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Grand Island Town Supervisor Peter Marston. (Photo courtesy of the Town of Grand Island)
Grand Island Town Supervisor Peter Marston. (Photo courtesy of the Town of Grand Island)

Marston brings fresh perspective as Grand Island supervisor

Sat, Jan 6th 2024 11:00 am

By Michael J. Billoni

Senior Contributing Writer

As a small business owner on Grand Island, Peter Marston Jr. brings a much different perspective to the office of town supervisor, which he officially began on Monday after being sworn in by New York State Assemblyman Angelo Morinello.

“I come into this position as supervisor with a much different perspective than others because I have seen a different sample of people that others don’t, from the years I spent in my shop or from delivering equipment to their homes,” explained the owner of Marston Power Equipment on Grand Island Boulevard. “Many supervisors have sat here and dealt with complaints from residents. I have been able to be outside this office listening and talking with a group I would call the silent majority.”

It has given him a perspective of leading the town by listening to others, which includes residents, Town Board members, department heads, and town employees.

“If you run for Town Board or supervisor for any other reason than doing good for Grand Island, you are running for the wrong reasons,” Marston said strongly. “This should not be all about politics. This is all about your hometown.”

While he was not born here, the 54-year-old Marston moved to Grand Island when he was 13 and graduated from Grand Island High School in 1987, making him the first GIHS graduate to serve as town supervisor. He graduated from Niagara County Community College with a degree in mechanical engineering and began traveling around the country as a field engineer before he became tired of the travel and decided to open his own business.

His wife, Sue, is a member of the Grand Island School Board. His son, Peter III, 16, is a GIHS student who races miniature cars and is active in sports and the school band. They are active snowmobilers and enjoy the outdoors.

Getting Involved with Town Government

Marston had no intention of getting involved with Grand Island government until a customer, who was on the town’s Planning Board, suggested Marston consider being appointed to that board because of his knowledge of the Island. He joined the board at the end of 2013 and served under former Supervisor Mary Cooke.

“I really sunk my teeth into land use and how things were laid out on the Island,” Marston said. “I realized early on we must keep our eye on the ball regarding development because Grand Island is a unique place with its green space, trails and water.”

When Ray Billica and Chris Aronica decided not to seek reelection to the Town Board in 2017, Marston said he was encouraged by many to run and, after a lot of “soul searching because I did not take the position lightly,” he ran and won, serving under former Supervisor Nate McMurray.

When John Whitney was elected supervisor in 2020, he appointed Marston his deputy supervisor.

Marston, who was reelected to the Town Board in 2021, called his decision to run for supervisor last year “an extremely difficult one to make.”

After losing in the Republican primary, he ran and won the general election on the Conservative Party line.

On Aug. 4, Whitney resigned as supervisor, which promoted Marston to that office as interim supervisor and then supervisor-elect after his November victory.

“Contrary to what everyone thought, I did not know John was leaving,” Marston said. “As deputy supervisor, I had been doing more and more of his duties during the year, so it was not that hard of a transition.”

He added, “I really did not take on the role of supervisor until I was officially sworn into office, so any decisions made by me prior to that were always run by the board as true democracy. That may have worked better, and I hope to continue that practice now as supervisor.”

“I have established very good working relationships with almost all of our department heads,” Marston said. “We have already begun discussions about cost-cutting measures by sharing services among the different departments, which is huge. These are the kinds of things that save money, but the public does not always see.”

One of his first changes was the look of the supervisor’s office. Gone are the desk and two chairs in front and a small round table with chairs at the far end. They have been replaced with a longer table attached to a desk so “when we are meeting, everyone can be a true part of the meeting.”

Marston has added a whiteboard on the north wall and a large screen on the south wall for virtual meetings.

He will also propose to his three fellow board members they consider holding workshop meetings in his office on the second and fourth Monday evenings, opposite the regular Town Board meetings on the first and third Mondays. These new workshop meetings would be recorded and accessible virtually. There would be no voting and it would be held mostly for information sharing and problem solving.

“I feel the Town Board should be more available to everybody and I do not believe we meet enough,” Marston explained. “All Town Board members are liaisons with the boards and committees, and this will be a way to keep us all abreast of what’s going on before problems occur. The goal would be for the entire board to get all the information at the same time from department heads and employees and then have our advisory boards come in and talk to us about what they are working on. We can let them know about what others are doing and suggest they may want to work together on some projects. I believe this will allow us to operate more efficiently as a town board.”

Filling Town Board Vacancy

Marston said there are several ways the board can handle filling the Town Board seat he vacated when he became supervisor.

“We are still trying to figure out the best way to do so,” he said.

Marston explained the board can appoint someone now, but that person would have to run in the November election (and possibly the June primary) for the final year of the term, and they would have to run again in 2025 for the full, four-year term.

“We do not want to show favoritism by appointing someone, and you always want the public to speak” regarding electing someone to the Town Board, he said.

The Marston family: Pete III, Sue, and Supervisor Peter Jr. (Photo courtesy of the Town of Grand Island)



“Personally, I love bicycling, the trails we have on Grand Island and the ecotourism opportunities here,” Marston said with passion during a recent interview in his office. “I have done my best to enable more of that on the Island because people really enjoy the outdoors and it is a low-cost, high-visibility, high-return investment for the town.”

Marston spoke about a recent ecotourism study done through the town’s Economic Development Advisory Board that pointed out the many positives Grand Island has regarding its closeness to Niagara Falls, being surrounded by water, two state parks, its many trails, two campgrounds, an amusement park, and hotels.

“It feels we have all the stuff that helps feed ecotourism, but we are missing more public launches for kayaks and more trails,” Marston explained. “We are now following up on those recommendations.”

He said he feels confident about these changes and others occurring because of a strong relationship with Executive Director Greg Stevens of the Niagara Greenway Commission, which is responsible for the bicycle trail from the outer harbor in Buffalo to Youngstown.

“I liken Grand Island a lot to Presque Isle, (Maine),” Marston said, “and over time I believe we can be something like that – and possibly more because of our water, an enormous number of trails and the interconnectors to those trails we are working on. As we grow, I believe we have a lot of potential, as does the Greenway Commission.”

Former Radisson Hotel is For Sale

Marston said he was “shocked” to hear the former Radisson Inn property, at 100 Whitehaven Road on the shore of the Niagara River, is for sale.

“The Town Board approved a plan for that property and extended it for the current owners. If someone buys the property and wants to change the plan, they must come to the board with its proposed plan,” he said.

Business First reported Haven 100 Project LLC bought the Radisson for $6.15 million from Grandsam Island LLC, according to documents filed Dec. 30, 2022, in the Erie County Clerk’s office.

A detailed renovation plan and rezoning approvals were granted by the Town Board on Nov. 18, 2022, and the applicants were listed as JB Earl Company of Utah and ELEV8 Architecture of Orchard Park. After nearly a year of inactivity on the property, complaints of break-ins, and fire department calls, Mike Conroe of ELEV8 Architecture told the Town Board at its Nov. 6, 2023, workshop session the hold-up in work was due to an application to the National Park Service, which has since awarded the project historic tax credits through a Historic Preservation Certification. Conroe said the tax credits could be worth 20% of any renovation to the project.

At its Nov. 6 meeting, the Town Board granted a one-year extension of the project to developers, after the workshop presentation by ELEV8 Architecture, the architectural firm involved in the conversion of the former Radisson Hotel into apartments.

After Marston expressed his “shock” the property was on the market, Grand Island Dispatch Senior Contributing Writer Karen Keefe confirmed the sale through the website crexi.com, which listed The Grand Island Hotel for sale on Dec. 6, 2023, with an asking price of $10,250,000. Amiti Bhow, a broker for NewGen Advisory in Phoenix, has been retained as the exclusive agent to the property owner.

Included in the description of the former Radisson Hotel, is: “Zoned and Entitled for Multi-Family This Unique Development Offers a Visionary Fusion of Sophisticated Residential Spaces that Include the Option to Maintain a Hotel Space. Given the Extensive Unparalleled Waterfront Land Coupled with The Approved Zoning – the Upside Value and Options to Design This Real Estate to Specifically Capitalize on The Surrounding Lifestyle and Community Strengths Will Result in An Exceptional Gateway for A Commercial Real Estate Investor.”

Under “Investment Highlights,” it lists “Government Tax Incentives, including Historic Preservation Certification.”


There are several development projects under consideration that could be coming before the Town Board this year, including Grand Island Commerce Center Inc., at 2780 Long Road., a proposed 1-million-square-foot-plus high-bay warehouse project.

“This is in the discovery phase right now and we are trying to understand its impact on the town, which is probably the biggest issue,” Marston said.

“This is a very big building being proposed. How will it impact our town? Some things are more impactful than others, and it seems traffic is the biggest concern. If we go too far, too quick in terms of development, we do not have property to expand our two-lane roads into four lanes. We must be very careful we do not overdevelop. We have passed the limits a couple of times, and we know we don’t want to go past it because there is no way out of it once you do.”

He added, “I care about the community, and I can help control what is happening in our community, and that is where I am trying to concentrate my efforts.”

A public hearing was held in the fall about the Grand Island Commerce Center. Marston said the public comments went back to the developer to answer, and their responses were sent back to the town; it will go back and forth until both sides are satisfied.

“This discovery process takes time, and what people do not have faith in is that the one thing that will emerge absolutely tells you what will and will not work,” Marston said.

While the Town Board has proposed a limit on the size of future developments, Marston said no such law has been passed.

“We have kicked around many ideas on what the size limit should be. I believe there should be some sort of ceiling,” he said.

A proposal was sent to Erie County on a new zoning law regarding the size of a development and “the county thought we were being too rigid and aggressive, so we are still working together as a board on how we are going to get there,” Marston said.

Regarding the proposed Rivertown Development on Baseline Road, Marston said the developers are working on engineering details.

“This is a very big project but, right now, interest rates are a big player in all development projects,” he said. “Everyone seems to be working very hard and diligently on getting all their pieces together until interest rates start to come down. Once that occurs, you will see a lot of projects hit the go button.”

Marston said he is excited about the future of the Rivertown project.

“If Rivertown builds out as it intends to, it can become the new town center, and I can see, over time, things developing appropriately from that and having Rivertown be the epicenter of Grand Island,” he said. “It may rekindle how Grand Island grows."

Marston said plans for the Southpointe project continue with “a lot of infrastructure needing to occur there, including sewers.” He said the town Engineering Department continues to review drawings and “they are getting closer to reality on a number of fronts.”

Southpointe is planned as a 284-acre development consisting of assisted living for seniors, single-family lots, townhouses, apartments and retail space.

Marston said the original proposed development project on 13 acres at Stony Point and Ransom roads by its developer, Newman Properties, has gone back to the drawing board for redesign after a public hearing, and the developers are conducting focus groups with residents before they present.

The Planning Board is expected to review a new, extensive plan for apartments and single-family homes at its meeting on Monday.

Snow Plan for Grand Island

Marston said he was pleased with how the town planned and executed last year’s snow plan during the December storm. He said the town’s disaster committee consists of the Highway Department, the Fire Department, town department heads, and the Grand Island public schools.

“I was out with our snowmobile club assisting them during last year’s storm and it impressed me how our Fire Department, Highway Department, the schools and others worked so well together,” Marston said. “I feel very comfortable with our plan if we are hit with another storm or disaster, including communicating with residents through our social media network and website.”

As for his vision as supervisor, Marston replied, “To ensure Grand Island develops as best it can, saves our green space, develops our ecotourism for future generations and, most important, we do not put the town in a financial strain that future generations will have to pay for.

“I say it all the time that I want to leave office with the town better than I found it.”

Peter Marston Jr. is sworn in as Grand Island supervisor by New York State Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, left. Marston stands next to his wife, Sue, as his son, Pete III, holds the Bible. (Photo courtesy of the Town of Grand Island)

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