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New tone sought in race for 3 East Aurora board seats

Discontent over East Aurora Village Board stalemates and infighting is driving the race for three trustee seats in Tuesday's elections, which feature a field of six candidates.

Four challengers -- David G. Peltan, Mary Alice Grant, Ernest F. Scheer and Keith E. Bender -- are running against incumbents Elizabeth A. Cheteny and Patrick F. McDonnell for their seats, as well as for the open seat created by Trustee Heidi M. Potenza's run against Mayor David J. DiPietro.

"This present board has a lot of unrest," said Grant, 55, former Town of Aurora Democratic Party chairwoman. "Things are either tabled or half of a decision. I would try to bring some kind of consensus and harmony."

Grant, a native of East Aurora and a retired pretrial investigator for the Erie County Probation Department, is concerned about development and the need to help businesses survive the forthcoming Main Street reconstruction.

"I would like to see development studied one development at a time. A lot of people are moving out here to get away from the rat race of Amherst. The more that happens, business will want to be here," she said. "I don't want our town and village to become anti-service. We have a lot of people to serve from the surrounding towns. Do we want to just close the door on everything? No."

Bender, 27, who lost a bid for trustee two years ago, is running again to offer a "common-sense approach" to government. "I'm running because village-level politics in East Aurora has become too caught up in nastiness and infighting," he said.

A health and safety analyst for Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Bender says that much of the board's debates end up in "nasty name-throwing."

Bender said he supports smart-growth initiatives that advocate keeping development along the Main Street corridor.

"I don't believe that we live in a vacuum. We can't keep all development out," he said. "But once a decision is made, we need a solid, unified voice."

Scheer, 41, an Orchard Park Middle School teacher, said he is tired of the "lack of cooperation" and "lack of decorum" by board members. "I don't feel they're working in the best interests of the community," he said.

Scheer said he wants to help by contributing to decisions that are unbiased and fair, instead of influenced by personal agendas or connections to others in town.

"I like living in a small town, and I want to maintain a small-town character and feel," said Scheer, who, like others, said the vacant Ames store is a void that needs filling.

Political newcomer Peltan, a lawyer, said he is interested in helping balance development issues. "I think it's a challenge to balance desire and the need for consumer conveniences but also maintain the historic character of the village and the look and feel of it," he said.

Peltan, 40, said he wants sidewalks repaired to help improve "walkability," as well as progress on a proposed bicycle path to Knox Park from Girard Avenue.

He said it is also critical that the village keep an eye on potential growth on the fringe of the village, such as patio home developments now proposed to the Town Board. "Patio homes are pretty rapid growth, and we need to keep an eye on that," he said, noting that such developments create bigger demands on the village's limited sewer system.

McDonnell, 52, a county youth detention worker, is seeking his fourth two-year term on the board. "I think it's important to fully develop Main Street as much as we can, because our assessment rate is flat," he said.
"I'd much prefer that business be on Main Street, because otherwise it turns into sprawl," he said. "I want a vibrant Main Street. East Aurora serves as the hub for five towns."

The village needs to be business-friendly, McDonnell said. "Let's streamline the process for small businesses when they come in with a plan," he said. "Let's make it a one-stop shop, instead of making them come back five to six times for special permits."

Cheteny, 46, an urban planner who has worked with villages and towns throughout the state, bases her re-election bid on her experience in planning, zoning and historic preservation. She crafted a local law banning new drive-through fast-food restaurants along Main Street.

"I work hard to ensure that the village has the legislation and project-review procedures in place to foster the quality development that residents want to see and that preserves the places that are important to the community," she said.

Cheteny, who serves on the Main Street Reconstruction Task Force, wants to see more park improvements and preservation.

"My mission is a positive one: Preserve, protect and enhance our wonderful home town," she said.

Polls at Village Hall will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday.


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