Tonawanda News — The City of Tonawanda council approved the temporary closing Tuesday of a portion of Young Street near Smoke on the Water to provide more parking for the restaurant on a trial basis.
“We have wanted to abandon this property for a number of years,” Council President Carl Zeisz said. “This will allow us to take away an additional turn and an added light.”
The portion of the road is presently dedicated for vehicles traveling north on Young Street and making a right onto Delaware Street. The city will temporarily close the section to observe how traffic flows before officially transferring the land, which is adjacent to the restaurant’s current parking lot.
If the city decides to go ahead with the change, the land will be provided to the owners of the restaurant through an easement. The business will be able to use the property for parking, but will not be allowed to build on the land.
“They approached us, and we had a possible solution for them,” Zeisz said.
Zeisz also said Tuesday that the council does not plan on replacing former First Ward Councilwoman Heather Little, who stepped down from her seat last month.
“We have three meetings before the election,” Zeisz said. “There is no appropriate way to choose who would replace her.”
Zeisz said the candidate who wins the First Ward seat will assume the position after election day and will serve out Little’s term for the rest of the year.
His comments came after resident Don Holler spoke at the meeting and argued that the council should choose a replacement. Holler said the council shouldn’t make any significant decisions — such as the approval of the Little League Drive housing contract with Natale — without a First Ward representative on the council to vote.
“That person’s opinion may affect the rest of the body’s vote during a discussion of the pros and cons,” Holler said.
But Zeisz argued the council members already know where they stand on the issue.
“If we don’t know (now), we never will, this has been going on so long,” he said, noting that the council is still officially a five-member body and will need the same number of votes to pass the contract for the housing development off of Little League Drive.
Holler also said the city should transfer a portion of the 16.94-acre property in question to the school district. At an informational meeting about the plans held last week, a district representative delivered a statement that said its officials have approached the city multiple times regarding an interest in four acres of land at the Little League Drive site.
“It is our desire to utilize the land for green space, practice fields, soccer fields and potentially an additional softball diamond for the children of the taxpayers who pay a full 100 percent of their taxes,” the statement reads.
The tax reference regards a stipulation in the agreement with Natale that allows the homes built to be classified as condominiums, which under state law are assessed at 60 percent of home values, meaning homeowners in the new development will get a 40 percent break on property taxes.
Holler argued the fields would be more of a benefit to the city’s children than the housing development.
The council also set a hearing for its next meeting Sept. 17 on the city’s intentions to abandon the entire length of Arthur Street from the Mill Street intersection, or abandon 165 feet of Arthur from the Fillmore Avenue intersection.
“The purpose of the proposed abandonment is to return this street to the tax rolls of the City of Tonawanda and that such abandonment would be in the best interests of our city,” the resolution states.
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley