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City Hallways (June 22 ): Niagara Street's face-lift about halfway done

Checking up on Niagara Street

I was curious to see how construction is coming along on the Niagara Street Gateway project – a $20 million multiphase enhancement plan.

Staffers from Niagara District Councilman David A. Rivera's office tell me the project includes a complete street overhaul that will reduce the number of lanes to two from four with a center turn lane. Plans also call for adding bicycle lanes where possible, milling and asphalt overlay, street lighting and traffic signal replacements at a few intersections.

What’s more, sidewalks will be redone to provide better parking, and in some cases more sidewalk space will be added.

The first phase focused on Niagara Square to Carolina Street and was completed about a year and a half ago.

Crews now are finishing up phase two from Virginia Street to Porter Avenue, which is expected to be completed this year. Then begins combined phases three and four from Porter Avenue to Ontario Street, which is currently in the final design stage.

The entire project should be done by next year.

Inclusionary zoning update

A little brouhaha briefly interrupted Tuesday’s Common Council legislation committee meeting.

About 40 people showed up in Council chambers on the 13th floor to speak about a proposed inclusionary zoning ordinance that would require any new development – especially those getting public financing or tax breaks of any kind – to set aside a portion of the housing units as affordable housing, which means rents below market rate.

But a public hearing on Dash’s request to amend the Green Code to accommodate plans for a larger Hertel Avenue supermarket took up a lot of time during the committee meeting – more than an hour. Speaker after speaker – 10 in total – urged committee members to reject Dash’s request. They like the store and the idea of a new one, but they believed Dash’s was trying to circumvent the zoning process.

"Change the site plan to conform to the code. Don't change the code to conform to the site plan," said one speaker.

"They can apply to ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals) for variances. Let them work within the system ... without spot zoning property," said another.

About an hour and a half into the public hearing, things got a little chaotic when one woman sat down in front of a microphone to say she and others had been waiting since 1:30 p.m. to have their say about inclusionary zoning.

The only problem was that item had not come up in the agenda yet, but that didn’t stop many of those 40 or so people in the audience from erupting in anger, shouting out their frustrations, repeating protest chants in unison and speaking over councilmen.

Committee Chairman David A. Franczyk, the Fillmore representative, briefly recessed the meeting until order was restored about a minute or two later and then continued with the agenda.

But by the time inclusionary zoning item came up on the agenda, most of the people waiting to speak on the topic already had left.

The committee tabled the matter.


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