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The executive director of the Horizons Waterfront Commission assured Common Council members today that public access will have top priority in commission plans for the Erie County shore.

"Public access is a given," Thomas D. Blanchard Jr. said. "The context of private development is a function of public access, and public access comes first."

In his first Council briefing, Blanchard said it is likely the Council's desire for a 25-foot setback for public access along the waterfront will be included in the recommendations of the commission.

Ellicott Council Member James W. Pitts said he was pleased by Blanchard's position. Pitts described the 25-foot setback as a minimum.

"I'm encouraged to hear you are public-access oriented," he said. "Public access can serve an economic development purpose."

Blanchard, who was hired last October, said he believes many owners of waterfront property will wait to see what the commission recommends before proceeding with their plans. He said that may make a much-discussed moratorium on development unnecessary.

"No developer precludes future options by jumping ahead," he said. "He'll see the value to his ultimate use is through sticking to this larger plan."

The commission rejected a development moratorium last month because it was premature, Blanchard said. James W. Harrington, the Council's representative on the commission, said the group may have enough information to be able to evaluate specific projects by June.

"The commission needs to move ahead with its work before it criticizes projects," Blanchard said. "If we criticize something, we need to offer a better alternative."

The briefing was attended by Pitts, Council President George K. Arthur, Lovejoy Council Member Norman M. Bakos and Council Member at Large Clifford Bell.

Harrington and Blanchard said the commission is currently establishing goals for a consulting firm that was hired in November. Plans also call for the commission to identify all landowners in the 60-mile waterfront zone it will study.

Harrington said when the commission first began studying the ne priority
waterfront the area included about 90 miles of coastline. The mileage was reduced when Grand Island's town board declined to become part of the planning area.

The commission will coordinate its work with Buffalo development activity because its membership includes Charles Rosenow, president of the Buffalo Economic Development Corp. and Roseanne Frandina, the city development director, Blanchard added.

Blanchard also said Horizons is asking the executives of all communities in the area as well as leaders of various special interest groups to organize briefings.

"We want to get acquainted and be advised of their plans," he said.

Arthur said he hopes today's meeting will be the first of periodic briefings to the Council.

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