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Better briefings sought on projects

The town engineer was asked Monday night to keep the Town Board aware of building projects so it is "not caught off guard" as it may have been regarding The Town Homes at Shawnee Landing.

In the appointment of Tim Walck of Wendel Duchscherer Architects & Engineers at the annual organizational meeting, Supervisor Timothy E. Demler directed Walck to act as the link between the Town Board and the Planning Board.

The request was described as an effort to improve communications between the two entities regarding development plans and construction. Projects are first presented to the Planning Board to see if they comply with zoning regulations. Most projects then go back and forth between the two boards before final approval.

Demler said there are numerous issues the engineer can brief the board about, such as access roads, project proposals and changes to plans.

"We want the engineer to report to the Town Board so it is not caught off guard," Demler said.

Demler made reference to the current controversy surrounding the Town Homes at Shawnee Landing, a 64-unit development off Shawnee Road that was initially announced as a project for the elderly and disabled but came to include low-income tenants.

When about three dozens residents showed up at a Dec. 11 meeting to question the change, Demler said he was unaware of the move despite a letter in support of federal funding for the project.

Residents argued that the development for low-income families was not consistent with the area that features several subdivisions with homes valued at $200,000 to $400,000.

Demler said he wanted to make it mandatory for Walck to alert the councilmen since he is hired to serve both boards.

He said the engineering firm is paid about $36,000 a year to advise the Town Board and another $500 a meeting for the Planning Board work. The Planning Board meets at least twice a month.

However, the lion's share of the firm's earnings comes from about $200,000 a year in public improvement fees it gets from developers and contractors for inspecting work on infrastructures, Demler said.

Walck said he would report back to the board on how the new assignment could be incorporated into his work.

Meanwhile, work on Shawnee Landing has been temporarily stopped, according to Demler, who ordered the project's only access road closed last week.

Demler said he directed the barricades to Klemer Road be put back in place and Niagara County sheriff's deputies stationed in the neighborhood. The supervisor said he wanted traffic issues regarding construction vehicles and heavy equipment on Klemer addressed before the work proceeds.

Following the meeting, Demler met with Steve Kishel and two other Shawnee-area residents to discuss the project. Kishel is president of the Wheatfield Residents Action Committee, which has threatened legal action over the project.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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