State Department of Environmental Conservation officials heard both praise and threats of a lawsuit Thursday night when about 60 people attended a public hearing on the expansion of the state's wetland map in Erie and Niagara counties.
In North Tonawanda, 153 acres were added to the wetland map. About 130 are on the planned site of the Briarwood Subdivision between Robinson and Sweeney streets, and 23 are on extensions of the Klydel wetland between Meadow and Wurlitzer drives.
Portions of this expansion extend onto private property, such as an extra lot owned by Gail Broadbent and her husband, Ken, on Parkview Drive.
"We either planned on building a home or, because my husband is handicapped and can't take care of it, possibly selling it to someone else," she said. "It was like a savings account . . . now they're telling us this is a wetland and you can't do anything."
In Erie County, a few acres north of Ransom Road on Grand Island were added to the map. Developer Dan D'Angelo of Grand Island said the new map won't affect his current holdings, but "I certainly wouldn't buy any wetlands."
And that's one of the criticisms of Common Council President Brett Sommer and Mayor Lawrence V. Soos. Soos said the city stands to lose $15 million in tax revenue a year. He and Sommer agreed to work together to fight the expansion.
"This is something where the city has to band together with the property owners to fight in a lawsuit if need be," said Sommer. "In my mind, it's stealing from land owners."
But Liz Kaszubski, a resident and chairwoman of the Sierra Club's New York State Committee on Wetlands, said she called the DEC's attention to some of the expanded areas.
"This is like what we've been asking for," she said. "Finally seeing it on a map is great."
Sommer said activists like Kaszubski want to prevent change.
"For me, if the Sierra Club and Liz Kaszubski wants this to be wetlands, they can buy it and pay taxes on it," Sommer said.
But some others also sided with Kaszubski.
"We're all for [the expansion]," said Gary DiSanto, whose Woodward Avenue property borders the Klydel wetland. "We like the woods and we enjoy hiking."
The expansion was also a big win for members of Residents Against Flooded Terrain (RAFT).