Niagara Gazette

June 13, 2014

Delayed hearing on Bridgewater Estates angers residents

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Residents looking to express their concerns, beliefs and outrages about a proposed senior citizen housing project in Lewiston were shut down Thursday.

The five-member zoning board of appeals was forced to table its public hearing concerning the Bridgewater Estates LLC project, after its applicants, Rane Property Management of Amherst, requested the matter not be discussed.

Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Paul Hutchins read a brief statement explaining the action before quickly moving business past the controversial matter.

Residents who showed up to town hall to speak their minds, though, were less than impressed. In fact, many wishing to express outrage toward the application turned their words toward the board itself.

“This process needs to be open and above the board,” Lewiston resident Dan Venuto said after being denied the opportunity to speak. “It shouldn’t be done with back room deals.”

Thursday’s meeting was set to determine the need for variances and a special use permit to build the proposed four-story complex at the intersection of Ridge and Model City roads – next to Mexican restaurant De La Casa and adjacent to town hall. 

The project is currently caught up in a lawsuit brought against it by neighboring property owner Lewiston International Business Park, citing the involvement of former town Supervisor Steve Reiter, who, the suit contends, failed to disclose his involvement in the project at the time approvals were granted by the town.

Reiter’s mother currently owns the land in question.

State Supreme Court Justice Mark A. Montour refused to allow arguments in regards to the lawsuit last month, instead deferring any decisions until after the proper variances and special use permits are issued.

The zoning board of appeals, which met Thursday, is responsible for issuing variances, while the town board would ultimately decide on a special use permit, required under the current town code.

David Ripley, another Lewiston resident unable to speak Thursday, said he’s also concerned about building a community on land so close to a problematic traffic area. He said a traffic accident at the intersection in question claimed the life of his ex-wife, when a senior citizen failed to properly stop at a stop sign.

“Now we’re going to add 360-some-odd units,” he said. “To an area that we’ve already got a problem? That’s insane. You can’t do that. And how are we keeping up the character of the neighborhood by putting up a four-story building. That doesn’t make sense.”

Reiter, meanwhile, said he’s upset about the perception he did anything wrong or misused his power as supervisor. He said he specifically directed town department heads, including building inspector Timothy Masters, to perform all tasks by the book specifically to avoid coming under fire.

Town records indicate Reiter abstained from a vote July 22 concerning site plan approval for the property, though he did vote when the town approved its zoning upgrades, which included a change for the property in question.

He is listed as a minority owner on documents relating to ownership, though Reiter has maintained his name’s inclusion is an error. He said it should be his family, not him, listed as a partial owner.

With the matter tabled, Bridgewater’s variances likely won’t be addressed until the zoning board convenes at 7 p.m. July 10, at town hall, 1375 Ridge Road, Lewiston.

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251, or follow on Twitter @timchipp.