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Village Board Approves 16 Martha Street Zoning – Debates How to Pay for East Tank Project

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By Jann Wiswall

The Ellicottville Village Board approved an amendment to a local zoning law at its meeting on Monday, April 14, allowing the owners of the 16 Martha Street property (the former American Locker site) to proceed with their development plans. The new law officially changes the property’s zoning from industrial to Village Commercial 3. The developers are constructing a seasonal apartment complex on the site.

The board also approved its part of a joint agreement between the village and the Towns of Ellicottville, Mansfield and Great Valley to share in the cost and benefits of constructing and installing a new water tank in the Town of Ellicottville — known as the East Tank project.

Under the joint agreement, the village will be responsible for 25 percent of the cost. Mansfield and Great Valley will each be responsible for less than 2.5 percent, since only the WestMont Ridge (in Mansfield) and Snow Pine (in Great Valley) communities are affected. The Town of Ellicottville will be responsible for the balance.

Each community will determine individually how it will bill its residents for the cost.

Mayor Charlie Coolidge introduced the topic of billing to the board by saying that there are several options available and that no decision will be made without research and community input. In addition, a public hearing will be held to allow village residents an opportunity to comment.

First payments will not be due until mid-late 2015. A decision on how to generate the income must be made before the 2015-16 village budget is finalized in June 2015.

Jim Campolong, who represents the village’s engineering firm, Nussbaumer & Clarke, explained that the challenge will be to come up with a formula that divides the total — estimated to be about $15,000 — in a way that is fair, reliably able to meet the financial obligation and administratively feasible.

Campolong outlined one possible way to create a formula — by assigning a weighted dollar amount based on the size of the water meter entering each property. A fee could then be added to village water bills. Campolong explained that, because this information is already a part of the village’s billing system, it would be relatively easy to implement.

The board discussed this option at length, noting that the community has recently gone through a difficult adjustment with the new water billing process and that adding another cost to water bills likely would be met with resistance.

Another option is to assess an ad valorem (property) tax based on assessed property values. Village Attorney Bob Simon said that he had spoken with the State Comptroller’s Office and was told that the allocation cannot legally be based “only” on property values.

Board Member Greg Cappelli felt that since the municipalities’ shares were determined by assessed property values, then it might make sense to base property owners’ share of the cost on property assessments as well. Cappelli then suggested that some research should be done to see how other municipalities have dealt with similar situations.

No matter how it is to be handled, the board agreed with Cappelli that there’s “no good way to do this.”

However, Coolidge pointed out that the benefits of the project — significantly improved fire protection, better water pressure and enhanced development potential — cannot be forgotten. And, without the new tank, the village cannot make the needed repairs to its reservoir.

In other business, the board accepted the Ellicottville Village Planning Board’s recommendations to approve projects at 9 Mechanic St., 5 Elizabeth St. and 36 Washington St. The board also discussed a new development project at 5 Park Ave., the former Meritool building. The owner of the property, Michael Stang, asked the planning board for permission to subdivide the two buildings on the property, one to remain an industrial building and the other to be rezoned as Village Commercial (VC). The VC building could then be sold or used as residential and/or retail. The planning board asked the village board to approve its recommendation in favor of the subdivision request, but the village board tabled its decision until further information about the project is available.

Following adjournment of the regular meeting, Coolidge opened the board’s reorganizational meeting. All current appointees to village posts were reappointed, commissioners remain in place and employee benefits remain the same. One change to the Special Events Committee was made at Coolidge’s request: Sherman Wilkins was asked to step off the committee because two other board members (Patra Lowes, chair, and Greg Cappelli) also serve on it. It was noted that anytime three or more board members are in a meeting at one time, a formal meeting announcement must be made in the local newspapers. Coolidge made that change in order to avoid that expense.

The next meeting of the Village board will be held on Monday, May 12 at 6 p.m. in the Village/Town Hall. All are welcome.

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