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TOWN OF TONAWANDA SUING AMHERST OVER PLAZA OK

The Town of Tonawanda is taking a neighbor -- the Town of Amherst -- to court, claiming a recently approved shopping plaza on the Amherst side of Niagara Falls Boulevard could flood many homes along Evergreen Drive in Tonawanda.

Papers filed in State Supreme Court accuse Amherst of approving plans for the 550,000-square-foot Boulevard Consumer Square plaza near the Youngmann Highway before a drainage study commissioned by Tonawanda was finished, knowing the results probably would conflict with those of earlier studies.

A drainage plan approved by Amherst "severely underestimated" how much storm water will flow from the new plaza into the Evergreen ditch in Tonawanda, placing "numerous residences on Evergreen Drive . . . under the threat of flood," according to Tonawanda.

The Town of Tonawanda and Evergreen Drive homeowners "stand to sustain great property losses," according to the action brought by the Tonawanda Town Board against the Amherst Town Board and, individually, members of the Amherst Planning Board and a town building inspector.

The Evergreen ditch drains much more land in Amherst than it does on the other side of Niagara Falls Boulevard in Tonawanda.

Throughout 1996, Tonawanda officials said they repeatedly expressed concerns about the drainage plan for the Amherst plaza, both verbally and in writing. The plaza developer, Benderson Development, responded by giving Tonawanda $45,000 for a drainage impact study last March.

Last May, the Amherst Planning Board and Town Board adopted a project "findings" statement as part of the state Environmental Quality Review Act process, the court action notes.

The findings statement by Amherst noted a town drainage policy requiring that "all developments provide facilities adequate to assume disposition of surface water without adverse effect on other property." The statement also said:

"The Town of Tonawanda will be given the opportunity to review drainage plans as part of all site plan applications for this project (and) their input shall be sought and, where appropriate . . . incorporated into the final design."

But with the Tonawanda drainage study incomplete, the Amherst Planning Board June 19 approved the plaza site plan. Tonawanda officials said the first they knew of it was a letter from an Amherst planning official Aug. 11.

Worse, according to Tonawanda officials, the Amherst Planning Board didn't include as a condition of site plan approval the provision in the earlier findings statement about getting Tonawanda's input in the final drainage plan.

Tonawanda, "in good faith, believed that no action would be taken (by Amherst) until such time as the results of the drainage study commissioned by (Tonawanda) and paid for by (the developer) were received," the court petition states.

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