulations as of last year,” Corey Auerbach of Barclay Damon, a lawyer procured by the town, said to the over 40 individuals who attended the meeting. “A draft scope is essentially a table of contents for the environmental study the applicant is required to submit to the Town Board.”
During a Q&A session between interested individuals and Auerbach, it was explained that Double C Realty, the owners of the land, are legally required to show the proposed development would have no significant environmental impact to the surrounding community, and that the board’s decision in September to deny any forward motion on the project was not being overturned or ignored.
“The applicant now has the burden to demonstrate how their project will not have a potentially significant environmental impact, or ways they can mitigate their design, so it will not have a potentially significant environmental impact,” Auerbach said.
Fran Rosati of Colonial Drive made a general statement during the Q&A phase of the meeting in which she voiced a desire that the development not only be looked at by the town engineer, but to allow an environmental engineer from outside the town to give a report, as well.
“We hired an environmental engineer to review the project,” Rosati said. “The town engineer reviewed it; Lewiston reviewed it; Niagara County reviewed it; and Metzler designed it. Every one of those engineers found nothing wrong with it. When we took it to an environmental engineer who reviews these for towns across the United States with new developments; he found all the issues.”
“I feel an outsider should come in and review it before it’s passed so we can see if it meets the standards for the environmental issues,” Rosati continued. “As it was, Richard Klein found the plan only covered 5 acres from the 44 acres. Now, the Town of Niagara’s engineer, Lewiston’s engineer, county engineer and Metzler did not see this … It’s not that we don’t want the development, it’s just we want it done right.”
Auerbach asked Rosati to have that engineer submit those comments, as it was very important to the process that they be incorporated into the draft scope. At that point, the Q&A phase of the meeting concluded and the floor was opened to public comment on the draft scope itself.
Paul Torrey, another resident of Colonial Drive and like Rosati a member of the Concerned Citizens of the Towns of Niagara/Lewiston, addressed the board briefly before handing out written documentation on environmental issues by the engineer. The documents included impacts such as drainage, traffic, future maintenance, property values and community harmony.
“I want to state tonight that while we understand that the sponsor has the right to build, it is our intent to make certain that the project is done safely, efficiently, and in compliance with all town codes and within all environmental regulations,” Torrey said before handing out the documents.
Other residents of the Town of Niagara and Lewiston spoke, including James Hufnagel who took issue with the language of the draft scoping document submitted by Double C.
“I’d like to address first the draft scoping document,” he said. “On the title page they have this area described as vacant land. It’s not vacant. It’s got trees, wildlife, it’s people’s backyard. The surface of the moon is vacant. All that is required by statute is that you just put the address there, no comments on vacancy.”
Joan Johnson also made a plea for the wildlife, nesting birds and Monarch butterflies that make up the habitat that Bri Estates would destroy.
From the Town of Lewiston, Councilman John Jacoby attended the meeting and made an analogy of one business-owner solving his garbage problem by throwing it over his neighbor’s fence.
“Sort of similarly, this ultimate plan is to dump excess water into the Town of Lewiston,” Jacoby said. “I guess they could also say, ‘oh, they seem to do fine with their water!’ I’m hoping that we don’t get the excess water into a stream that probably can’t handle it. So, that’s my concern thank you.”
Supervisor Lee Wallace as well as Auerbach asked that any further comment be emailed to himself or the Town Clerk, Sylvia Virtuoso, and that any input is valued immensely.
Comments can be emailed to [email protected].