Tonawanda News

September 27, 2013

GUEST VIEW: Candidate Paul Brunner opposed to Vets Park deal

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — In November the council will immediately fill the vacancy in our First Ward and be asked to approve a contract proposed by the mayor with Natale Builders for the building of homes on the former Little League Property with a condo status which will give a proposed 35 percent permanent reduction of assessment value.

In view of the fact that this may be voted on prior to possible changes in our elected officials in January 2014, I felt that as a candidate for First Ward that you are entitled to know my position on this issue before the election.

Faced with a limited tax base of existing homes and businesses shouldering the load it gets harder and harder to deliver the services that make Tonawanda such a great place to live. Having new development could make things easier, if it’s the right type of development.

In October 2009 the city issued a request for proposals for new housing to possibly be built on 16 acres between Fletcher Street and Veterans Park. (Remember that date.) In addition to requesting information on the developer’s experience and ability to carry out the project, it stated the following:

“Proposals should not anticipate, expect, or reflect, any form of public sector subsidies.” 

Once the project was developed, the city did not desire the establishment and existence of a homeowners association.  Only single family ranch or single level detached homes, no condominiums, apartment /duplex units or patio homes should be proposed.

Unfortunately the current plans that have been negotiated and are being proposed by the mayor in no way reflect what was asked for. These homes will be given condo status along with a 35 percent permanent reduction in their assessments. They will receive the full benefits of our schools, streets, police and fire departments, while paying less than two-thirds the cost to support them. That’s like you and your neighbor to your right paying taxes in full while your neighbor to the left paying is paying 35 percent less. I am not opposed to new housing if done right, but is this right?

The date of the RFP is important, as it was shortly after one of the largest collapses of our housing industry in history, along with the bailout of many financial/mortgage institutions and manufacturers. Let me state affirmatively I am not opposed to new housing when it makes sense, but there is almost nothing in this proposal that was asked for. While our economy has not fully recovered, it has changed for the better. Let’s step back and reconsider the situation before we accept something that will impact our city finances forever. The mayor and council have worked on this for almost five years, and some may be too proud to say the timing wasn’t right or a mistake is being made. I was not a part of the team that brought us where we are now.

When built, the new homes will be on the doorstep of a Veterans Park and a quick walk to the river. Stores are nearby; our streets are safe; many would love to have our school system. Let’s not sell ourselves short.

If I am elected, I will vote against this proposal and will push to eliminate this giveaway or push for another bid on it. 

If you have any questions, please call me at 743-0690.

Paul Brunner is a candidate for the City of Tonawanda’s First Ward seat.