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Planners move forward on Jet Boat expansion

LEWISTON - The Lewiston Village Planning Board moved Whirlpool Jet Boat's planned $1 million expansion another step forward Monday night, unanimously approving the proposal with some stipulations.

Nearly 100 people turned out last month to speak at the Planning Board meeting to discuss the expansion plan, but Monday's meeting drew a much smaller crowd, mostly to discuss other proposals.

The 2,700-square-foot addition also received approval Dec. 20 from the Niagara County Planning Board. The plan must now go to the Village Board for final approval.

"The Planning Board and the Village Board seem to be in sync and understand the net benefit to our guests and for residents," John Kinney, Whirlpool Jet Boat president and chief operating officer, said after the vote.

The proposed two-story addition calls for a new entrance, new restrooms -- which will be available to the public -- and an open patio area.

Monday night, architect James D. Fittante presented a revised plan to move a staircase in response to previous concerns by Planning Board members.

"We lost a bit of our square footage but opened up the view for the public quite substantially. It provides for more green space," Fittante said.

Kinney has called his project a "shot in the arm for aesthetics, professionalism and customer service."

Planning Board member David B. Maslen said that those involved with the proposal did "one heck of a job on the plan -- I think they've done their homework and got all their i's dotted and t's crossed."

Stipulations to the approval were imposed by the board that would prohibit any live performances on the upper deck. Currently, live concerts are held on the lower deck of Water Street Landing, the adjoining restaurant and bar, which Kinney also owns and leases.

"We don't want an extension of the live entertainment upstairs," said Planning Board Chairman David C. Giusiana, noting noise concerns in the neighborhood. Kinney said he believes that the upper deck should restrict noise from the lower deck.

They also questioned a plan to add permanent sliding glass doors to the patio area, which was designed to be open for better views of the river.

Niagara Falls business owner and Lewiston resident Jerry Williams has filed suit to stop the project from moving forward, disputing the sale of public land to Whirlpool Jet Boat. He said Monday night that he also plans continued actions disputing the variances that the project received, as well as a third action to dispute the Whirlpool Jet Boat's 40-year lease with the village.

"I've said many times I don't believe the Jet Boat should operate in the Niagara River," Williams said.

John P. Bartolomei, attorney for Whirlpool Jet Boat, contended that the legal actions had no merit and would not stop plans to move forward. "Anyone can file a lawsuit," Bartolomei said.

"We will absolutely move forward [if approved by the Village Board]. The [current] lawsuit only deals with that little strip of land, which [the village] abandoned out of the right of way. It has nothing to do with these proceedings, nothing to do with the structure, nothing to do with the variances or building."

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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