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Porter officials see opportunity for waterfront park 39-acre parcel near Fourmile Creek State Park is soon expected to be in town hands

An agricultural town bordered on two sides by Lake Ontario and the Niagara River has never had a piece of its own waterfront.

That all changed earlier this month, when Town of Porter officials voted to buy a chunk of lakeside land from the entertainment arm of an international auto parts manufacturer.

As expected closure on the 39-acre sale approaches, plans are moving forward to study possible uses for the land.

Some of the ideas that have been floated include a town park used for swimming, boating and cross-country skiing, or as the site of a senior citizens center.

As ideas for future uses abound, many believe the chance to seize on a vision is now.

"It is the last piece of property that's open and available, and it would be foolish to pass up the opportunity . . . to purchase it," said Lake Road resident Betsy Diachun.

Diachun feels so strongly that she and her husband, Peter, wrote a letter to town officials offering financial assistance.

The town received $2 million this year from officials at CWM Chemical Services, a hazardous waste landfill operating on Balmer Road. As part of what's called a host community agreement, the town took annual cash payments from the company in addition to proceeds from a gross receipts tax.

The town will use about $1.05 million, or half of the largest lump-sum payment, in its offer to purchase the land from Magna Entertainment, a division of Magna International.

Some call the land the Oxy-on-the-Lake parcel.

The town had the parcel appraised in 2005. That appraisal valued the land at $890,000.

Within the last six months, Magna had the land appraised again, said Niagara Falls attorney Angelo Massaro, who has been representing the company locally.

Massaro would not divulge the value found during reappraisal.

A committee of residents is to be formed to discuss plans for the site, which includes about 600 feet of frontage on the lake.

Creek Road resident Robert B. Tower questioned Town Board members during a recent meeting about how much planning they'd done before making the purchase offer.

Tower said he's concerned about taking valuable property off the tax rolls without a good sense of how much it will cost to maintain in the future.

"It's a pretty expensive park for a small town," Tower told The Buffalo News.

Porter residents already have access to numerous parks in the area, including Fort Niagara and Fourmile Creek state parks.

Costs for items like insurance also should have been more closely considered, Tower said.

He also believes town officials would have been a little more hesitant had a town referendum been possible prior to buying the land.

Because the money from CWM was considered surplus funding and not part of a capital account, the issue was not subject to a permissive referendum, town officials said.

In other words, if the town had to borrow the money to buy the park, the issue would have been placed on the ballot if enough voters in the town petitioned for such a vote.

Tower said he doesn't want anyone to think he's completely against the proposal. He only wanted more research done.

"I'm not against parks," Tower said during a recent board meeting. "It'd like being against Santa Claus."

Councilwoman Nancy J. Orsi has helped spearhead the proposal moving forward.

She said the town got such a good price for the land that even if it wanted to sell off the property in a year, it could still make money.

"I don't think you can have enough parks," Orsi said.


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