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Hearing set on proposal for Shawnee Landing site; Scene of controversy attracts new interest

A proposal to rezone part of the controversial "Church at Shawnee Landing" property will be discussed at a public hearing next month.

The Town Board voted Monday to set a hearing for 7:15 p.m. Sept. 12 to review a request by Burke Builders of Buffalo to change the zoning to allow commercial development.

The plan calls for 14 homes and two commercial lots on the property where the church was to go.

The Shawnee Landing church project had met with vehement opposition a few years ago from nearby residents, who said it would increase traffic in the congested area.

The North Tonawanda congregation abandoned plans for the church and community center, but a number of apartments units were built for low-income residents with federal subsidies through the Belmont Shelter Corp.

Town Attorney Robert O'Toole said "Captains Way," the proposed development, would consist of single-homes along the entrance road to the apartment area and two commercial lots on Shawnee Road. He said he believed the proposal would fulfill the wishes of the nearby residents by putting the homes off Shawnee and prohibiting any more apartments.

"It would mean no further expansion of the area," O'Toole said.

Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe asked the board to request a traffic study by the state Department of Transportation on adding a left-turn lane on Shawnee. Residents had told the board that vehicles now pass on the right to get around cars waiting on Shawnee to make left turns, creating hazards for pedestrians.

Cliffe said the hearing would be held only to air the proposal.

But Councilman Gil Doucet opposed the motion because he said he did not want the zoning changed if the church would retain ownership. Monday's discussion indicated that the developer has not yet purchased the land.

In another matter, Patti Weiss, vice chairwoman of the Wheatfield Republican Committee, asked the board to require permits for anyone distributing fliers or other printed material.

She said the authors of the materials should be required to identify themselves.

Weiss said a recent handout warned residents that mosquitoes were spreading fatal diseases in the town and residents should keep children indoors. Cliffe said he saw the flier and had spoken with the Niagara County Health Department, which debunked the rumors.

O'Toole said as much as he agreed with the reasoning, the requirement probably would violate the First Amendment.

"We can't have an ordinance that requires people to sign their fliers," he said.