03/08/04


A Special Meeting was held Monday, March 8, 2004 at the Clarence Town Hall, One Town Place, Clarence, New York at 7:00 P.M. for the purpose of a Residents Forum.

Supervisor Hallock led in the pledge to the flag.

Members of the Town Board present were Councilmembers Scott Bylewski, Joseph Weiss, Bernard Kolber and Supervisor Hallock.

Supervisor Hallock turned the meeting over to Councilman Kolber as this was an idea he presented.

Councilman Kolber said in his campaign, he mentioned that he wanted to take government back to the people of the Town to address their concerns and hear what is important to them. He announced that Councilman McPherson was not present because he was attending another meeting being held in the Town Hall.

Councilman Kolber said all that we ask is that people try to keep things positive, although they could rant and rave if they wanted to. They are looking for ideas, suggestions, comments or questions from the people.

Supervisor Hallock asked that each person sign in at the podium because we would like to record the comments.

Speaking:
James Muck, Vice President of the North Town Property Owners Association said he had comments concerning the association and some of his own. He lives on Black Creek and was told by the Highway Department that it will never be cleaned again because of the DEC. The Town ditch behind his property has not been cleaned since 1952 because the neighbor will not allow them access. His assessment keeps going up, but he gets no services from the Town. Mr. Muck said the Town of Amherst does not clean their section of the creek. It seems as though we are the holding pond for Amherst.
Mr. Muck said something should be done with the 20 ft. ditch on Northfield Road before someone is hurt. Culverts or rails should be installed.
Councilman Bylewski said he has been in contact with the Town of Amherst regarding Black Creek and it is somewhere on their radar screen. He does not know why they have not done anything or when they plan to do something.
Councilman Weiss said in regard to the ditch, the neighbor will not allow it. The Town cannot go on private property. Supervisor Hallock said easements were not done many years back. He will look into the issue of cleaning out the creek. Mr. Muck said the creek will continue to need cleaning. Councilman Bylewski said it is difficult because of the DEC regulations.
Mr. Muck said he has never had flood damage to his home. His yard is flooded because the ditch is not cleaned out. He cannot get out of the floodplain because he is too close to the creek. However, his property value keeps going up. He does not see any pressure being put on the other Towns to help alleviate the problem.
Councilman Bylewski said there is an ongoing effort regarding drainage. It is difficult to deal with other municipalities. Councilman Weiss added that we are also impacted by the Army Corp of Engineers and the DEC. Councilman Kolber said sometimes action only happens when there is a catastrophe or a severe flood. Mr. Muck said you cannot wait. The ditching going on has helped a lot. He said the creek needs to be cleaned and he does not understand how Amherst could divert the creek and not worry about the impact it has placed on our Town.
Supervisor Hallock added that Northfield Road is on the list for reconstruction this year.

Howard Melancon, 9775 Main Street said he has some issues and he does not expect any answers tonight. He is not against development, but we need to do something with our road structure before we do anymore. A north/south route is non-existent, other than Transit Road. The Town should have spoke up before Main Street was done to connect Goodrich and Gunnville without the jog. We should have a road from Genesee Street to County Road. The Town should work with the County and get something done. These things have to be worked out before development occurs.
Mr. Melancon said he believes that if the Town is going to control the growth and future of the Town, we should have our sewer trunk lines in place, instead of letting the developers put them in and then we are at their mercy.
Mr. Melancon said we need a better working relationship with the schools to make sure there is land set aside for additional schools when needed.
Mr. Melancon said he thinks sidewalks should be required in the new subdivisions before the Town ends up in a lawsuit.
He feels the Town should have a requirement that houses can only take up a percentage of a lot.
Councilman Bylewski said we will be looking at putting in an official street map as part of the Master Plan so that we can do more forward planning. Mr. Melancon said the County has to be pulled into this. Councilman Bylewski said he is proposing at the next meeting to hire a law firm to draft an adequate facilities law that would deal with these issues.
Councilman Weiss said Supervisor Hallock is the one who designated a liaison to the School District. We have a joint meeting set with the School Board on April 26th. At that meeting, we will discuss their studies and do that planning.
Councilman Kolber said he is constantly hearing from people about how crowded our schools are. We have two parallel entities. We need to get together to see what the capacities are and what future plans they may have. We want to know forward any future costs for building schools. We need to see where we are and we are going in the future.
Mr. Melancon thanked the Town Board for this opportunity to speak tonight. This is something that they should continue doing.
Councilman Bylewski said once we get our new zoning in place, we are going to redo our Subdivision Regulations, as well as, looking at sidewalks in appropriate places. In regard to the vast difference between what your tax dollars do for the Town and the schools, he has been asking the Planning Department to run the numbers on the impact to the Town. We only have two years data, but it looks like we are exceeding the breakeven point with respect to Town residential and commercial properties. In regard to the schools, even though we are at the breakeven, the impact on the school districts, the taxes are going up disproportionately to the level of assessed value. Mr. Melancon said he thinks that has a lot to do with the State mandates that are thrown at everyone and we are responsible for funding them. Supervisor Hallock said there are a lot of unfunded mandates we have to deal with. Councilman Bylewski said the point is the money for both is coming out of the same pockets.
Councilman Kolber said we are going to be pricing ourselves out of the ability for people to afford housing in New York State. Councilman Weiss added that we are educating these kids with a terrific school system, but they cannot find a job here.

Bev Campochiaro, 8275 West Point Dr. said they have lived here for two years and have been reassessed both years. If they are going to continue to be reassessed, then the Town will have more money to deal with. There should be more facilities for family recreation. She came from a Town that had a lot more facilities for family and recreation. We could have more than one pool, a public golf course so that we keep greenspace, but also give families a recreational area to go to. She believes Clarence is the number one school district in Western New York, but we need to think about the overcrowding. She is not against development, but hopes that the Town Board will not give in to the smaller lot sizes or allowing more to go in that we become like Amherst. She was happy with the outcome of the last election. She would just like to see more things toward family recreation. This is a wonderful idea to be able to speak about issues, both positive and negative, like her assessment going up 17% in two years.
Councilman Kolber said the assessment should have gone to the sale price because we are at 100% valuation. He would be surprised if it changed a lot the second year. Mrs. Campochiaro said she does not understand the reasoning for 100% on older homes. She has a 25-year old home without any improvements or upgrades. It is their choice to pay the higher price for an older home in order to come to a community that offers what Clarence has. She can compare to houses on her street, but one street over the houses are $200,000 more. Her neighbors will have to suffer because she paid more for her house. Councilman Kolber said they compare to similar houses in the Town. Councilman Bylewski said otherwise would be discriminatory. It has to do with what a buyer is willing to pay. The whole Town has to be at the same percentage. Mrs. Campochiaro said her house has the least square footage on the street, but she is assessed higher because she just purchased it. She is not opposed to what is being done, as long as you improve the amenities in the Town.
Councilman Bylewski said we are in the process of developing a town-wide master plan for recreation. We are looking at where we need additional parkland. We are also looking at taking recreation land in subdivisions, rather than a monetary amount. He does not believe the monetary amount was even close to the value of the land. Supervisor Hallock said that would allow for creation of neighborhood parks. Councilman Bylewski said a golf course was brought up as part of the master plan design, but it was determined that it should be privately owned. The developer across the street was proposing a public golf course development, however, he has stated that he cannot afford to do that.
Mrs. Campochiaro said she has heard about a proposed ice rink at no cost to the Town. Councilman Weiss said sure if there is someone to put up the money for a private venture. If you look at the Pepsi Center and the fact that Buffalo is out of the ice rink business, it is very difficult to make money on ice rinks. Mrs. Campochiaro said she is just comparing to what other towns have and we have an abundance of acreage out here and it should be put to use by the families moving here.

Jerry Rochez, 8280 West Point Dr. said this is an invaluable forum and he hopes to see more. He has lived here for 4 years and loves it. He is trying to understand the methodology behind the value of individual properties. He does not have a problem with 100% market value. He was initially increased by $6,000, but the 2004 projection is an additional $9,000. He believes it is excessive on an older home. He does not see an increase in what is available. The Assessor told him that they look at specific pockets. All of the comparables to his home are all 6 years or newer. This area is unique in that you almost have to look at each individual street. We live in an area that is growing and has a very high turnover. He asked the Town to consider looking at the methodology on coming up with the property values. He does not feel it is necessary to raise them as drastically as is being done because the Town is growing. There are additional forms of revenue from new builds and when people sell their homes. There is a penalty for affordable housing in Clarence. He can afford to live here, but he just does not know for how long. He feels the Assessor is being drawn to the hot pockets of affordable homes unnecessarily and far too often.
Councilman Kolber said as a Town Board, they have very little to say. Assessor’s, by structure of the Town, are independent. They are charged with developing the market value. It makes sense that if you pay an amount, it becomes the value. Mr. Rochez said he understands that, but he is being penalized because the bulk of the homes in his neighborhood are vastly different from the individual street. There were 22 homes sold in that area. He asked the Assessor what criteria he uses to determine the market value. His response was sale price and comparables. He did not get a very straight answer as to comparables. The price he bought his home for became the assessed value. If this is the case, why do we need an assessor and his staff? Councilman Kolber said because not all of the houses are sold every year. The Assessor runs under State laws and there is a grievance process to address issues. Supervisor Hallock said he should gather the information and be prepared when he meets with the Board of Assessment Review.
Councilman Weiss said there are costs that you do not see that continue to rise. There are fuel prices, insurance, medical, material costs, etc. that it takes to run the Town. Mr. Rochez said this Town has new homes going in worth thousands, which is new revenue and when houses are sold, it is new revenue. He needs an education as to what the Town is doing with all that extra revenue.
Supervisor Hallock said he has paid approximately $375 in additional taxes due to the increases in his assessments. She explained that when the 2004 budget was prepared, we had an increase of $133 million in assessments to work with roughly at 98¢ for the general fund alone. The budget went up $500,000. There are so many more needs with all of the houses. Councilman Weiss said Amherst did not build themselves out of a problem.

Dan Calabrese, 8985 Clarence Center Rd. said it is not always a bad thing that your assessment goes up; sometimes your property tax rate goes down. His issue is garbage all over Town. He believes the problem is because the refuse companies do not provide adequate recycling bins. He picks up an exorbitant amount of garbage. He wonders if we can somehow require them to provide bins with lids on them. Mr. Calabrese said he has called the company and asked if they could stack the garbage cans so that they do not blow all over, but there is very little response. This is not a major issue, but he would like to see our Town kept clean.
Councilman Weiss said we are looking into having one vendor for a 2 or 3-year contract to possibly have a little more control over it. He has had his own issues with his garbage company. Mr. Calabrese said if one company offered stacking the cans, they would get a lot of business. He believes maybe a letter from the Town requiring lids on recycling bins and stacking of the garbage cans in order for them to be able to provide the service might help. Supervisor Hallock said if we put it out to bid, we could include that. Councilman Weiss said with one contractor, we may be able to have more control over these issues and reduce the cost.

Dennis Zuchlewski, 6275 Jennifer Ct. said this type of meeting should be held a little more often. He was going to bring up the same issue about garbage. In addition, garbage is picked several days of the week on his street. You are looking at garbage every day stacked up.
Mr. Zuchlewski said he came from Tonawanda and after garbage day, the streets were cleaned. We do not see that here at all. The streets in the Town are filthy. Supervisor Hallock said every street is done at least once a year. Mr. Zuchlewksi said an employee from the Parks Department could do it at least every other week. These guys are not plowing snow every day. Councilman Weiss said he thinks it is just a function of the age and people just don’t care. People need to take responsibility and pick it up.
Mr. Zuchlewski said another problem is when they run out of salt, they throw gravel and it is an absolute disaster. Supervisor Hallock said we were forced to do that last year when there was a salt shortage. Councilman Kolber said what you see now is the breakdown of the pavement. Supervisor Hallock added that are departments are busy doing other jobs, even if you do not see them out. The Highway Department has been overwhelmed with picking up brush. They have three crews out every Thursday and Friday. Mr. Zuchlewski asked if the Parks Department employees are busy all year long? Supervisor Hallock said yes they are. They maintain and repair all of the Town buildings.

Nancy Crafts, 5285 Goodrich Rd. asked if there is any plan to put up netting at the baseball diamond at the park on Goodrich? Supervisor Hallock said yes, it is in the budget this year.
Mrs. Crafts said she supports and encourages the efforts to control and carefully develop the Town. She and her husband lived in Amherst and when they downsized chose to move to Clarence. They were fed up with the increase in traffic and taxes, and the lack of greenspace. Clarence has the country feel to it and it is a very special quality. She understands that development will come, but hopes that the country quality is maintained. Mrs. Crafts thanked the Board for the opportunity to speak here tonight.
Councilman Kolber said that is what he hopes to achieve by allowing the Town to develop without destroying the character.

Councilman Bylewski said it is nice to hear that people appreciate this forum, but also at the regular Town Board Meetings, there is an opportunity to come and speak for “The Good of the Town”.
Councilman Weiss said we would like to see you there. Also, in regard to the growth, some of them are newly elected and there may be some things in the pipeline that was not on their watch.

John Campochiaro, 8275 West Point Dr. said he walks on the bike path a lot and it is a mess from dogs. Maybe it is time to stop allowing people to bring pets on the path because they are not responsible. It has been cleaned up but continues to be an issue. Supervisor Hallock said she spoke with an employee of the Parks Department, who is also a member of the Conservation Committee to see what we should do for the future. The mess was in the area that has the “mutt mitts”. She checked over the weekend and every dispenser was full. Mr. Campochiaro said it needs to stop and maybe the only way they will get the message is if we stop allowing dogs.

Bonnie Engasser, 5060 Salt Rd. stated that she would like to express her opinion on the new urbanism that they would like to put in our Town. This is a rural suburban open place. She believes that if people want urbanism, they would stay in the city or in Amherst. She has lived here for over 40 years and does not see her children being able to afford a home here at the rate it is going. She thinks the proposed development is extreme and cannot see people living on top of each other. There is the sewer issue and she lives in the Hollow but wonders if they will ever reach her area. It would be very upsetting seeing a subdivision going in and all of the taps taken. The new subdivision would be a strain on the schools including buses and bus drivers. As a bus driver, it is sometimes difficult traveling through the Town. Our infrastructure cannot handle much more. Many roads will need reconstruction in order to support it.

Bob Roach, 4547 Gentwood Dr. said he has lived here for over 30 years. He thinks that our Highway Department does an excellent job. A majority of the items that the Town Board must act upon are related to infrastructure, building additions and modification, housing development and commercial building. The focus should be on the laws, rules and regulations of the Town, State and Federal agencies.
He feels that the Roxberry Development should be an example. It was a subject of controversy since 1998 by the citizens who came forward. Their concerns were ignored and they were berated by the previous administration. All they wanted from them was to act with knowledge and truth. The untruths prevailed. Nevertheless, the previous Board gave a partial approval. DEC and US Army Corps of Engineers issued permits. The DEC finally admitted in January 2003 that their permit was violated, but they did not know what they were going to do about it and by June nothing would be done. The citizen’s persistence has resulted in the DEC now declaring that there will be sanctions. The Army Corps of Engineers will take another look. He feels that our P.I.P. permit has been violated also. If permits, laws and rules are not enforced, why have them? He believes we should put an end to the foot-in-the-door philosophy held by developers who violate permits or come forth with frequent changes and additions to their projects once they have initial approval.
Mr. Roach said sewers are a great concern, especially for the Hollow. He has a problem of sewers as a gift from the developer. The previous Town Supervisor said it would cost $8 million to build the sewer to the Hollow. Then, the developer was going to build it for $5 million and give it to the Town in exchange for 1,000 taps. He feels the Town should have hired him to build it for the $5 million. Congressman Reynolds let it be known that he obtained $2 million for the sewer. Mr. Roach called to get the particulars on what it was for and who monitors the funding and was told to call the DEC. The DEC told him that he doubted the sewer would cost more than $3 million. The newspaper reports that is going to cost $4 million plus. His concern is if anyone is watching or monitoring this. It was supposed to start in the spring of 2003.
Councilman Kolber said it has started. We were promised a certain amount of money to do this project and then it was cut way back. Supervisor Hallock said the State money was cut back and Congressman Reynolds came up with $3.8 million for the Hollow.
Councilman Kolber said in regard to the P.I.P. process, he is pushing to have separate engineering firms doing the design and then inspecting the project. We need someone to look out for the Town. In regard to the sewer capacity, there are two areas that need to be addressed. One is the Hollow and the other is the Harris Hill area. He feels that rather than utilizing the capacity on new growth, we need to use it on mitigating our existing problems.
Mr. Roach said they were told by the MRC, Planning Board and Town Board that they could not hook up to the Roxberry sewer. Then on November 11, 2003, Mr. Lasky stated that he brought a sewer system to an area where the septics are starting to fail. He would like to see how the Town Board can deal with Mr. Lasky to get an easement to connect to the sewer. He believes that more study and concern must be addressed to each new sewer project to ensure that the citizens are served and not the developers. Permits should be monitored and violations sanctioned. He is very pleased to come to speak to this group. It is the best idea to keep this place healthy that we have had in many years.

Peter Pucak, 4725 Schurr Rd. said thank you for holding this meeting and he hopes to see them more often in the future. He said the speed limit on Schurr Road is 30 mph and is posted at both ends. The actual speed limit is about 130 mph. It seems to be a problem on the north/south roads to Main Street. He asked if there is anything the Town Board can do to get the speed limits enforced? Friday, Saturday and early Monday morning is when he noticed the most excessive speeds. There are many people walking in that area.
Supervisor Hallock said she has met with Chief William Donovan, who works under Sheriff Gallivan. We have a list of roads that we have had several complaints on. They have offered the use of sensors and displays to warn people that they are being observed and how fast they are going. In the past she has asked the State Police and Sheriffs to patrol certain areas that have problems and they have been very cooperative. Councilman Weiss suggested he write down the times and streets and send it to his attention. He will write it a letter on the Town letterhead and send it to both agencies.

With no one else wishing to speak, Councilman Kolber thanked everyone for coming out tonight. The meeting ended at 8:45 P.M.

Nancy C. Metzger
Town Clerk