NIAGARA FALLS – The downtown hotel owned by Maid of the Mist Corp. has been using a 14-by-200-foot slice of city land for 25 years without authorization, and the company is now requesting official permission.
The first attempt to gain that permission failed Wednesday night when the Planning Board refused to recommend to city lawmakers that they grant an easement for the Comfort Inn – The Pointe property.
“The City Council’s elected by the people. Let the City Council give up 14 feet of prime real estate in downtown Niagara Falls. It’s not on the Planning Board to give away 14 feet,” board member Timothy J. Polka said. “I’m doing my job as a Planning Board member, and I say no.”
The Council has the power to grant the easement regardless of what the board says, but takes seriously any stance taken by the Planning Board.
The land in question is located parallel to a section of city street next to the hotel’s parking lot, which is across from the “Turtle” building.
The company is hoping to gain city permission because it says the space is needed to create enough parking spaces.
The fact that the company did not have authorization from the city to use the land came up as planning work proceeded for upgrades at the hotel and the adjoining lot, said Corey A. Auerbach, the Maid’s attorney for the hotel project.
Some Planning Board members said they were concerned about what precedent might be set should an easement be granted.
Auerbach argued that this was a unique situation because of the long-term use that has already occurred.
There were two votes on a recommendation taken by the board.
The first would have made approval of an easement by the Council contingent on the Planning Board’s approval of a site plan. That motion failed by a vote of 5-2. Only board members Lisa A. Vitello and Randal S. Ubriaco voted in favor of it.
The second would have sent the matter to the Council with no recommendation from the board. That failed by a 4-3 vote, with board member Willie C. Dunn joining Vitello and Ubriaco in favor of the motion.
There appeared to be some confusion at the meeting on what size of parking space is required by the city. Board members and city planning staff said that 9-by-18-foot spaces are required, while project representatives said they were told by the city that parking spots had to be 9-by-22.
Thomas J. DeSantis, the city’s senior planner, said the fundamental issue is whether there is any public benefit when the authority is granted to use a city right of way.
In another matter, the board set a public hearing for 6 p.m. Sept. 25 on a proposal from Sunset Lodging LLC to build a 72-room Comfort Suites hotel at 7001 Niagara Falls Blvd. The hearing will be held in Council Chambers.