LEWISTON – A couple of vacant condominium buildings could be occupied and a road leading to them taken over by the Town of Lewiston, in the wake of a court decision that allowed the town to seize the land using its power of eminent domain.
The Dec. 27 ruling by the Rochester-based Appellate Division of State Supreme Court upheld the Town Board’s decision to seize a small piece of land at the end of Legacy Drive, a road in a condo subdivision off Creek Road at the base of the Niagara Escarpment.
The town’s efforts to acquire the 81- by 150-foot lot ran into trouble when the owners, the heirs of the late Niagara Falls businessman Benjamin M. Sicoli, couldn’t agree on a sale.
Sicoli, who died in 2010, was co-founder of the Sicoli & Massaro Construction Co., which developed residential subdivisions in Lewiston. The Historical Square and Ridgeview complexes totaled 254 units, according to court papers. Legacy Drive is part of that development.
“I guess it was a big argument between the developers. For some reason, prior boards allowed this property to be developed without taking title to the lot,” former Supervisor Steven L. Reiter said Friday.
Reiter said the two vacant buildings posed the threat of becoming blighted nuisances.
“I didn’t want properties in Lewiston falling down and becoming vacant,” he said.
The Town Board held a public hearing in June 2012 on acquiring the land at the end of Legacy Drive, but negotiations with the Sicoli heirs produced no results, so the town decided to seize the land.
Reiter, who left office at the end of 2013, said the town had never taken possession of Legacy Drive, even though the road was built through the disputed lot.
And the town refused to grant certificates of occupancy for two condo buildings on Legacy Drive because they weren’t close enough to a legal town road to comply with fire protection codes, Reiter said.
Highway Superintendent Douglas A. Janese blocked the street with concrete barriers, Reiter said, adding that the town didn’t have the legal right to do that because Legacy Drive wasn’t an official town road.
It runs from Creek Road to Northridge Drive, another subdivision road. Because of the dispute over the last lot, town officials were concerned about access to the condos for emergency vehicles.
J. Michael Lennon of the Blair & Roach law firm, representing the Sicoli estate, declined comment on the case other than to say that his clients “don’t agree with the ruling, but they respect the court’s decision. They’re considering their options.”
However, documents filed Dec. 23 and 26 in the Niagara County Clerk’s Office showed that the Sicoli heirs were conveying the land to the town. No price was listed, but the heirs will be allowed to try to negotiate with the town.