With a 56-unit housing development planned for the City of Tonawanda’s Veterans Park, the School District wants it known that it has been trying to obtain part of the land.
A letter from the district was read aloud Tuesday at a public hearing in which the superintendent and board said they have approached city leaders several times about acquiring the four acres of land from Rogers Avenue to Little League Drive that border school property. School officials were unable to attend Tuesday’s session because it conflicted with their own regular board meeting.
“It is our desire to utilize the land for green space, practice fields, soccer fields and potentially an additional softball diamond for the children of the taxpayers who pay a full 100 percent of their taxes in the City of Tonawanda,” the letter read in part.
An agreement was reached in late July between Mayor Ronald J. Pilozzi and the site’s developer, Natale Builders. Under the proposed contract, Natale would purchase the wooded 17 acres between Two Mile Creek Road and Rogers Avenue for $192,000 and build 56 single-family homes in three phases.
The homes would be given condominium tax status and assessed at 65 percent of their market value, which was questioned by Rick Davis, a city resident and candidate for mayor, who was among the crowd of about 100 residents.
“Most residents would love to have a 35 percent decrease in their assessment,” he said. “We don’t even give veterans that.”
School Board President Sharon Stuart, when contacted later, said a 2009 study on how the city and school district could better share services proposes that the city provide those four acres of land to the district so it may expand its athletic fields. But discussions with Common Council members on the matter have been fruitless, Stuart said. The letter, read by Director of Pupil Personnel Services Amy Edgerton, was the district’s last-ditch effort at bringing awareness to the idea, Stuart said.
Many who spoke out Tuesday were Fletcher Street residents whose backyards would abut the new homes’ backyards.
Fletcher Street residents Tom and Kathy Bacon said they would like to see any wetlands remediation used to create a wooded buffer between backyards. “We bought the house because of that,” Tom Bacon said of his wooded view. “We’ve been there for almost 10 years now.”
Residents also expressed concerns about how responsibility for utilities, trash pickup and plowing would be split between the city and the new subdivision’s residents who would belong to a homeowners’ association.
But Laurence K. Rubin, special counsel to the city, said many of residents’ concerns would be addressed during future development stages by bodies including the city Planning Board, Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Environmental Conservation. He said he believes the Council “has made the right decision to defer to those specialized bodies for the special questions,” he said. The Council would have to approve sale of the land, which may come up for a vote next month.