Is local government stalling, wearing down citizen opposition?
The debate over a new, high-density housing subdivision proposed for the town of Lewiston seems to be winding down, as only a handful of citizens attending the Lewiston Town Board meeting Monday evening voiced opposition to the new construction.
For the third public meeting in a row, Supervisor Steve Broderick announced that the board intended to again defer voting on approval of the 80.2 acre, 107 unit project on Upper Mountain Road, east of Bronson Drive, comprising four apartment houses and 91 “patio homes.” He did not specify as to when the vote might take place, possibly at a fourth, or subsequent, meeting.
Wikipedia defines a patio home as being “…part of a unit of several houses attached to each other, typically with shared walls between units, and with exterior maintenance and landscaping provided through an association fee…
“Targeted buyers are primarily those who do not want to be bothered by external maintenance typically associated with home ownership…”
Indeed, it appears from preliminary plans that most of the patio home components of the dense, urban-style compound (in fact, the project is officially designated as a “P.U.D., or “Planned Urban Development”) will share walls, occupying lots somewhere between 1/2 and 1 acre in size, depending on how much of the acreage that is federal or state wetlands is drained to accommodate the structures.
The planned development is in the context of other newly-built or proposed developments being developed elsewhere in Lewiston, including French Landing, Oak Run, Riverwalk, Saddlewood, and Bri Estates which, while primarily in the town of Niagara, may greatly impact traffic on Miller Road in Lewiston.
This proposed housing complex, which has yet to be named, is to be located across Upper Mountain Road from the massive 1,900-acre, 22 billion gallon Niagara Power Project reservoir elevated more than 30 feet above the surrounding landscape.
“They’re making fools out of you guys, because they’re not giving you straight answers, they’re really not,” Marguerite Dimino of Bronson Drive informed the board on Monday evening. “(The increased traffic is) a detriment to children playing because it’s unsafe. I want to know about the house right at the entrance coming off of Bronson Drive… and the (head)lights going directly into the home… Not only would lights go directly into the home, but a failed vehicle would also go into the home…”
Ms. Dimino also spoke to what she considered a lack of forthrightness on the part of developer Rubino Brothers/Ranchview LLC of Williamsville, NY, which has grown rich building dense subdivisions around rural Western New York since 1991, giving them pastoral names such as “Amber Meadows” and “Campbell Meadows.”
She contended that traffic studies only included Upper Mountain Road, not the residential Bronson Drive, and questioned whether the New York Power Authority (NYPA) had been contacted regarding potential blasting that may need to be performed across the road from the massive 1,900 acre, 22 billion gallon Niagara Power Project reservoir. Then she referenced a letter she had received from Councilman Al Bax:
“Thank you, Mr. Bax, for the letter. In it you said ‘Lewiston is second to none when it comes to our quality of life.’
“Think about our quality of life on Bronson, Saddlewood, Upper Mountain and what a change this is going to make in our quality of life.
“And as for you, Mr. Broderick, I think you set the tone on how this project has been handled. The residents of the area have been frustrated… on how this latest project has been handled because of your attitude, that this matter is a done deal.
“You have had an excuse for and discounted and dismissed each and every concern which a large number of residents has expressed. You have defended the potential buyers, validated both them and their realtors, but have no due respect for citizens… basically just given us a bunch of earwash. As the town supervisor, you have been extremely one-sided. You have simply forgotten who you represent, and that is the citizens and their concerns, of the town of Lewiston…”
Mr. Broderick responded to Ms. Dimino with a simple “thank you.”
Her husband Joe Dimino followed with “You guys know who I am. You know where I’ve lived. Most of you have been to my house… You’ve seen my concerns grow… We’ve heard this plan is just a ‘concept’ Well, I have a concept. My concept is ‘No.’ The majority of residents are opposed to this… Certainly if there are people in favor of it, let them show up and voice their opinions much like the people who are opposed to it.
“(Regarding) that phrase, ‘Not in my backyard.’ Well, considering the history that Lewiston has with past developers, I’d like to change that… to ‘Not Again.’ With what we’ve gone through with these developers… drainage issues, real estate market questions…”
Mr. Dimino then presented the board with a petition, “Formal Objection to the Upper Mountain Planned Unit Development under consideration” which he said had 100 signatures of local property owners.
And in a refrain heard recently by the town board of Niagara with regards to Bri Estates, one woman told the Lewiston solons that “If I wanted to live in the city, I would have moved into the city.”
Paul Swisher of Carriage Lane, who said he had been told, a year ago when he moved here, that new development was “unlikely,” but then found out one of the new houses would be ten feet from his lot line, stated, “I came here with my wife because we love Lewiston. If I wanted to live on top of somebody, and sit in traffic waiting to go to the grocery store, I would go to Williamsville. I have friends in Williamsville…
“Lewiston has character… maybe the taxes would go down a little, I’d be very surprised if that would be the case, but for me, paying a little bit more for space, beauty, that’s why we’re here… the casual dismissal of our concerns, I take offense to.”
Several more citizens spoke in opposition to the development. Three or four swore as to the integrity of, and quality of work done by, the Rubino’s, Joe and John.
It’s worth noting that one of the three major impediments to economic growth and quality of life identified in the 2011 Western New York Regional Economic Development Strategic Plan was suburban sprawl.