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Reiter, Lewiston sued over apartment plan

LEWISTON – A company owned by a member of the family that owns Modern Disposal sued the Town of Lewiston and former Supervisor Steven L. Reiter last week in an effort to stop a $12.3 million apartment complex planned for Ridge Road.

The site of the planned complex is owned by Reiter’s mother, 85-year-old Marjorie Reiter, who also is a defendant in the suit brought by Lewiston International Business Park. Its business address is the same as that of Modern Corp. and its president is Sonia Washuta, a member of the family that owns Modern.

Its property, which fronts on the east side of Model City Road, borders the two lots owned by Mrs. Reiter, which are to become the site of Bridgewater Estates, developed by Rane Property Management, an Amherst company that has been approved for a 139-unit complex in three, four-story buildings.

The plaintiff’s land is currently used mainly to park vehicles and equipment, the lawsuit says.

The suit filed in State Supreme Court asserts that the rezoning and site plan approval that cleared the way for the apartment complex both were illegal. Even if the rezoning is upheld, Charles D. Grieco, attorney for Washuta, said Reiter would need a special-use permit to build apartments, and he hasn’t applied for one.

The suit also asks Justice Mark A. Montour to issue an injunction stopping the town from granting a building permit for the project. Montour is to hear the case April 23 in Niagara Falls.

The whole project, the lawsuit charges, is marred by “an illegal, unethical and impermissible conflict of interest” for Reiter.

Grieco, of the Buffalo law firm Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel, said the town’s comprehensive plan doesn’t envision “high-density residential” for that area of Lewiston. “According to New York State law, a community’s zoning is legally required to be in accordance with a town’s comprehensive plan,” Grieco said.

Reiter voted for the rezoning of the land from R-2 to general business Jan. 28, 2013, the lawsuit said. Also, he signed an environmental assessment form attesting that the project would create no adverse environmental impacts – “on advice of counsel,” Reiter said Friday.

He abstained on the Town Board’s July 22 vote accepting the Planning Board’s approval of the project’s site plan. Reiter lost his bid for re-election and left office at the end of 2013.

The suit said Reiter has a financial interest in the project, but he denied the charge – for now.

“Eventually that property will belong to my brother and my sister and me,” Reiter said Friday. “I’d be lying to tell you I have no interest in it, but I have no direct ownership of it.”

The site wraps around a bar and a restaurant near the corner of Ridge and Model City roads, for which Reiter said his mother is the landlord. The apartment complex, if built, would have two driveways off Ridge Road and no access from Model City Road.