A contentious debate erupted this week during the City of Tonawanda Common Council meeting, as lawmakers narrowly approved additional money to continue a study for two roads proposed to spur business development on the former Spaulding Fibre site.
The city hopes to install a perpendicular set of roads on the site with the intention of creating better access to the lots and make the property more attractive to potential developers.
But several residents who live nearby opposed the plan, arguing that splitting the Spaulding site limits development.
"With Spaulding, we have one shot to get this right," Chris Thomas said. "It's taxpayer money, and we don't even have an [interested] tenant. If we have a company that needs 46 acres of land, we are already limiting that. We're landlocking ourselves in a city that's already landlocked."
Businesses are looking for two to four acres of land to develop "into the parcels that the marketplace says businesses want with the ability to expand," said Sam Iraci, administrative assistant to the mayor.
"In the opinion of professionals, you get the property ready for development, so they don't wait for us to develop it," Iraci said. "The chances of getting a tenant needing 46 acres is probably zero."
Erie County Legislator Kevin R. Hardwick, who secured $1.1 million from the county to build the access roads at Spaulding, suggested the Council table the issue. He feels the Council can meet in the near future to discuss the issue with a county representative to keep property development moving forward.
"The argument whether you put the road in or wait for tenants is like the chicken and the egg," Hardwick said. "In today's world, there's a lot of competition. If a property doesn't have utilities or something, [developers] are not going to wait around, but another important component is public acceptance of the project, particularly the neighborhood. Hopefully, the money will still be there, because $1.1 million for the City of Tonawanda is big bucks."
The resolution in question only added a short road to the plan to create a perpendicular form. Thus far, the Council has only authorized surveys of the plan and its environmental impact, not any actual construction.
Still, Aldermen Richard Slisz and William Poole voted to table the resolution for more consideration, but were ultimately defeated. The two also voted against the resolution itself, but it passed by a 3-2 vote.
"I've heard a lot of comments about Hackett and Gibson streets," Slisz said. "There are two sides to the story. I'm not saying I'm opposed or for this [road plan] at this point in time. I just want time to learn more information."
Council President Carleton Zeisz said the Council hasn't authorized road construction to begin.
"I understand where everybody's coming from, but I don't believe we should move forward with the study," he said.