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STATE DECLINES TO ISSUE ISLE DOCK PERMITS PARKS DEPARTMENT RESEARCHING LIABILITY, PRIVATE USE OF PUBLIC PROPERTY

The Niagara Frontier Parks Commission, on orders from the state Parks Department, is not renewing dock permits for West River Parkway homeowners on Grand Island.

But after nearly 30 years of being able to obtain the permits to place temporary docks off state land across from their homes, residents say they are not about to give up the privilege.

Issuing the permits is being halted, at least temporarily, while the state resolves two issues:

The state's liability under such an arrangement.

Whether it is proper to allow public property to be used for private purposes.

Years ago, the tract now owned by the state belonged to residents living across from the property, said Don Oetinger, president of the West River Homeowners Association.

"The state forcibly took that land through eminent domain when they decided to put that parkway through," he said. "They moved the people back across the road and for all these years allowed people to get permits to put up docks. Now they're telling us we can't do what we've doing for years."

"We feel very strongly that this move would erode the property values of our homes," Oetinger said.

About 10 percent of the approximately 300 West River Parkway homeowners usually apply for the permits, according to Oetinger.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires that the docks be dismantled each fall.

Residents usually begin applying for the permits in March, Oetinger said, but a resident who applied two weeks ago learned the permits are not being issued.

Oetinger said his group has sought the aid of state Sen. John B. Daly, R-Lewiston, and Assemblyman William B. Hoyt, D-Buffalo.

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The two state legislators met earlier this week in Albany with state parks officials, according to Mario Pirastru, regional director for the Niagara Frontier Parks Commission.

"No decision has been made on what procedure to follow," he said Wednesday. "The state legislators will contact the West River people to get their input and get back to state parks on finding a solution to the problem."

"The problem is, this has been allowed to go on for so long," said Larry Marcus, counsel for the state Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation in Albany.

"Back in the early 1960s, there was no central office for parks, so it was up to each individual commissioner to decide," Marcus said.

"We would like to work something out with the homeowners, but it might, in the end, require some sort of special legislation," he said.

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