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LETTERS

Housing project plans were misleading

The residents of Wheatfield have been misled and misinformed regarding the Shawnee Landing Housing Project.

Public information available up until this point had indicated that the housing was to be subsidized senior housing.

In a press release by Rep. Thomas Reynolds on Nov. 6, his securing of funding for the project's one- and two-bedroom senior citizen housing was announced.

During the Wheatfield Town Board meeting on Dec. 11, Supervisor Timothy Demler was unable to answer when the plans changed from one- and two-bedroom apartments to 44 three- and four- bedroom low-income townhouses.

In fact, Demler said that he recalled "the housing would be exclusive to senior citizens or the handicapped, and there was never any mention of more than two-bedroom units."

The proposed development can be anticipated to have significant traffic, environmental, economical, and human impact on our community. Our community does not have an ample infrastructure to provide services for this high-density residential development.

The quality of life in our community is significantly threatened by the Shawnee Landing Housing Project, and accountability for the misrepresentation of this ill-conceived project should be paramount.

Carla Wegrzyn

Wheatfield

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Keep politics out of Wal-Mart issues

As a lifelong resident of this community, I feel compelled to voice my displeasure at the conduct of our town leaders in connection with the Wal-Mart supercenter project proposed for the Lockport Mall.

At two hearings conducted by our Zoning Board of Appeals on Wal-Mart's application for some 40 variances, which must be granted in order for it to proceed with its project, our supervisor, Marc Smith, has appeared and argued passionately in favor of the Zoning Board granting all of the variances requested.

In addition to Mr. Smith, pleas in favor of granting the variances were also made by Town Board members Cheryl Antkowiak and Mark Crocker, as well as town resident Eric O'Neil -- all members of the Town Republican Party.

If this project was proposed to be built on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Keck Road, which is across the street from the Lincoln Woods subdivision where these people live, I wonder if they would be speaking in such support. Although the town politicians may say they are speaking as residents, you cannot separate the two.

I have been observing with great interest over the past two-plus years the process by which this proposed project has unfolded. For the most part, I have been pleased that concerned citizens have been given an opportunity to participate in the process and make their views known at each juncture. Our local officials have been accommodating and reasonable in this regard.

I also commend the members of our community who have voiced their views regarding this project, both pro and con, in a civil and reasoned manner. It was always my understanding that this was precisely how the process should work. We have zoning codes which protect the town, its citizens and potential developers alike, and a legal process mandated by New York State law, which governs how the development process should unfold and the manner in which the opportunity for public input shall be provided.

Our town officials, led by our supervisor, have decided that they should give Wal-Mart a little extra help by appearing at the Zoning Board hearings and passionately stating why this project should proceed. I don't believe that is how the process should work. It politicizes the process. Wal-Mart is one of the largest companies in the world. It has sufficient resources and ammunition to fight for this project. It shouldn't need elected officials to go to bat for them. It's not fair, it's not right and our community has not been well-served by it.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is an independent body and should be doing its work void of any political pressure. This should be a legal process, not a political one.

This is not about Wal-Mart's right to build here; they have every right. This is about a project that is too large for the proposed location. If this proposal is rejected, they will find a more suitable piece of land further south on Transit Road, where there is plenty of room to build. If not, we will still have our current Wal-Mart. They make too much money off of us to leave.

James Garlock

Town of Lockport

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Lets' get facts straight about power plant

At a recent meeting of the Niagara County Legislature, several speakers spoke out against the PILOT being proposed for AES Somerset's existing power plant facility. They called on the Industrial Development Agency to rescind the proposal or for the Legislature to replace the IDA board with new members that will protect the interests of Niagara County residents.

County residents and business owners across the county would have lower taxes in the next 12 years if no PILOT had been granted to the AES power plant. County residents should know the facts that are being shared with the legislators. Not only is it a potential multimillion-dollar loss to the county but a major loss to the Barker Central School District.

If this out-of-control IDA can cause major damage to this school, then maybe your school taxes are next.

AES has already had substantial tax breaks over the last 10 years, with major discounts in their assessments. It does not need any additional corporate welfare from the county.

A major tax shift is occurring across the county. Taxes formerly paid by a profitable power plant will now have to be replaced by the taxpayers and small-business owners across the county.

Barker School officials estimate that, with a 0 percent increase in the budget, major cuts in nonmandated programs will still occur to make up for inflationary increases in mandated programs in the budget. Staff cuts and nonmandated program cuts will have to be made to reach just a 0 percent budget increase. Officials warn that a major tax increase will still occur after these cuts, due to the major loss in tax revenue.

Especially when you look at no net tax benefit to the town, school or county, why would we want a second plant with twice the pollution concerns, twice the volume out of the smoke stack and twice the heavy metals and other pollutants being put into the toxic landfill near our homes and school and waterways? Clean coal means pollutants do not go into the air but are now stored in the ground near you.

Merrill Bender

Barker

(Editor's note: Tuesday, the Niagara Power Authority approved a bid for NRG to build a new clean-coal-fired power plant at the Huntley Station in the Town of Tonawanda, instead of a bid by AES to build a second coal plant on the company's Somerset site. AES Somerset officials told The Buffalo News that their plan to build is not yet dead but will have to be reconsidered. The winning bidder will be eligible for incentives that include Empire Zone benefits, up to $1 billion in tax-exempt financing, tax credits for brownfield cleanup and up to $50 million in state money to help with clean-coal technology. The Power Authority will buy the electricity produced by the winning bidder.)

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A note of thanks for ethnic events

The board of trustees of the North Tonawanda History Museum and the Museum Education Committee extend our gratitude to the Chopin Singing Society, the Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish Community, the Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York, and the North Tonawanda Senior Center for their collaboration in the presentation of our two holiday programs, the Dec. 13 "Polish Christmas Concert," and the Dec. 14 "German Christmas Night."

The Chopin Singing Society concert filled Our Lady of Czestochowa Church with the voices of angels, following a brief performance as well by the church choir. An audience of more than 650 people enjoyed this Christmas gift to the community from the OLC parish and the North Tonawanda History Museum.

The OLC ladies deserve generous thanks, as well, for their all-day effort in preparing the refreshments offered in the school hall following the concert. Thanks to local author John Kolecki, who was on hand to autograph his book about growing up in North Tonawanda's Polish community.

The recently renovated Senior Center hosted more than 140 attendees, including Cub Scout Pack 193, and the Alpha Phi Omega, Epsilon Sigma Chapter, of the University at Buffalo. The Cub Scouts and college students assisted during the program also. We were pleased to be able to celebrate with our colleagues from Bergholz the 35th anniversary of the Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York. A moment of silence in memory of their founder, Eugene Camann, followed Wilma Lass' history of their society and their Das Haus Museum.

The presentation on German Christmas traditions and foods was enjoyed by all. Our thanks as well to UB student Danielle Oney for a display on German and pre-German Christmas customs, and to Danielle and Terri Oney, Barbara Wickman, and the ladies from Das Haus for the holiday treats for refreshments.

Donna Zellner Neal

Director, North Tonawanda History Museum

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