LEWISTON – In a last-ditch effort to avoid condemning a small sliver of private land for dedication as a public street, town officials will make one more offer to buy the property from its owners.
Town Attorney Michael J. Dowd said Monday that a real estate appraiser has looked at the short privately owned section of Legacy Drive at Northridge Drive and soon will submit his appraisal to the Town Board.
“We will offer the owners the appraised value and hope that they will accept it; otherwise, we can proceed to condemnation,” Dowd told the board.
Long-standing negotiations between the owners and the town have failed to reach agreement on a purchase even though the street already has been built and a couple of residences were built there before it was discovered that it is on private property and the residences are uninhabitable because they have no access to a public thoroughfare.
Because of a misunderstanding years ago over who owned the 81-foot by 150-foot parcel, it never was dedicated as a public street, so not even town snowplows are legally permitted to use it. As originally intended, Legacy was to have run from Creek Road to Northridge, just east of the Village of Lewiston. The street was built as planned, but the short portion near Northridge is not legally open for public use.
The Fire Department considers it a safety issue because the only public access to Legacy is via Creek Road and not from Northridge.
Town officials have been trying in vain to negotiate purchase of the property from its owners, the late Benjamin Sicoli and his heirs. The Town Board issued a finding last month that acquiring the property through condemnation and opening the street would have no harmful impact on the environment.
Board members were poised Monday to authorize condemnation proceedings, but they tabled the matter one more time to see whether the Sicoli estate will accept the appraiser’s price without going to court under eminent domain, where a judge would set the amount.
In other business, board members received a complaint about poor drainage that causes surface water to flood the backyards of three or four houses on Sandlewood Drive. Highway Superintendent Douglas A. Janese said he already has looked at the flooding, which is entirely on private property, and the town probably can do little to alleviate it.
Nevertheless, board members asked Janese and other town officials to look at it again to see whether there is anything the town can do about it.
In another matter, Town Supervisor Steven L. Reiter said the board will meet with representatives of the Lewiston-Porter School Board and others at 6 p.m. March 4 in Town Hall, 1375 Ridge Road, to discuss plans to acquire property in front of Lew-Port High School on Creek Road to build a recreation and senior citizens center with Greenway funds supplied by the New York Power Authority as part of the authority’s state relicensing agreement for the Niagara Power Project.