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Buffalo demands changes in Greenway City doesn't support panel's draft plan

The City of Buffalo will not support a draft plan for a revitalized waterfront along the Niagara River from Buffalo to Youngstown unless it is changed to the Brown administration's satisfaction.

Timothy E. Wanamaker, executive director of the Office of Strategic Planning, said the city has three main concerns about the Niagara River Greenway draft plan and a number of technical objections.

The biggest, Wanamaker said, is ensuring that the Greenway Commission's reach does not extend to approving or disapproving projects or allocating funds. That authority, he said, rests with a standing committee consisting of Buffalo, Erie County, the Olmsted Parks Conservancy and the New York Power Authority.

Wanamaker also said ethical guidelines that avoid conflicts of interest for Greenway Commission members must be inserted prior to a vote by the city. And the process for consultation with the commission needs to be made clearer, he said.

"As it stands right now, we would not approve [the plan]," Wanamaker said.

Niagara River Greenway Commission member Paul A. Dyster said he is confident that Buffalo's concerns can be met, noting that the commission does not have the authority to tell standing committees what to do.

"I don't see any substantive disagreement between the commission and the City of Buffalo on any of the items that are contained in the memorandum," Dyster said. "I think all of the issues can be adequately addressed."

Wanamaker first stated the city's position at the end of a public hearing in Buffalo on Wednesday, when he was the 29th of 30 speakers.

Larry Beahan, forestry chairman of the Niagara group of the Sierra Club, said he was shocked by the city's position. Nearly all of the other speakers voiced support for the draft plan. "That was a punch in the gut. The greenway concept is lost if we can't get the City of Buffalo to go along with it," Beahan said.

The city appears far less intractable than the Niagara Power Coalition -- a group of seven Niagara County interests consisting of four municipalities and three school districts -- which has said that it would not support the draft plan unless wholesale changes are made.

The draft plan -- 27 months in the making -- must get unanimous approval of Erie and Niagara municipalities before it goes to the state parks commissioner by March 21.

Through a licensing resettlement with the Power Authority, $9 million is to be divided up on an annual basis for greenway improvements. The Niagara Power Coalition and state parks would get $3 million and Buffalo and Erie County $2 million and $1 million, respectively, for ecological projects.

Wanamaker said that while Erie and Niagara counties are far apart on the issue of greenway boundaries, he is hopeful that differences can be resolved in the remaining three months.

"I'm always confident that calmer minds will sit down and come up with a plan that makes sense to us all," Wanamaker said. "There's a lot of dialogue that still has to occur to . . . get us there."

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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