9/30/2010

Where to Put the Effort?

Posted by MJ

A post over at Urbanophile hits a thought I've brought up here several times.

 ...That’s the situation too many places find themselves in. They can’t afford to be cities, and so are really in the process of an extended civic going out of business sale. As with a company that has been issued a going concern warning by its auditor and is about to be delisted from the stock exchange, people smell the whiff of death about it, so it doesn’t attract many customers or investors. Which is to say that people aren’t moving there – they are moving out if anything – and businesses are staying away. Who wants to stake their personal or financial future on a place that might not have a future of its own?
This is something merely balancing this year’s budget isn’t going to fix. What’s really needed is to restore investor confidence. That’s going to take more than balanced budgets. Just as most companies don’t fail because their costs are too high, but rather because of the forces of creative destruction, excess leverage, poor product positioning, quality and customer service issues, a bad strategic concept, etc., most cities don’t fail because their budget’s too big, but because they are no longer relevant to the marketplace. They are selling an inferior version of a product that customers no longer want to buy. For too many struggling cities, especially former industrial towns, even if their current service levels could be delivered for a budget of zero that wouldn’t save them.
The real issue with many cities is that their leaders spend too much time grappling with short term issues, particularly budgets in the present day, and not nearly enough time thinking about where the trend line is taking them and what they need to do to drive a materially better outcome in the future...
A lot of politicians run on "budgets". While important to watch over (or even "save" during some down times) there needs to be a bigger vision of what we want to become and what we are going to do to get there. A place where people want and feel safe to invest their money and creative efforts.

9/30/2010

Zoning Appeals

Posted by MJ

Zoning variance issues come up here from time to time so I thought I would quickly (?) explain how judgments are made following to NYS law. There are two types with different criteria for each.



1) Area Variance - the board must balance the benefit to the applicant with the detriment to the health, safety and welfare of the community. They shall consider

- whether the benefit can be achieved by other means feasible to the applicant
- undesirable change in neighborhood character or to nearby properties
- whether the request is substantial
- whether the request will have adverse physical or environmental effects
- whether alleged difficulty is self-created


2) Use Variance - To allow a use not otherwise allowed in zoning an applicant must demonstrate hardship. Such demonstration includes all of the following for each permitted use:

- cannot realize a reasonable return - substantial as shown by competent financial evidence
- alleged hardship is unique and does not apply to substantial portion of the neighborhood
- requested variance will not alter essential character of the neighborhood
- alleged hardship has not been self-created.

For both cases the board shall grant the minimum variance necessary and may impose reasonable conditions.

9/29/2010

Season's

Posted by MJ

Is it still open?

All signage is gone from the Main St and Parking lot windows though product is still inside. My guess is that she had to close up shop with possibly Ulrich taking over the stock and fixtures inside. Has anyone heard anything?  We did miss Wilhelm and Ashe Home after the original owners moved south and although we hoped for the best, "Season's" did not feel quite the same. Just What the Doctor Ordered has closed, Wilhelm and Ashe Floristry has not returned after the fire and now Season's appears to be gone. Luckily Gould's Flowers still remains. Hopefully someone takes over this location. An actual retail location (an upscale one at that) in this development was nice to have.

Also, some interior build out is happening in the two "buildings" next to Hunt Real Estate along Walnut St. I wonder if tenant(s) are lined up.

9/28/2010

Planning Board - Oct 2010

Posted by MJ

Planning Board Agenda for Oct 4th 2010:

9/25/2010

Mill St Update - Just Leave

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reported on the ongoing state confrontations at the Mill St demo site.

...Off to the side, Krzyzanowski’s wife, Diana, sat on a concrete barrier, watching a government agent parked across the street watch her and Scott. The Newfane native sighed she’s ready to go home — to Texas.

“(Scott’s) got three investors ready to put in a small plaza here, but not until that building’s gone. We don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to do that,” she said. “To hell with it, let’s go home.”

Diana had just finished telling Tucker it was suggested to her that a union contractor dropped a dime to the Labor Department on the Krzyzanowskis, perhaps after spreading asbestos around the property. Tucker nodded, indicating the same suspicion was conveyed to him...
I don't blame them. Just go back home to Texas and leave the frustration of NYS behind.

Why can't the state work with these type of people who take on a brownfield challenge in a depressed area? Why do they have to be the "tough guy"? Why not come, explain and then offer up a grant or something to help the process along. The owners already demonstrated starting to take it down and the way its going, the state will end up paying for the abatement and removal anyways somewhere down the road.

Last post on subject: Mill St.

9/24/2010

Fire Truck Specs - Min Change

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ reported that the council approved the Fire Truck Bid Spec with 2 desenting votes. The LFD appearently did the bare minimum to "clean" the specifications.

"Over the objections of two aldermen, the Common Council on Wednesday OK’d a revised call for proposals on a custom-built fire pumper truck.
The bid specification, which virtually repeats a spec previously tossed out by the city attorney, was published last week.

Fourth Ward Alderman Andy Chapman tried getting the Council to pull it back for further revisions this week, claiming the new spec is still too similar to the old one that got tossed because it skirted rules of fair competition for the city’s business.

The new spec “is not changed enough. There needs to be additional sanitization,” Chapman said.

With Fire Chief Tom Passuite and 13 firefighters standing around the seated councilmen, Chapman aired his suspicion that the revised spec is still largely the work of a truck manufacturer’s representative that bid on the previous spec. He said he compared the old and new computer files and found them “exactly the same ... except for 109 words.”..."

Below is a document that was handed out at the meeting showing the specifications similarity to the manufacturer's web site specs for their equipment, the minimum number of changes that were done to the last spec and higlighting FEMA's rules : (click on link below pic for PDF file) . Draw your own conclusions.



I feel the document deserved to be questioned. I can also see why people would get frustrated when the way "something has always been done" gets questioned. But why not do it right the first, second or third time? It may only be one fire truck purchase that people want to get over with but if it highlights culture of the city departments some friction may be called for.

Last blog post on topic: Pumper Saga Continues

9/22/2010

City of Lockport - Ward Map

Posted by MJ


(Image - City of Lockport Ward Map (as of 09/22/2010))
I've updated the Ward Map, only about 9 months late. Current aldermen are:
City Common Council Page

1st Richelle J. Pasceri 755 Market St. 716.439.9423

2nd Jack L. Smith, Jr. 77 Waterman St. 716.434.8003

3rd Flora M. McKenzie 199 West Ave. 716.433.7781

4th Andrew D. Chapman 532 Pine St. 716.433.2006   andy(a)lockportalderman.com

5th Kenneth M. Genewick 38 Harrison Ave. 716.439.5907

At Large Joseph C. Kibler 16 Cleveland Place 716.434.8673


Originally posted 12-17-2008
UPDATE 12-19-2008: - Color photos of map imbedded. Merged color scans are to come. A thank you to Mayor Tucker for supplying this to me.
UPDATE 09-22-10: Current council member info updated

9/16/2010

Canal St - NCCC

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and The LUSJ reported on Ulrich's latest (first?) public solicitation of NCCC for its culinary institute to be placed on Canal St.:

Developer David L. Ulrich on Wednesday continued making his pitch for Niagara County Community College to locate its planned culinary arts institute on Canal Street.
The college's current plans -- described as a $13.2 million hospitality and tourism school -- call for the project to be located in part of the former Rainbow Centre mall in Niagara Falls.
Ulrich, touting the prospects of the Lockport site, called his plans a "combination of two good ideas" -- the college's school and Lockport's refurbished block overlooking the Erie Canal locks.

NCCC will not say no, but will also say nothing else:

...The school doesn’t want to burn any bridges with a developer, or the City of Lockport, by saying “no” — especially since it has had such difficulty acquiring a site in Niagara Falls — but the culinary institute has always been conceived as a school with retail components planned specifically to feed off the Falls tourist market, he said.
“That (Ulrich) is offering us an alternative is a real compliment to the idea of a culinary institute; when he says he can build us a first-class campus and save X amount of money, I don’t doubt him, he’s got a good reputation,” Klyczek said, “but going to Lockport would require a major reworking of the plan. ... (Canal Street) is a nice property; the parking ramp concept is interesting; but in our development team’s opinion, it’s not within the framework of what we’ve been pursuing.”...
An unfunded school knee-deep in discussions for another location and being lured with an unfunded ramp.

Current thoughts:
1) why does NCCC need all the buildings? The smaller two should be for other uses to create a mix on the block. Use the largest building and the Old City Hall as NCCC bait....for now.
2) Even better: get all three current buildings in the hands of those that currently want to buy them and build a new building on the large waste-of-space gazebo area. It looks to be a bigger area than the old Harison building. Everyone would get a piece, we would not need to wait to start things happening and the street would end up with a nice mix of year round uses.

Older ideas on the area here: LCC - Canal - Gooding St Area



View LCC - Canal St - Gooding St area in a larger map

9/16/2010

Gag Order

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and  The LUSJ reported that the Tucker-Chapman fued is moving on to another level:

On Mayor Michael Tucker’s orders, Common Council members are not allowed to approach city department heads about municipal or constituent business unless they’ve talked to him first.



Tucker abruptly informed the councilmen Wednesday during their pre-business meeting work session. A memo articulating Tucker’s policy regarding Council exchanges with the mayor’s subordinates will be out later this week, he said.


Looks like the long-simmering battle of wills between Tucker and Fourth Ward Alderman Andy Chapman just turned to a rolling boil.


Asked what’s prompting a formal City Hall communication policy, Tucker pointed a finger at Chapman. The freshman alderman’s “constant bugging” of department heads — and his apparent aim to “circumvent” mayoral authority over the departments — have to stop, he said....
There's middle ground somewhere. Will they find it?

9/14/2010

Council Agenda 09-15-10

Posted by MJ

Not much on the agenda for tomorrow's council meeting:



9/13/2010

Mill St Drama

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported some drama at the old mill that was suddenly purchased and fast tracked for demolition.

The state Labor Department has blocked a businessman from doing further demolition work on a decades-old Lowertown eyesore until results of an asbestos test come back.
The businessman, Dunkirk native Scott Krzyzanowski, who now lives in Texas, accused a Labor Department inspector of insulting him, perhaps believing he was an illegal alien.
Labor Department spokesman Joe Morrissey identified the inspector as Ed Krasinski. Morrissey said he “strongly denies” making any rude comments.
It's never a dull day when people are involved....

9/10/2010

Parking for Santa

Posted by MJ

It appears that the deal is sealed for the Santa House at Day Rd Park in the Town. The contract has been signed by both parties.

What one (me) could have imagined as a nice little touch in a small urban neighborhood park will now be lost in the expanse of a large semi-rural park. At least the all important "parking problem" is solved. Hopefully the 75,000 sqft of available parking will make the visit to the 250 sqft Santa House memorable and a huge success. ;)



What wonderful thing can we create with the foundation in Altro Park?

Old stories here:
Unhappy Santa
Lockport Santa House

9/09/2010

Davison Road Campus

Posted by LoneWolf

Just curious and a point of note~

The Davison Road Campus ( where social services WAS at one point) is up for sale... I'll provide a pic for proof tomorrow while i'm out and about doing papers in the area.

I have been trying to find out what USED to be there ... with little sucess.. if any one knows  .. any info would be greatly appreciated....

Auction listing  : http://tinyurl.com/2b2d9kl

Look under the "Comming soon" area. It's listed under Niagara County Davison Complex. ( In blue area near bottom of the site). It appears to be an "Online Auction".

Any info would be appreciated.

~Jeff


View Larger Map

added map -MJ

9/07/2010

Mill St.

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reported about the purchase of the industrial ruins at 89 Mill St. by Scott Krzyzanowski.

An out-of-town investor is moving to demolish an abandoned factory that’s been a blight on the Mill-Clinton streets neighborhood for decades.
Scott Krzyzanowski of Dayton, Texas, quietly acquired 89 Mill St. last month, with the thought it looked like a good “long-term investment” in a community he sees as being on the upswing.
Krzyzanowski and his wife, Diana, natives of Dunkirk, N.Y., and Newfane respectively, have made a few investments in Western New York in recent years....
This is one of the last properties I would have bet on to be turned around at this time. The short term demolition is a big score on its own. The desire to build on the property holds further potential. The limits on the potential depend on what is eventually built.

...Of 89 Mill, a 1.6 acre parcel accessible from four streets — Mill, Clinton, Olcott and Chapel — Krzyzanowski says it could be an ideal location for a strip plaza. He’s been out introducing himself in the neighborhood and asking residents what they’d like to see on the corner. They’re telling him a convenience store/gas station, a car wash and/or a laundry center would be great ...
The term "strip plaza" scares me a bit because of the type of development the term is synonymous with. The neighborhood would be much better off with some structures built up near the street mimicking the existing street frontages. Hopefully something of a little higher quality is possible to promote further investment in the area.

Give the neighborhood this (up to the sidewalk, transparent storefronts, built for the neighborhood):


The exact architecture need not be the same. Simple can also be beautiful if done right.

Do not give them this: (asphalt between sidewalk/st, built for those driving thru:)


Maybe this can be the next LCC?

9/03/2010

Budget 2011

Posted by MJ

The process is beginning but is expected to be late this year. The Buffalo News reported:

It happens almost every year in Albany, but a late budget is rare in Lockport.

However, that’s the case this year. Mayor Michael W. Tucker says the city won’t even attempt to comply with the City Charter, which says the annual budget must be adopted at the first Common Council meeting in October. This year, that would be Oct. 6...
The reasons being:
• How many employees are going to take the early retirement incentive that the Council approved Monday? The period for eligible workers to decide to retire lasts until Oct. 30. The city will have to pay the state for extra pension credits for each retiree, but most of the retirees won’t be replaced.

• What will be the cost of a privatized system of garbage collection, including a full curbside recycling plan? Requests for proposals are expected to be issued in mid-September; the results of the bidding won’t be known until mid-October, if not later. The final garbage plan may include a user fee.

“We have a lot of variables. We want to have a real budget,” Tucker said. “This is an unprecedented time. The incentive is unprecedented, privatizing garbage is unprecedented, recycling is unprecedented.”
It is nice to see the system set up so voters can quickly let there feelings be heard after (every other) budget.
He was referring to the purpose behind the Charter’s requirement of the budget’s adoption in the first week of October: to make sure the voters know what the coming year’s budget and tax rate are before they go to the polls in November.

There have been times when unhappy voters have taken immediate revenge on the City Hall incumbents. However, city officeholders are elected in odd-numbered years, so this year no city officials are on the ballot.

9/02/2010

Front Yard Parking

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ reported that the common council softened the zoning laws as applied to existing non-conforming front yard parking.

LOCKPORT — The Common Council amended local zoning law this week to allow replacement of “nonconforming” front yard driveways — without a variance. Currently, when a property owner has an old stone, blacktop or concrete driveway area in a front yard, it’s considered a legal nonconforming driveway. That’s because front yard parking is banned in the zoning code.


When the owner wants to fix up that non-conforming driveway, he’s directed to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance, which the zoning board frequently won’t grant. Over the past few years the board has been deluged with parking variance requests and has taken the stance it must uphold the ban on front yard parking, even where it’s been going on for years...


...A one-paragraph, two-sentence addition to “parking restrictions” in the zoning law now allows property owners to replace existing, nonconforming driveways with the same or better surfaces, as long as they’re not increasing the size of the driveway. Instead of paying $135 to apply for a variance hearing, the property owner can simply get a resurfacing permit for $25."

They also state a recent Zoning Board of Appeals case:

...Property owner Doug Roberts of Waterman Street got a variance to resurface a nonconforming side-yard driveway on a split vote of ZBA members in July. He’d actually already had the work done and was directed to the ZBA after-the-fact for the variance; at the hearing, members debated the propriety of sanctioning “illegal” work, with at least one member saying Roberts should be required to remove the newly resurfaced area....


It was a tough case as 1) the broken concrete/asphalt driveway was replaced with a nice new stamped concrete one and 2) that it was on the side of the house, which the city codes still consider "front facade" when applied to a corner property. The topic of creating a situation where people will just let these parking pads deteriorate in order to keep them was discused at length.

The law change makes sense. Two items to be careful for are what people try to pass off as "existing" parking pads and the quality of the replacement work.

In related news, the counsil agenda for this week was not posted at eLockport after I made reference to them before the last meeting. Go figure.