LOCKPORT – After the minority leader reminded the majority leader of his promise to keep low-income housing off Davison Road in Lockport, the Niagara County Legislature this week approved a $50,700 bid from R.B. Mac Construction Co. of Lockport to buy 16.9 acres of county-owned land there.
Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, asked what R.B. Mac was going to do with the property. Assistant County Attorney R. Thomas Burgasser said the bid specifications required a mixed-use residential and office development in the former county infirmary, the main building on the parcel.
“What kind of residential?” Virtuoso asked. “I thought we were going to take steps to avoid low-income housing, deed restrictions or something like that.”
“There may well not be anything. This is the first time I heard of it,” Burgasser said.
Virtuoso noted that Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, had promised in February there would not be low-income housing on the site, which is located close to some of Lockport’s most upscale neighborhoods.
When Virtuoso mentioned that, Updegrove immediately called a Republican caucus, which lasted about 15 minutes.
Virtuoso said higher offers had been received after the bid deadline, but Burgasser said, “There was only one bid. We do need to accept that bid. You need a good rationale to reject that bid and you can’t do it just to get a better price.”
But he said the county can negotiate any provision of the sale contract, including putting in a requirement that R.B. Mac avoid low-income housing.
“He’s not going to put low-income housing in there when he intends to develop the back part of the property and put in housing,” Burgasser said.
R.B. Mac will have five years to redevelop the property, and if it does so to the county’s satisfaction, the company will be allowed to purchase 49.4 vacant acres in the back of the property for $50,000.
Burgasser said the Legislature would have to vote on the final contract, but the Legislature amended Tuesday’s resolution to include a bar on low-income housing. The four Democrats voted against that and against the sale itself.
The Legislature also unanimously passed a resolution opposing CWM Chemical Services’ proposed new hazardous waste landfill in Porter.
For a decade, the county has been funding environmental attorney Gary A. Abraham of Allegany to prepare opposition to the expansion. However, local activists have increasingly questioned the sincerity of the Republican-led majority’s opposition to the project. State Board of Elections figures show CWM has given $76,300 to the Niagara County and Porter Republican committees since 2007.
“I appreciate everybody’s vote here tonight,” said the lead sponsor, Legislator Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, author of the resolution that urges the state siting board not to grant CWM’s permit request. The board has scheduled hearings July 16 at Lewiston-Porter High School.
The legislators also unanimously directed County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz to include money for annual “step increases” for unionized employees in the 2015 budget, as long as the added expense doesn’t cause the county to exceed the state property tax cap.
The county cut off the annual raises three years ago.
Putting them back in 2015 would cost an estimated $1.3 million.