Developer offering Hamburg a chance to turn riverbank into nature preserve
October 19, 1992
A proposal to buy a waterfall, parking space and access to 21 acres of riverbank property along 18-Mile Creek goes before the Hamburg Planning Board Wednesday.
But the offer may seem too good to be true, according to one longtime green-space advocate.
"Somebody is going to complain about buying that parcel from Frank Parlato," said Donald "Duke" Spittler, chairman of the town's Conservation Advisory Board.
Spittler has been crusading against rampant development along 18-Mile Creek since he served on the town Planning Board in the 1970s.
He is in favor of the purchase, as are several Planning Board members, although Town Councilman Mark Cavalcoli, who serves as liaison to the Planning and Conservation boards, says he does have one concern about how the parcel would be sold or transferred to the town.
"But Parlato is developing a nice subdivision here, and he seems to care about the environment, judging from his projects in other communities," Cavalcoli said.
Parlato is now selling the last lots at Hidden Hollow, off McKinley Parkway.
He acquired this as a 50-lot subdivision, but chose to develop just 23 lots while preserving a tract of woods where he built a nature trail. The remaining lots have sold well, commanding higher prices than they would have under the original scheme.
Parlato proposes to sell to the town an acre of parking across North Creek Road and a parcel containing Buttermilk Falls, so that 21 acres of town-owned land along the banks of 18-Mile Creek can be more easily used as a nature area.
He will suggest Wednesday that three independent appraisers set the price for the parcel.
Parlato owns about nine acres, from the falls to Southwestern Boulevard, including the former Cliffside Inn, a restaurant that he acquired from developer Joseph Cellura.
"I split off the house across from the falls and one acre and sold that," Parlato said, "but I kept the waterfalls and one acre that I'd like to sell to the town."
Parlato has taken town planners and recreation people for tours of the trail, shown reporters the creek, and speaks of "not wanting to cut another tree," claiming a love for woods and open spaces. "I'm very concerned about forest land right now," he says. "We are not preserving enough of it. My guess is we are losing 10,000 acres of trees around Buffalo each year."
The tract along 18-Mile Creek could have gone that way, too, for it has had some rather interesting twists in recent years.
Cellura bought the Cliffside tract, plus another 20 acres across the road and won rezoning for a proposal that would have included 120 condominium units, a tennis club, a swimming club and a restaurant on 29.5 acres of land -- built right to the lip of the gorge.
Under the original "neighborhood commercial" zoning, he could have opted to build five houses to the acre there -- possibly 100 homes.
But, for more than 20 years, Hamburg has had a subdivision requirement that makes a developer deed one-tenth of his subdivision to the town for open space -- or pay a fee, currently $600 per lot, into the town's recreation fund.
"We wanted a strip along Hemlock Creek, which feeds Buttermilk Falls, to be left for public access," said Spittler, "a sort of strip park. But Cellura wouldn't hear of that. Didn't want the public to come traipsing around his town houses."
When Parlato acquired the two smaller parcels, he quickly suggested a parking lot to open up the creek below them for public access.
He might someday acquire the larger tract, too. It is coming up for a foreclosure sale.
If he does, Parlato admits that those lots, across from a nice park and with easy pedestrian access to 18-Mile Creek, would be worth more money. And he figures that, if the parkland gets used a lot, the Cliffside could be re-established as a profitable restaurant.
Hamburg has declared 18-Mile Creek a "sensitive environmental area." But on the Evans side of the stream, nothing has been done, even though some 20 acres of parkland has been donated across the creek from the tract Hamburg bought in the 1970s.
"The thing is, this has been used by locals for as long as I can remember," Spittler said. "And if we could get just a couple more pieces on our side, we could open it up from Route 20 to the Conrail Bridge -- a couple of miles that could be used for nature trails, family picnics and fishing. Right now it is being
used by fishermen -- especially now that the salmon run is on -- but that's all.
Recently some new upstream access sites have been donated to the town and a two-lot subdivision downstream from the Cliffside gave its flood plain to the town for open space.
In time, the whole creek could be accessible, Spittler believes.
And Hamburg, whose 200-square-mile area is only half built up, "has a commitment to keep space open, despite tremendous pressure from developers" says Cavalcoli.
The Presbyterian Church this year held a "march for parks," there is a special"Trust and Agency Account" that can accept gifts of land or cash, and the town has a track record of picking up green space and leaving it that way.
Spittler has been campaigning in Eden and Evans to get them to adopt green space planning so the creek can be kept relatively pristine.
The old Versailles Plank Road gives access to both sides of the creek near the area in question; and even though it is officially closed in Hamburg, the bridge is still up and usable for foot traffic between Hamburg and Evans.
Parlato's proposal looks like a fair deal, Spittler says.
"But the minute anyone suggests anything like this, people ask about liability, maintenance -- and always about parking," said Spittler. "Well, Parlato has the parking."
Acquiring waterfall intrigues Hamburg
October 22 , 1992
A proposal to sell a waterfall to the Town of Hamburg to incorporate into a nature preserve appears to intrigue town officials and residents alike, but many obstacles remain before the plan can be adopted.
Wednesday, the town Planning Board told developer Frank Parlato that his offer was conceptually attractive but many details needed to be resolved.
Parlato has offered to sell the town Buttermilk Falls on 18-Mile Creek and an adjacent acre that would provide access to town-owned land.
Richard Crandall, Planning Board chairman, called the plan "a tremendous idea, but we have a long way to go. This is not going to happen overnight." He cited such factors as state and county regulations as well as insurance liability and selling price as reasons why the board would not act immediately.
Parlato said he would like to attach some conditions to the sale of parcel near North Creek Road:
Installing railing at the steep part of the gorge.
Opening the site to everyone, not only town residents.
Establishing day and evening hours at the preserve.
Preserving specimen trees in the parking area.
He estimated that improvements to the parcels would cost $35,000 to $40,000, including the railing, restoring the foot bridge, aerating tree roots and improving trails and steps. He also suggested reducing the speed limit on that part of North Creek Road to 15 mph.
"This could become a major attraction for the town," he said. "If it's open to everyone, it could bring in tourism."
Councilman Dick Pohlman called it "a good overall proposal" but noted that any deed restrictions, like Parlato's conditions, could create problems.
"Keeping it open at night creates an enforcement problem," he said. "Who's going to take responsibility if kids are having parties? It's a practical problem that we will have to address."
Charlotte Wozniak, who lives on North Creek Road, also disagreed with night hours but favored a nature preserve open to the public.
Hamburg Moves Forward on Break Water Project
By PATTI REILLY
November 10, 1992 , South Edition
The Hamburg Town Board Monday authorized the local engineering firm of Nussbaumer and Clarke to provide consultant services for the first phase of a breakwater wall extension project for the Town Park's waterfront recreational facility.
Councilman Mark Cavalcoli noted that the town has set aside almost $ 300,000 to complete the first phase of the project, which has been in the planning stages for almost eight years.
"It's a long way from where we want to be, but it's a first step
considering the economic conditions we face," Cavalcoli acknowledged.
The first phase calls for improvement of an existing jetty that keeps sand out of the boat launch area, as well as the addition of parking for 80 cars.
Town Engineer Jerry Kapsiak said construction would likely begin in 1994.
He added that the town ultimately hopes to build an 1,100-foot break wall to create a small boat harbor.
Councilman Dan Henry chaired the regular Town Board meeting in the absence of Supervisor Jack Quinn, who is preparing for his first term in Congress.
"I expect to be filling in extensively for Jack until the board decides on a replacement (for town supervisor)," Henry said.
He said the board has no immediate plans to name a successor.
In other business, the board approved the purchase of seven new police cars at a cost of $ 110,000. The town will receive $ 48,000 on the trade-in value of seven used cars.
The Hamburg Conservation Advisory Board recommended that the town pursue a plan to buy property from developer Frank Parlato to be used as a nature preserve.
The advisory board noted that the Town of Evans owns land on the opposite side of 18 Mile Creek that could complement Hamburg's effort.
In a statement, the advisory board said: "The joint effort of the two
municipalities could transform this place into an attractive passive
Developer Will Open His Properties to Public
Parlato Impatient as Communities Stall on His Offer of Land for Parks
By MICHAEL LEVY
News Staff Reporter
April 28 , 1993
Developer Frank Parlato, tired of waiting for Hamburg and Clarence to develop parks on property he has offered those towns, will open the land to the public.
"I plan to post the land, telling the public where it is, and will develop parking areas in Hamburg at Buttermilk Falls," he said. "Saturday, I'll be at Buttermilk Falls to show people around that site."
Hamburg, which has title to bottom lands along 18-Mile Creek, has not rejected Parlato's offer of the falls and 1.8 acres above it for parking and access. But it also has not acted to buy it, either.
And the developer's latest move has at least one town official worried.
"We don't want a parking lot at the top of the bank," said George McKnight, Hamburg's director of planning. "We would not encourage it for safety reasons. We want people to use the stream bank and to enjoy the falls -- but from the bottom, along safer access."
Evans and Hamburg are developing an access plan. Evans will put in a parking lot at the old Versailles Plank bridge in Evans, while Hamburg repairs the bridge and provides a handicapped access ramp to the stream bank.
The state will supply $ 20,000, and the two towns will pick up the rest of the cost, said Hamburg Highway Superintendent Richard A. Smith, who is developing engineering plans with his Evans counterpart, Edward Michalski.
"We expect to have the work done sometime this summer," Smith said.
The property in Clarence, at Goodrich and Tonawanda Creek roads, is about 25 acres, including 3,000 feet of frontage along Tonawanda Creek. It was offered to the Town Board last year.
The board rejected Parlato's sale offer and later took exception to his attending a Republican Party picnic to lobby for his proposal.
"But nothing free is too bad," said Clarence Supervisor Irving Grenzebach Jr. "As long as he's assuming liability if someone falls in, we don't have any say about how he uses his property. Maybe it's what the town needs."
Parlato has developed several stagnant subdivisions by buying them, then selling fewer lots while dedicating portions of them as "forever wild" forest lands held in common.
Last fall, he tried a "900" telephone system where callers could call and pledge money for a fund to be divvied up among towns that had open space plans on the books. That was not successful, he said.
"I put the pledge plan on hold after the fall. But we did raise $ 1,000, which will be parceled out," Parlato said. Some of that money will go to the Western New York Land Conservancy, he added.
In mid-May, he plans to spend his own money to put down gravel and create a parking lot at Buttermilk Falls, which is on North Creek Road near Route 20 in Hamburg. The parking will be across the road from a steep path leading to the creek and giving access to the scenic waterfall and the town-owned strip along the creek.
That worries McKnight.
"We don't want people to come down that steep bank -- and it could be dangerous to have people looking at the falls from the top, peering over the lip," he said. "We'd really prefer to have them come in from the Evans side." But Parlato is impatient.
"If we wait for town approval, it won't get done this year," he said. "I believe that allowing people to use the property at their own risk is worth any possible problems (that could arise) until the towns approve these parks."
Developer Offers Hamburg Buttermilk Falls
Parlato Imposed Single Stipulation: Property Must be Open to Public
By TOM ERNST
News South Towns Bureau
September 19 , 1994
Developer Frank Parlato Jr. says he wants to give the Town of Hamburg a waterfall.
Parlato, who previously had offered to sell the property to the town as part of a larger package, now says he wants to give the town the small parcel containing Buttermilk Falls on Hemlock Creek, which flows into 18-Mile Creek.
The parcel is only about a quarter of an acre, but contains the falls and offers a spectacular view of the 18-Mile Creek gorge some 90 feet below.
The only stipulation, said Parlato, is that the property be open to the public.
Parlato said he plans to make a formal offer to the town at the Town Board meeting next Monday.
Town Supervisor Patrick H. Hoak and Councilman D. Mark Cavalcoli said they are excited by the offer.
Past proposals from Parlato would cost the town money and contained too many restrictions -- such as 24 hours access -- Cavalcoli said.
The town would have to make some improvements to the property and there would be liability concerns that would have to be worked out, he said.
"But it sounds like there is real merit to the proposal and I will
certainly recommend it to my colleagues on the board," Cavalcoli said.
Hoak said. "It's a generous offer and we're certainly encouraged and excited about it."
Hamburg already owns land along the creek and is working with the Town of Evans, which owns land along the other side, to improve access, primarily as a fishing area.
A bridge that once carried Versailles Road over the creek, joins the two parcels and serves as a pedestrian bridge.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation plans to install a parking area on the Evans side.
A parking area for seven to 10 cars probably will be constructed in the spring, Thomas Murray, principal fish and wildlife technician, said.
The section of Versailles Road has been closed for 50 years or more but the bridge still serves as a popular fishing spot and permits pedestrian traffic over the creek.
The two towns have an agreement to share responsibility for the bridge and once it has been inspected hope to repair the surface and make it handicapped accessible as a fishing area, according to Hamburg Highway Superintendent Richard A. Smith.
Parlato's site can be reached from above, off of North Creek Road, or below after a fairly easy hike up a trail along the side of the gorge.
His original proposal also involved about an acre of land he owns on the north side of North Creek Road that could be used for parking. That proposal was never pursued by either side.
Parlato, who has donated land and worked to preserve other areas for public access, said he has a dream of 100 or more mini nature parks scattered throughout the county.
He acknowledged that some people question his motives, but insisted his only personal gain is in the form of satisfaction from seeing green space preserved.
"I suppose you could say that is a selfish motive," he said.
"You don't need a park every day, but there is a day when you do need a park and it should be there."
Hamburg Officials Cautious on Falls Offer
Liability Concerns Raised About Developer's Proposed Gift of Land
By TOM ERNST
News South Towns Bureau
September 27, 1994
Hamburg town officials reacted cautiously Monday night to developer Frank Parlato Jr.'s offer to give the town Buttermilk Falls.
The liability problems associated with allowing public access at the top of a 90-foot cliff was chief among the concerns as officials said they would take a long, careful approach.
Owners of abutting property said opening Parlato's land would invite trespassing on their land and create a liability problem for them.
Alfred and Charlotte Wozniak said they own the land at the bottom of the falls and other land along the 18-Mile Creek gorge and are willing to sell it to the town.
The waterfalls are on Hemlock Creek, which flows into 18-Mile Creek.
Parlato's parcel of about a quarter of an acre offers a scenic view of the creek gorge below.
Hamburg and the Town of Evans, which owns land on the other side of the creek, are involved with the state in developing a fishing area. The state plans to build a parking lot on the Evans side, and the two towns hope to repair the former Versailles Road bridge over the creek to allow pedestrian, including handicapped, access.
Hamburg Highway Superintendent Richard A. Smith urged a go-slow approach to make sure the town is protected and there are provisions for maintaining the area, known as Hobuck Flats.
Councilman D. Mark Cavalcoli said there "are serious liability problems" to be looked at but told Parlato, "We appreciate your generous offer."
Parlato also suggested the town consider raising the recreation fee it charges developers from the current $ 600 per lot to $ 2,000 or $ 2,400 per lot.
That would encourage developers to elect the option of setting aside green space or give the town more money to purchase green space, Parlato said.
On another matter, Town Board members had high praise for the work of volunteer firefighters as they conducted a public hearing on fire protection contracts for eight companies totaling nearly $ 1.9 million.
The board took no action on the proposals. Supervisor Patrick H. Hoak said it would act Nov. 7, when a public hearing on the 1994-95 budget also is scheduled, at 7 p.m. The town is "blessed" to have volunteers who provide fire protection for less than $ 2 million, Hoak said.
He said the increases sought are justified pointing to the extensive
training offered by Lake Shore, the fund-raising problems Scranton has experienced, the service contract at Armor and the additional green space purchased by Woodlawn.
The current contracts and proposed increases are: Armor to $ 130,000 from $120,000; Big Tree to $ 305,000 from $ 296,500; Lake Shore to $ 393,940 from $ 361,800; Lake View Fire District, no change at $ 25,000; Newton Abbott to $ 312,850 from $ 302,850; Scranton to $ 315,450 from $ 294,950; Village of
Hamburg to $ 108,000 from $ 103,000; and Woodlawn to $ 297,700 from $ 277,800.
In other action, the board:
Called a public hearing for 7 p.m. Nov. 14 to consider rezoning 25 acres on the north side of Beaubein Drive from Residential Agricultural to Single Family Residence.
Approved the appointments to the Youth Board of Jessica Coggins of Hamburg High School, Brian Connolly of St. Francis High, Christina Roberts of Immaculata Academy and Sherri Puleo of Frontier High.
Heard Hoak say that steps are under way to make the spectator area of the hockey rink accessible to the handicapped. The comments were in response to a complaint by Joseph Russell, regional administrator of the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association.