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Icy chill still lingers in town over outdoor rink

Just a week after work began to assemble the NHL-sized outdoor rink being erected in East Aurora, complaints are tumbling in from some village trustees who feel the rink has received preferential treatment.

"There's anger out there," Trustee Patrick McDonnell told fellow board members Monday night. "The Village Board was cut out of the process completely, and [the Aurora Ice Association] was given preferential treatment. They've put tons of fill and sand in there. It's anything but a backyard rink."

Still, other village officials, including Mayor Clark W. Crook, insisted that Village Hall is keeping a close eye on the work by the Ice Association and the work crew that is putting together what's been billed as a seasonal rink on Riley Street, about half a block off Main Street.

"Our code enforcement officer is bird-dogging the assembly on a daily basis . . . to make sure village code is not stretched," Crook said. He also asked that a letter be sent to the ice group, requesting a formal plan for operation of the rink, its hours and planned programs.

"We only know what we read in the paper," the mayor said.

Building Inspector Bill Kramer insisted that the Ice Association had a right to put a temporary rink on its property and that no permit is required.

"The ice rink can be there, under village code," Kramer said. "They don't have to take it down."

That didn't sit well with McDonnell, who insisted he supports the idea of a temporary rink. "But it was 'sold' to us as a temporary rink," he said. "That's not a temporary rink. Once hockey season is over, I fear that in the spring, AIA will request permanent status. By then, the horse is out of the barn."

Kramer said the rink is not in a floodplain area, but he plans to talk to organizers as early as today about drainage concerns for nearby Riley Street.

"We have every right to stop the rink the minute it changes from a temporary rink," Crook said, noting that not more than one acre can be disturbed on the site.

Other trustees praised the idea of a temporary rink -- though a contingent of the community, including a vocal grassroots Residents for Rink Relocation, has been critical of a temporary and permanent rink proposed by the nonprofit group. The temporary rink, slated to be open from November through March, is the same rink used last January for the Winter Classic held at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

In a new twist, the RRR has filed an appeal of Village Attorney Robert Pierce's recent legal opinion that the rink did not require a permit. The group's own attorney disputed Pierce's opinion and now the appeal will go before the village's Zoning Board of Appeals on Oct. 20. John Spooner, an active member of RRR and chairman of the ZBA, reportedly plans to recuse himself from any action by the ZBA.

Complaints Monday centered on concerns over whether the village will have a say or if any special permits or conditions are required to address lighting or parking, or if the ice group requests to build a permanent structure to house its Zamboni.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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