Modern Lawsuit Names Reiter, Town, in Battle over Zoning of Reiter Land; Washuta Seeks Injunction to Halt Senior Complex As Illegally Re-Zoned.
By Frank Parlato
Last week, Lewiston International Business Park Inc. (LIBP), a company owned by Sonia Washuta, matriarch of the family that owns Modern Disposal, sued the Town of Lewiston, former Supervisor Steven L. Reiter, and his mother, Marjorie Reiter, for an injunction to stop the planned Bridgewater Estates. The proposed $12.3 million project features a 139-unit senior complex housed in three four-story buildings with 240 parking spaces. It is planned to be built on Mrs. Reiter's Ridge Rd. (Rt. 104) property.
Modern owns property contiguous and in close proximity to the Reiter property.
The lawsuit alleges that Steven Reiter, while supervisor of the town, "engaged in a series of actions to ensure that the project, in which he holds a direct financial interest and which is proposed to be developed on property owned by his mother, would obtain approvals and special consideration from various boards and officials of the town, in blatant contravention of numerous state and local laws and the high ethical standards governing public servants."
The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court, asks for an injunction stopping the town from granting a building permit for the project. The case is scheduled to be heard on April 23.
Reiter said he has no financial interest in the project.
"My mom is selling. I'm not personally on the deal," he said. "The only way I am part of the deal is by inheritance."
The proposed development site is located behind the Los Nino De Las Casa Cardenas tavern and the Hill-vue restaurant, near the corner of Ridge Road and Model City Road, which are also owned by Mrs. Reiter. The proposed apartment complex would have ingress and egress from Ridge Road and no access from Model City Road.
Mentioned as a potential problem are concerns over traffic. The fear is for the safety of the more than 100 elderly residents coming in and out of driveways, pitted against the high volume of trucks that barrel down Rt. 104 at speeds often exceeding the 55 mph speed limit.
Reiter said trucks are not going to be a problem. "These apartments are set back 300 feet from the road and there is 200 feet between Model City Road and our property lines. After 5 p. m. you can fire a cannon down Model City Road."
Reiter, who was town supervisor during most events named in the suit, said he abstained from voting on matters relative to his mother's property except for a vote he made for changes in the Town's Comprehensive Plan (or master plan) that allowed his mother's property and others to be rezoned on Jan. 28, 2013.
"Steven Reiter intentionally steered the Zoning Code Amendments so as to authorize the already conceived of Project, to the benefit of himself and his mother, without ever disclosing his conflict of interest," the suit alleges.
''The only conflict I could see was I voted on the plan for the whole town," said Reiter. "[I]f I remember correctly, our property was already zoned business. I never went to any planning board or zoning board meetings. I can't help it if my family owns the property,"
On Feb. 8, less than two weeks after the town board adopted changes to its Zoning Code reclassifying some of Reiter's and other properties from "R-2" to "General Business," an application was made by Bridgewater LLC, by its president, Anthony Cutaia, to develop the Reiter property.
The lawsuit alleges "Reiter did not publicly disclose his interest in the property or the Project, while he actively participated in reviewing said application."
"Everyone knew that this was my mother's land," Reiter said.
On April 10, Reiter signed the completed Environmental Assessment Form on behalf of the Town Board for the project concluding that "no adverse environmental impacts would result from the project."
Town Attorney Mark Davis said the town was "surprised and disappointed" by the lawsuit, as town board members said they felt they were active in considering and accommodating Modern's wishes in the zoning code amendments.
As for Reiter, he remains optimistic.
"My family has owned that land and paid taxes on it since 1945," he said. "We have been neighbors with Modern for years. When I was served notice of the lawsuit by Modern, you could have knocked me over with a feather. . . They could have sat down with us at the Hill-vue Coffee Shop and I would have said, 'what's your beef and how can we solve it?'"
LIBP is represented by Charles D. Grieco of Jaekcle, Fleischmann & Mugel, LLP.
Bridgewater's attorney is Alan Bozer of Philips Lytle, LLP.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
Mar 25, 2014