Niagara Gazette

May 30, 2013

Greenway plan debated

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Much has been made recently about proposed changes to the Niagara River Greenway plan.

Now Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter is firing back a week after two state legislators proposed matching bills in the assembly and senate to place a renewed emphasis on waterfront development along the Niagara River.

Reiter introduced a long-winded resolution during the Lewiston Town Board's meeting Thursday which called for the state government to reject the proposals.

"We're very concerned," Reiter said of the possibility of greenway funding becoming extremely limited. "If you think about it, projects like the Sanborn Farm Museum, the Tuscarora Heroes Monument and other, great projects wouldn't have been funded."

Created by state law in 2004, the plan was designed to improve the waterfront along the Niagara River in 13 municipalities by creating a linear system of parks and conservation areas, linked by multi-use trails. The idea called for money to be used as part of the relicensing from the New York Power Authority to achieve this goal.

However, a recently released report by the Partnership for the Public Good found $23 million of a total of nearly $50 million has been awarded by various Greenway Standing Committees which determine funding, towards projects like athletic fields, sidewalks and festivals, which, it argues, do not contribute to the adopted Greenway plan.

Both State Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, and Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, proposed legislation designed to curtail such spending and focus the money back into the creation of the river park system originally conceived.

But Reiter, who said he's never met either legislator, said the town, which hosts the power authority and receives no money in return from the state entity, would be limited to working with land 1,000 feet from the river along its western boarder, while the village of Lewiston would only be eligible for land 500 feet from the border.

"The problem is, the power authority money shouldn't be called Greenway money," he said. "It should be called recreation money, or PILOT – Payment in Lieu of Taxes – money."

His frustration comes on the heels of the greenway commission voting the proposed Lewiston Civic Center "not consistent" with the greenway plan, a decision he said was foreseen and one he was prepared for.

The civic center, an $8 million project Reiter has proposed funding through the greenway money to avoid a town-wide tax, could actually be funded by the money despite the recent ruling when it goes before the Host Communities Standing Committee in the future. 

The money would be withdrawn in small increments annually to cover the cost of repaying a bond the town would borrow. To authorize the bonding for the project, though, a referendum vote will be taken July 15. Only one polling location will be open, with voters able to decide between 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Town Hall, 1375 Ridge Road, Lewiston.

This decision left a bad taste in the mouths of some residents, who expressed their feelings Thursday, calling for at least two more sites be made open or changing the date of the vote to coincide with the general election in November.

Reiter said the time to vote is now, though.

"We've come to a point where a decision has to be made," he said. "And it's time we make it. I believe the town board feels the same way. If they're really against the project, we're giving them an opportunity to say no."

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