The Horizons Waterfront Commission's new plan for guiding shoreline development ran aground today at a Common Council committee meeting.
Council members said the commission should have waited for the city to adopt its waterfront plan before releasing regional proposals last week. They then voted to endorse a city plan that includes a 90-acre park on the Outer Harbor.
"It's not that we've rejected their plan," South Council Member Brian M. Higgins said. "It's just that at this point, what Horizons has given us is irrelevant."
The priorities listed on the compromise city plan are:
Designation of a Waterfront Greenway Trail that encourages waterfront access from all areas of the city.
Creation of the park on the Outer Harbor.
Expansion and improvement of South Park, including moving the golf course to adjacent land.
Expansion of the Coastal District to take in the city's entire visible watershed, including Scajaquada Creek, the Buffalo River, Cazenovia Creek and South Park Lake.
Establishing a deck park to extend Riverside Park over the New York State Thruway.
Routing the proposed Southtowns Connector to avoid Katherine Street and the Concrete Central peninsulas as it crosses the Buffalo River.
Higgins and other members of the Council Economic Development committee said the city plan should replace the recommendations for the Buffalo waterfront contained in the Horizons proposal.
"If Horizons doesn't cooperate, we reserve the right under the intermunicipal (cooperation) agreement not to accept that plan," Ellicott Council Member James W. Pitts said.
Buffalo's objections do have clout. Under the terms of the intermunicipal agreement, each participating community can either adopt or ignore the Horizons plan. With much of the region's important waterfront land in city limits, the city's agreement is necessary for a cohesive plan.
Higgins cautioned against taking a hard-line approach, saying Horizons Executive Director Thomas Blanchard, and J.W. Harrington, the Council's appointee to the commission, may be receptive to the city's ideas.
"I think Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Harrington need direction from the city and this would give them direction," he said.
Blanchard was unavailable to comment.
Edward C. Cosgrove, Horizons board chairman, said he welcomed the city's decision to move forward on its own plan.
"If what they say makes more sense than our general land-use plan, the land use plan will respond to what is good for all based on consensus," Cosgrove said.
Cosgrove said he is not concerned the city is late with its objections. Buffalo is the only community participating in Horizons that has not completed its own waterfront development plan.
The compromise proposal supported by the committee combines elements of the Griffin administration's waterfront plan with those suggested by Higgins.
"It's a marriage between the plans that represents a grand vision of Buffalo's waterfront with significant emphasis on public access," Higgins said.
The chief difference in the compromise city plan calls for a 90-acre park on the Outer Harbor and sets priorities for what developments the city wants for the waterfront.
The Horizons plan calls for a combination of recreation land on the Outer Harbor with some expansion of commercial development near the Small Boat Harbor. The administration plan recommended a 56-acre park with the remainder used for residential and commercial development.
Higgins said he is confident he has enough votes on the full Council to include his amendments to the mayor's plan. He said his supporters include Council Majority Leader Eugene M. Fahey, University Council Member Archie L. Amos, Jr. and Council Member at Large Clifford Bell.