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Town of Niagara considers buying land along Cayuga Creek to reduce flooding danger

TOWN OF NIAGARA – The Town Board is poised to move ahead with a plan to spend $43,000 to acquire a 37-acre parcel of land in hopes of restoring its ecological value and reducing the danger of flooding.

Members of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper on Wednesday made the request for the money as part of the town’s share of the Niagara River Greenway funding to pay for the acquisition process for the land, as well as seed money to seek additional funding for the project. The town would apply to the Greenway Commission for the funding in March.

The plan calls for acquiring the parcel, located along Cayuga Creek and known as “the Weber property,” from the Weber family and developing it as a wetland habitat that would support unique vegetation and wildlife species while relieving flooding in the area near Roberts Drive and Tuscarora Road, according to the presentation.

Board members, most of whom were familiar with the project from previous discussions, showed no opposition and expressed encouragement for the plan.

Supervisor Lee S. Wallace explained that the intent of the project “is basically righting a wrong” by restoring the creek to its natural state and connecting it to the local flood plain. That section of the creek would be redirected from the present narrow bend to a wider area.

“Right now, we have some of the most expensive homes in the Town of Niagara waiting for the next flood,” Wallace said. The creek has overflowed in recent years, and the town has considered a number of solutions to prevent damage to the nearby homes.

Wallace pointed out that if the land proves to be severely contaminated, the town would not be responsible for the cleanup.

In addition, the town is not losing much tax revenue on the undeveloped parcel.

Town Attorney Michael B. Risman noted that the improvements were “never going to happen for the value of the land.”

After the acquisition, the next two phases would involve restoration and construction work costing up to $460,000 which would come from other sources such as the Natural Resource Damage Assessment.

Once completed, the land would be home to a variety of amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals, along with vegetation such as shagbark hickory and the closed bottle gentian plant.

The board is expected to pass a resolution Tuesday.

The board also:

• Learned that the estimated cost of the planned veterans memorial at Veterans Memorial Community Park is $340,000, which Wallace acknowledged is much higher than anticipated. Included in the design are five granite memorials, flags, an eternal flame, walking path, a sundial, lighting, flags, benches, landscaping and utilities. Funding from several outside sources would be used to pay for the project.

• Heard a sales pitch from local television and media personality Bob Koshinski to coordinate marketing and promotion for the town through his company, All Services WNY. Most of the duties, such as seeking publicity for events and attracting sponsors for the summer music series, have been handled by Wallace, who said he no longer has the time. On a more extensive level, Koshinski would add scheduled news conferences, news releases and a town YouTube channel. His retainer would be $1,500 a month for the first year.