1/31/2011

Canal St

Posted by MJ

While Ulrich was toying with NCCC we were told there were three other interests just waiting for the opportunity to get one of the buildings. After a lot of down time I heard that something could be happening soon. Now the Buffalo News reported that Lockport Cave Tours appears to be continuing to persue the east most buildings:

The city’s development agency is bargaining with Lockport Cave owner Thomas Callahan, who is interested in acquiring a vacant building at the east end of Canal Street...
Someone please open a Niagara Wine Trail store before NCCC beats us to it at the old Rainbow Mall. Lockport still continues to miss the opportunity to make itself known as the starting point of the trail. The state highway Wine Trail sign at the Niagara Falls Blvd exit in Amherst shows how irrelevant we have allowed ourselves to remain in regards to the overall wine trail.

1/31/2011

Mall Demo Prep Has Begun

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported that interior prep work for the demolition of the mall has begun while Smart Growth still tosses out verbal lawsuit teases.

"Interior work has begun to prepare for the demolition of the Lockport Mall to make way for a Walmart supercenter, Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith said Thursday.

General Growth Properties, which sold the site to Walmart for $3.95 million, hired a contractor to do the work. Smith said removal of light fixtures and ceiling tiles containing asbestos started about two weeks ago and is expected to last two months.

After that, it will take about 10 days to tear down the mall..."
Below is an example of a Walmart (or any big box for that matter) with other store fronts integrated into the structure. It may seem forward thinking but look at places like the Palace Theater, or Shea's Theater in Buffalo and you can see it is just a thought come full circle. Instead of painted racing stripes on the cinder block or fake facades, why not some real stores/activity? Newer Walmarts are filled with salons/restaurants/banks etc in the front already. Just put in some front doors instead of blank walls......

1/27/2011

Stevens St. Bridge

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ reported today that the family of United States Army Spc. Albert R. Jex is petitioning to have the Stevens St Bridge named in his honor.

United States Army Spc. Albert R. Jex’s family is pushing for the Town and City of Lockport to name a bridge and Veteran Affairs Clinic after Lockport’s only fallen soldier from the war in Iraq.

But Lockport City Mayor Mike Tucker said he is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to making a decision.

“I’ve taken this proposal into consideration, but when you get an idea like this, how do you properly honor everyone? Albert is not the only Lockportian who gave his life in the line of duty. We have limited streets and bridges, and hundreds who gave their life” in wars over time, Tucker said. “Every soldier’s death is important, so who’s more significant than the other?”

He approached members of the Common Council with the request Wednesday night, saying a decision to rename public property ultimately rests with them.

Aldermen echoed his sentiments about the propriety — and the risks — of the city giving more “honor” to one fallen native over the rest...

I understand the family's desire but I kind of agree with the quote above. We already have Veteran's Memorial Park on East Ave across from the hospital. I'd love to see some campaigns to see that all of those Lockportians who have fallen for our country are highlighted near the monument. Make the park "the place" to cement their legacy and give locals a single place to understand the sacrifices given by the residents before them.

And a big thank you to all the volunteers who spend their time there in the spring and summer to rebeautify it year after year.

1/25/2011

1998 City of Lockport Master Plan

Posted by MJ

01/24/10 - Chapter 3 and 4 added. Please excuse the delay.
A couple years back I was able to get a hard copy of the last comprehensive plan completed for the City of Lockport. It dates back from 1998. Mayor Tucker only had a hard copy available and was kind enough to lend it to me. I had to scan it page by page so please forgive the crooked pages. I'll paste it section by section every Friday over the next few weeks. There has been talk over the last year of updating the City Charter and then The Comprehensive Plan so no better time than now to review where we were 10 years ago and: where we envisioned ourselves going.

-Did we do the things necessary to get there?
-Did they even make sence or have better visions been found?
-Did we lose out by not enacting it into some form of law or updating zoning codes to match?

-What should we attempt to do from this point forward?

Exhibit 1
Exhibit 2
Exhibit 3
Exhibit 4







Originally posted 12/10/10

1/21/2011

Assessment Info

Posted by MJ

eLockport appears to be continually adding information or I just do not recall everything I've seen there. Today I noticed some assessment information.

Information includes:
Explanation of the NYS Real Property Tax System
Common "Myths"
Fair Assessments

There is also a property search with tax maps, comparables etc.

Read up before the reassessment notices come in April.

1/18/2011

Streets Chief Position

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported on the Mayor's suggestion to remove the position of streets chief from the city employment roles while adding a new position of director of economic development and planning.

Highways and Parks Superintendent Michael E. Hoffman was dismissed by Mayor Michael W. Tucker late Thursday in what the mayor said was a cost-cutting move. “It’s part of the downsizing. We’re trying to do more with less,” Tucker said Friday.
He gave Hoffman’s duties to city Engineering Director Norman D. Allen, effective immediately.
Tucker said, “I told Mike this wasn’t a performance-based decision. We eliminated his job. He had no place to go.”
Hoffman, who would have marked five years on the job next month, remains on the payroll until Wednesday, when the Common Council is to vote on cutting his job out of the budget. He was to have earned $66,180 this year...
and from LUSJ:
...Pasceri said she has reservations about piecemeal removal and addition of job titles and salary lines in the budget. It’s understood Tucker’s reorganization plan anticipates two new mega administrative titles, director of public works and director of economic development and planning, but neither of those is in the budget at this point...

The council will vote on it this Wednesday. At least one council member appears against the move. I also received an e-mail about an on-line petition. I'm have no strong feelings on the reorganization itself but I hope the position of director of economic development and planning is filled with someone who has some new progressive ideas and is given the tools and leeway to implement them.

Some comments have already been posted over here.

UPDATE 1/19/11:
LUSJ talked with Hoffman and others.

Some interesting points:
Hoffman got his layoff notice about one month shy of the 5-year employment anniversary that would have made him eligible for lifetime city-paid health insurance.
Another reason pensions are out of control in the public sector? (note commentor below says this is false)
“Mike did not plow streets or cut grass, the men under his supervision did — and they still will,” Tucker said. “All weekend, I heard, “the streets are great, the trees are great, everything’s great. Well, that doesn’t matter. The title was gone regardless who had it,” Tucker said.
The change in supervision can be positive or negative depending on the supervisor and those below him. My curiousity though is the "trees are great". I've seen more than a handful come down for one dead branch. when the truncks are cut they are solid and healthy as can be.  This is a big deal when we are replacing "0" per year.

Buffalo News reported on the pending vote tonight.

UPDATE 01/20/11:
Buffalo News and LUSJ reported on the council meeting last night.

1/18/2011

Pedestrians @ Timmy Hos?

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported that a proposed Tim Horton's at Robinson and Beattie attracted some town boards members to question how friendly it is to pedestrians:

The town is likely to get another Tim Hortons, but the location might produce more pedestrian danger along an already tricky road, a Planning Board member said last week.
The board received an application for a new location of the coffee-and-doughnut chain on a two-acre vacant lot on Robinson Road just west of Beattie Avenue.
That’s near where two pedestrians were struck by a car and seriously injured Aug. 17, and a legally blind woman was killed by a snowplow Feb. 1 as she crossed the road. In the wake of those accidents, questions have been raised about the adequacy of the street lighting on the road, which is part of Route 93. The town and the state Department of Transportation have each pointed the finger at the other.
The road has several apartment houses and entrances to two large mobile home parks, but there are no sidewalks. However, the shoulders are seven to 10 feet, which is wider than normal, Councilman Mark C. Crocker pointed out after the August accident...
If the town is so concerned for pedestrians how about working with the state to get some sidewalks around there? It is in general a lower income area and people should have the opportunity to safely use their own two legs for transportation. Extra wide shoulders around 55 mph traffic only goes so far. Seeing that the area is planned so vehicle-centric, why even bring up the question for a single parcel?


View Larger Map

1/13/2011

LSD Sports Complex

Posted by MJ

UPDATE 2/11/11: Comments "froze" and are not displaying except for in the RSS feed. Please feel free to comment in new post.

_______________________________________________________________________________

The push is growing for a re-vote on the sports complex capital project that was defeated in 2008. The LUSJ reported that Lockport School Board meeting will be held at Charles Upson to handle the possibility of a large turnout over the Sports Complex debate.



LUSJ reported some of the details in the sports section a few days back.

Confident that they can convince a better-informed community and committed to a more vigorous campaign fund drive, proponents of a new sports complex behind Lockport High School also know they face many obstacles in the weeks and months ahead, especially time.

A crowd of about 75 people attended a special meeting at the LHS cafeteria on Monday night, where district athletics director Patrick Burke gave a 45-minute presentation on the proposed $6 million project, which would include a new, artificial turf stadium with lights for football, soccer and other events....

I have seen at least one e-mail going around the past week trying to drum up support. I personally see no issue with a re-vote especially if there are increased numbers initially showing they support it and our willing to work at it.

UPDATE 1/18/11:
Buffalo News Reported.  A section may explain the descrepency in distrcit costs:

In 2008, state aid would have covered 89 percent of such a project, but now the state offers to cover 93 percent. Since the district’s capital reserve fund holds $5 million, Burke argues that it could support up to a $68 million capital project without raising taxes.
The district might not need to touch the reserve fund, he said. “We are committed to holding fundraising campaigns to raise the local-share portion of the project’s total,” he said. “We would attempt to not use much or any of that fund. It doesn’t need to cost a thing.”
UPDATE 1/19/11:
LUSJ reported on pending meeting tonight.

UPDATE 1/20/11:
The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported on the meeting last night.

1/13/2011

Trash Update

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported on a trash system meeting last night.

The city’s new privatized garbage disposal system won’t start until at least July 1, the Common Council learned Wednesday.

Dawn M. Timm, the laid-off former Niagara County solid-waste coordinator who has been working on Lockport’s plan, told the aldermen that the three prospective haulers thought the city’s plan to start in April was unrealistic.

The process, which began with the haulers being asked to submit comments on the plan’s structure before bidding, now calls for the final draft of the request for proposals to be posted by Feb. 28. The waste haulers will have until March 30 to submit bids.

“We’ll take about three weeks to chew over that and enter the negotiation phase,” said Timm, who is continuing to work on the city’s project as a volunteer.

She said the contract should be awarded in mid-May, and the first of the city’s five garbage routes will be privatized about six weeks later....
 Notable is where the "large item disposal" is heading:

One “bulk” item pickup per month, per property, to be included in the fee each property is charged for regular pickup. Bulk items are things such as a chair or other large item set out in addition to the trash can; the definition and maximum size/weight of a “bulk” item is also still being worked out.

•A “special circumstances” pickup, to be paid for by property owners in addition to their quarterly refuse fees as needed, for dumping of trash including construction-and-demolition debris. Basically, the property owner would contact the hauler and make arrangements for disposing of special debris alongside weekly trash; but the special debris wouldn’t be picked up unless the owner paid for the service.

The haulers discouraged an idea in the preliminary RFP, for a spring cleaning/”amnesty” month during which property owners could put as much trash out to the curb as they like. The city couldn’t estimate how many parcels would participate or how much would get thrown out, so the haulers said they’d have to guess themselves how many laborers and what kinds of vehicles, garbage trucks or bulldozers, would be needed, put a price on that extra service and write it into the contract
There should be a cost effective way to handle large items. Instead of one any time per any month and a big free-for-all month why not just the beginning of every month? It would seem to be more cost effective than special trips year round. Construction debris should still be the separate responsibility of the home owner or contractor. What else could there be to worry about on a large scale?

1/10/2011

County Redistricting

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported on the upcoming redistricting process at the county level while simultaneously shrinking the legislature from 19 to 15 members:

Some Niagara County legislators will have to decide this year whether to exit gracefully or fight for their political lives.

Plenty of behind-the-scenes political maneuvering can be expected as the County Legislature considers a new set of district boundaries, to be drawn by a five-member commission appointed last week. Its first meeting is set for Thursday.

In the last redistricting nine years ago, every incumbent was protected, but that can’t be the case this time because the size of the Legislature is shrinking, effective after this November’s election.

“There’s 19 members now, and there’s only going to be 15 after redistricting. Someone is going to lose out,” said Michael J. Norris, chairman of the county Republican Party.
The most interesting portion of the article to me was the insight into some of the rules governing the process:
There are two important redistricting rules set by state law. Population in all districts must be within 5 percent of the average, and no municipality can be divided between multiple districts unless its population is more than 10 percent above the average.

That means the only towns that can legally be divided are Lockport, Lewiston and Wheatfield. The three cities of Lockport, Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda also can be divided.
The current map is here. It does not appear to be overly gerrymandered as some other levels of gov't are. The panel appointed to lay out the new boundaries is referred to in this Buffalo News article.
The redistricting commission that is to draw the new Niagara County Legislature districts mixes political figures of the past with others who have served more recently on prominent boards.

Those appointed at Tuesday’s Legislature meeting are Shirley G. Urtel of Cambria, the Legislature’s former majority leader; Charles J. Naughton of Wheatfield, former chairman of the Niagara County Democratic Party; Patricia Dufour of the Town of Lockport, a member of the county Industrial Development Agency board; Kevin C. Schuler of Wheatfield, chairman of the Niagara USA Chamber; and Michael R. Cornell of North Tonawanda, principal of Amherst Middle School.

1/06/2011

AES.. number one priority?

Posted by Black Phillip

Really?

Helping keep AES Somerset viable is a top priority of Niagara County in 2011, legislature Chairman William Ross declared Tuesday in his State of the County address.
How about this for a change, making Niagara County friendly to ALL businesses and residents becoming the number one priority, and not one specific company who may (or may not) be running a failing plant*.

* I have no idea how well the Somerset plant is ran, nor do I make any claims that I do. But does William Ross know?

-Erik

1/06/2011

April Reassessment Notices

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported that we should be expecting our new assessments sometime in April:

City property owners will receive reassessment notices in the mail sometime in April, the city’s appraisal consultant said Wednesday.
Robert E. Koszarek of KLW Group made that statement after he and City Assessor Joseph Macaluso met with the Common Council behind closed doors. Koszarek said anyone unhappy with their new assessment will meet informally with him or someone else from KLW in May.
“You can speak with the assessor after the tentative roll is filed [June 1],” Koszarek said.
The Board of Assessment Review will hear any complaints that haven’t been resolved on Grievance Day, which is June 21. The final tax roll will be filed July 1, and after that the only recourse for a dissatisfied property owner is to sue the city.
Two public information sessions will be held later this month:
Macaluso said he and Koszarek will be present at two public information sessions about the revaluation Jan. 24. The first is set for 1 p. m. in the Dale Association, 33 Ontario St., and the second will be held at 7 p. m. in the Lockport Public Library, 23 East Ave.
I'm curious to see how much those who have invested in their properties will be punished while those who have let their's go will be rewarded.

1/05/2011

On Walmart

Posted by MJ

Although the renderings for the proposed Wal-mart show a design better than the blank box the current one has, one is left to wonder why we continue to not push for something better? We get a tower "element" and a small courtyard between the buildings but who wants to hang out between two big-boxes? Employees on smoke breaks I suppose.

As far back as 2006, Wal-mart has been striving to (or forced to) conform with the localities it is building in. Sometimes it is the planning/zoning that gets it there but more often than not it is the planning/zoning that stalls it there. Wal-mart is a powerful force (for good and bad) and will still build where it sees the potential for growth. A locality might as well strive for the best, not just from Wal-mart but from any development creating the fabric we live in. Do we want an (asphalt) hole laden sheet or a thick comforter to spend our time in?

Here are two Wal-mart designs:


First we have one proposed for Austin Tx. If we can get past the attached ramp (not needed in the town) we can note a modern design. After seeing Wal-marts attached to malls in Canada, what would be so hard placing something like this at the corner of Shimmer and S. Transit. One entrance at the corner for pedestrians, bicycles, bus riders, etc and the other at the other end of the Shimmer Dr facade for automobile traffic parked at the pack. Plus along Transit the small courtyard would make sense.


Here we have design two from DC. Time to get even dreamier. Imagine this on the WNYCA/F&M block downtown. A pedestrian entrance for the Walmart plus other shops facing Main St. The new city municipal parking ramp integrated into the structure. The ability of lower income brackets (without transportation) to easily walk adding life to Main St. Harrison Pl would have additional across the street parking and a continuous street frontage making it feel connected to Main St. Get really crazy and incorporate residential along Locust and in the F&M with attached covered parking.

They are big dreams but without shooting for the stars we are unlikely to reach the moon, much less leave the ground. At a minimum, the open store frontage could of been incorporated into the town design thus conforming with some of the Transit North Overlay District iinitiatives.

Odds are what is done is done pertaining to this project. Another 20-30yr decision that holds us back from making Lockport somewhere memorable to live.
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"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic"

1/04/2011

Walmart - Smart Growth Threats

Posted by MJ

Both the Buffalo News and the LUSJ have reported on the issuing of permits for the demolition of the Lockport Mall structure. The Buffalo News goes into more detail about the next "Smart Growth" threat:

Foes of the Walmart supercenter project are threatening to sue the Town of Lockport again, claiming the building and demolition permits the town issued last week were illegal.
Daniel A. Spitzer, attorney for Lockport Smart Growth, a group of citizens opposing the project at the Lockport Mall site, said Monday the approvals the Planning Board granted the project in November 2007 have expired, and Walmart can’t go forward without reapplying, paying another application fee and going through another public hearing.
The town sees it differently:
The town anticipated this angle at the Nov. 12, 2008, Planning Board meeting. The board passed a resolution declaring that the one-year period to use the approvals wouldn’t start until all litigation in the case had concluded. That occurred early last year.

Spitzer wasn’t impressed, saying the Planning Board’s 2008 resolution was itself illegal.
“Show me where [the law] gives the Planning Board the authority to change the town law,” Spitzer said. “This is just a giveaway to Walmart.”
I  hope the motion is legal. I've seen this on the city Zoning Board etc. In our case it is usually the permit seeker coming back to explain the need for an extension every year. Starting the clock ticking after, or pausing during litigation makes sence. We'll have to wait and see if the planning board's motion is valid or if a greater change in law was necessary.

Also interesting are the restrictions that Walmart put on use of the property to remain under Gerenal Growth ownership:
The agreement says General Growth cannot place any grocery store, discount store, wholesale club or pharmacy on the property it still owns at the mall site. Other banned uses of the General Growth property include theaters, bowling alley, nightclub, health clubs, spas or any business that sells alcoholic beverages. A full service restaurant would be able to sell alcohol though, and Bon-Ton doesn’t count as a discount store.

“Bon-Ton does not constitute a discount department store or discount store,” according to the agreement.

The three “outparcels” that host the First Niagara, Arby’s and Wendy’s locations can remain in their current forms, but the landscaping, drainage and access points might be subject to change. Walmart will pay for a new sign for its supercenter, the Bon-Ton and the outparcel tenants.

Hopefully General Growth will dress up those out parcels during this process as they are some of the dirtiest looking along that stretch.

UPDATE 12/05/11:
LUSJ chimed in on the lawsuit threats.