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Saving Sturgeon Point

Developer Seeks Public Use of Lakefront Evans Land

Buffalo News

By MARGARET HAMMERSLEY
News Staff Reporter

June 27, 1994, Monday, City Edition

Erie County should make its last long stretch of lakefront land, located next to Sturgeon Point Marina in the Town of Evans, green space for public use rather than sell it to a private developer.
That is the opinion of Frank Parlato Jr., who describes himself as an environmental developer.
"You have an unparalleled opportunity to save and expand the lakefront for the people," Parlato said. "The Sturgeon Point Marina is only seven acres and is filled."
Combining the town marina and county land on Lake Erie could double the amount of marina lakefront, Parlato said.
"If you cleaned up the underbrush and connected the county land to the marina, you would have that space," he said. "The frontage would double the waterfront frontage of the marina. The marina could be world class."
Parlato's view is shared by Legislator Bert Villarini, R-Hamburg, who represents the southwest part of the county that includes Evans.
"You could give the town the waterfront part," said Villarini. "The rest is still valuable for development."
Sale of the 53 acres, long owned by the county and held for possible expansion of the adjacent county water authority, was supposed to occur last week. It has been delayed to advertise to potential buyers here and in Canada, according to Deputy Budget Commissioner Robert Kowalewski.
Most of the County Legislature, which approved the sale for development, agrees with Kowalewski that the best use for the land is to sell it and get it on the tax rolls.
Parlato, waging a campaign by contacting officials and news organizations, is urging the county to reconsider the sale.
He suggests the land be sold to the Town of Evans for $ 1.
Evans Supervisor Albert Chase said he has asked the county to sell the land to the town for $ 1 but was rebuffed.
Kowalewski was not available to comment and his office said he was out of town until today.
Two weeks ago, when the county sold a derelict school to the City of Tonawanda for $ 1, Villarini raised the same question. He said Wednesday that he still wants to know why Evans should not acquire the 53 acres for $ 1.
"Why can't they treat us the same way as the City of Tonawanda?" asked Villarini.
County Budget Director Sheila Kee said that her department has worked closely with Evans officials and that the county's plan to sell meets their approval.
"What we are trying to do is to take valuable property and put it back on the tax rolls," Ms. Kee said.
"The Town of Evans would like to see a nice residential development there.
We have and will continue to act in direct cooperation with the Town of Evans, and they have expressed very clearly their desire for development of that parcel."
Parlato said the county will lose nothing and may gain a valuable
recreation area by waiting before selling off the parcel to developers.
What the marina lacks now is space for picnics, for walking and for
children to play, he said.
Parlato, asked what guarantee there would be that Evans would use the land for recreation, said it could be sold to the town with a restriction limiting the segment that faces the lake to recreational uses.
"If sewers are approved for the area, it is likely to dramatically expand, which would necessitate additional recreational space," he said. "I don't think you can have better recreational space than the waterfront."
Ms. Kee said lots of people have ideas.
"Does he have the money to finance this stuff?" she said, referring to Parlato. "Nobody ever came to us and said, 'Sell us this.' "
Villarini voted against the sale.
"I think it would make the land more valuable if a portion was set aside for green space, for trails and the public," Villarini said. "We've owned it for 50 years. Why the rush?"
Parlato, as a developer, prepared the land for Hidden Hollow subdivision and its 30-acre wildlife preserve off McKinley Parkway in the Town of Hamburg. He has proposed other developments surrounded by green space.
Because of his interest in such combinations, he said, he studied the jagged 53 acres owned by the county north of Sturgeon Point with an experienced eye.
"If you have a unique area, it should be used to the advantage of the public, not to just a few people," he said.
Villarini agrees that an extended waterfront arena and park is an appealing concept.
Villarini said he knows and respects Parlato as a developer concerned about the environment and that Parlato has no personal financial interest.
"He (Parlato) doesn't have any financial interest, he doesn't live near the land, he truly believes we ought to maintain part of this area for public use," said Villarini.
"I have no motive other than as a citizen," said Parlato. "I don't live
near the property, own neighboring land or know anybody who wants to buy it."

Auctioning Sturgeon Point Land Would Sell Off Heritage

Buffalo News

July 08, 1994

EDITORIAL PAGE; Pg. 2

All residents of Erie County should be up in arms about the Gorski administration's plan to auction on July 11 the last large chunk of their lakefront property -- the 53-acre parcel at Sturgeon Point.
For 60 years the residents of Erie County have owned this undeveloped land.
For 60 years each succeeding county government wisely understood the value of preserving this magnificent lakefront resource for future public use.
That is, until now.
Despite a barrage of misinformation from county officials, the plan to sell and develop this land comes not from the Town of Evans, but rather from the Gorski administration. "Gorski wants it sold" is the refrain heard most often from town and county officials alike.
But why?
This is the last land of its kind. Deputy County Budget Commissioner Robert Kowalewski insults our intelligence by continually calling this lakefront land a "nuisance" because he must occasionally dispatch a crew to remove a fallen tree or pick up litter.
The second insult is the price. The lone appraisal for the 53 acres is $660,000, or about $ 12,452 per acre. Building lots (not acres) miles from the lake are fetching twice that. Since when does our priceless waterfront land come so cheaply?
And if the county's $ 10.3 million plan to bring sewers to Sturgeon Point and vicinity is approved, the market value of the land would double.
It is outrageous that Evans residents are being asked to foot the bill for miles of sewers (much of it on vacant land) that will benefit a few large landowners and subsidize some un-named developers.
County Budget Director Sheila Kee says that the county and Evans officials are working closely together. If that's true, why is Evans -- the town most impacted by the sewer expansion plan -- the only town without official representation on Sewer District 2 board of managers?
Both Kowalewski and Kee have told The News that the county wants to widen its tax base and get the lakefront property back on the tax rolls. But residential development ends up costing more in services than it generates in taxes. Towns with an abundance of commercial/industrial properties can offset the tax losses caused by housing. But in Evans, a town with very little commercial and almost no industrial tax base, more housing will lead directly to higher taxes.
The county land is directly adjacent to the Sturgeon Point Marina, which is a beautiful regional asset but was undersized from its design plans, due to lack of land for parking. The waiting list for marina slips is as long as the line of boats waiting to launch on a sunny day. Without the county land, future marina expansion will be impossible.
And if our lakeside land is sold, what will our county officials do with the money? Pave a mile of highway, perhaps, or run ECMC for a few days? Is there anyone left in county government with vision?
Beyond the parochial issue that the people of Evans are getting stiffed by the county, the bigger picture is that this is the last land of its kind -- environmentally unique, undeveloped and precious.

ROBERT M. CATALANO
Chairman
Sturgeon Point Preservation Committee
Derby

 

Many possible uses

The News, Frank Parlato and Bert Villarini deserve our appreciation for making the public aware of the potential loss of a beautiful piece of undeveloped lakefront property owned by Erie County. The June 27 News article was informative and even included a map of the 53 acres of land that the county wants to sell next to the Sturgeon Point Marina. The idea of selling this beautiful land that has been owned by the county for 60 years is incongruous with the growing concern and desire to preserve open-space land for now and the future and the fact that there is practically no Lake Erie access, even to view it. Thanks to the environmental education in our schools, the younger voters have been made aware of the value of undeveloped open-space land and the need to take measures to save it. Are members of the County Legislature blind to this reality? The possibilities for this land, if held undeveloped for future children, are many and varied. If the county wants to unload it, the Town of Evans is willing to assume ownership. The money to be gained by selling this gem is small in relation to the county budget, but the loss to the citizens will be great.

LEONA ROCKWOOD
Hamburg

 

Activist Urges Vote on Land Site Sale Says Sturgeon Point Should be Preserved as Public Green Space

Buffalo News

By MARGARET HAMMERSLEY
News Staff Reporter

July 11, 1994, Monday, City Edition

The financial benefit from selling the county's last undeveloped lakefront site would be a drop in the bucket, according to a neighborhood activist and real estate developer who opposes the sale. Frank Parlato estimates the sale would not net enough money to run the county half a day.
He is calling for a countywide referendum at the next general election to let residents decide whether they want to hang on to the land, around Sturgeon Point in the Town of Evans, or sell it.
"Should Sturgeon Point, the county's last undeveloped lakefront land, be sold to private developers or should it be preserved for all coming generations as public green space and lakefront access?" Parlato asks.
The 53-acre property, appraised at $ 663,000, might fetch $ 1 million at county auction, but that is a minute amount in the county's $ 1 billion-plus annual budget, Parlato said. The area is adjacent to Sturgeon Point marina, which is owned by the Town of Evans.
"That money (from the sale) would pay for operating costs of the entire county for about eight hours," he said. "This last 53 acres on the lake should be preserved because its irreplaceable. Morally, it belongs to the people."
The effort to sell the land surfaced when Deputy Budget Director Robert Kowalewski announced he was being pushed by the "public" to get rid of the land, which he described as a burden to the county.
Asked who was pushing him to sell the land, Kowalewski identified "developers and real estate people." Asked to identify individuals, he named former county employee Loretta Yellen and real estate developer Peter Hunt.
Kowalewski predicts that the 53-acre site would be developed with one-acre lots that have the potential of generating about $ 100,000 a year in county taxes if the homes constructed are assessed at $ 200,000.
Kowalewski maintains that the county does not need to hold on to the jagged parcel, which includes lake frontage and land surrounding Sturgeon Point Marina, as green space for future generations because the area has other public beaches.

 

$26,000 Is High Bid on Lakefront Parcel

But Final Say on Sale is Up to County Legislature

Buffalo News

By MARGARET HAMMERSLEY
News Staff Reporter

July 14, 1994, Thursday, First Edition

An Angola woman placed the high bid Wednesday on 52.5 acres of county land near Sturgeon Point.
    Gail L. Walter bid $ 26,000 on the property in Evans, just $ 1,000 more than Depew Police Officer Charles Seiler offered.
    But environmentalists and town residents who want to keep the area open for public use said they will try to persuade the County Legislature to reject the bid.
    Ms. Walter, who said she bid on the spur of the moment, said she has no idea what she will do with the land and lakefront.
    "I thought it was going to go for at least half a million (dollars)," said Ms. Walter, who recently moved to Evans from Depew.
    Charles LaDuca, the county employee who prepares foreclosed parcels for auctions, said he recognized her as a past bidder on county properties.
    Deputy Finance Commissioner Robert Kowalewski, who has pushed for the last three months for the county to sell the property and return it to the tax rolls, said the sale is not final. Approval by the County Legislature is necessary.
    The final sale figure was announced by Kowalewski at the auction as $27,000. But Ms. Walter said she bid only $ 26,000, and no bid above that figure was heard.
    Kowalewski said he was under "public pressure" to sell the parcel, acquired by the county 60 years ago. The undeveloped land is flanked by the Sturgeon Point Marina and Erie County Water Authority property. It includes high-bluff lake frontage of 900 to 1,400 feet.
    Kowalewski said the sale was originally urged by Peter Hunt, in the real estate and developing business, and Loretta Yellen, a former county architect. Hunt, who recently said he is not sure of his continued interest, said he had considered connecting the 53 acres with another 53-acre parcel he owns south of the marina where he plans to build nine homes.
    A group of about 25 environmentalists and Evans residents who oppose the sale watched the auction in the lobby of the Rath County Office Building.
They said they will try to persuade their elected representatives at the town and county levels to give the town time to try to acquire the area as public green space.
    A disappointed bidder, Brian Hirsch, said he had hoped to make a small bid to hold the parcel for a nature group and public use.
    Hirsch, of West Seneca, said he has been protesting to county legislators about their recent sales of public lands at low prices.
    "They say it gets the land back on the tax rolls," he said.
    A newly elected Evans Town Board was asked early this year by the county to cooperate with the sale, according to Evans resident Robert Catalano. The Town Board proposed single-residence zoning and sale of just the one piece of property.
    Kowalewski originally proposed that a new Evans Town Board member, Mark Engler, be allowed to add to a small lot he owns on the periphery, but that proposal later was withdrawn.
    "Hopefully, the County Legislature will give the town time to properly evaluate this land," said Catalano, who said a meeting should be held for the public to discuss the parcel.
    The Horizons Waterfront plan suggests eventual extension of the town marina at Sturgeon Point, Catalano said, so the county-owned lakefront area could extend the public land. While Catalano suggested the land should be sold to Evans for $ 1, the County Legislature Finance Committee contends the town has never made such a request in writing. Catalano and others last week
urged the Town Board to submit such a written offer.
    Environmental developer Frank Parlato, who has been campaigning to keep the area and beachfront open to all county residents, also attended the auction.

 

County plans to reject bid for Property

Buffalo News

By MARGARET HAMMERSLEY

July 15, 1994

The $ 26,000 high bid to buy county-owned waterfront property near Sturgeon Point must be rejected, county legislators said Thursday, noting that county tax officials suggested the land is worth at least $ 660,000.
    Bert Villarini, R-Hamburg, said he and Joan K. Bozer, D-Buffalo, will sponsor a move to reject the bid, which requires the County Legislature's approval.
    "The amount that was bid is a lot different than we thought we could get," Villarini said.
    Deputy Finance Commissioner Robert Kowalewski, who proposed selling the 52.5 acres in the Town of Evans, said selling the property for $26,000 would be "ludicrous."
    He suggested that opposition by some residents and environmentalists to selling the property discouraged developers from submitting higher bids.
    "No developer is going to walk in where there is already a group of people trying to stop them," he said.
    He added that Wednesday's property auction was advertised here, in Toronto and in the New York Times.
    Villarini has proposed a compromise, with the county holding the lakefront portion of the property for expansion of the nearby Sturgeon Point Marina or other public use and selling the rest of the parcel for residential development.
    His proposal is supported by Frank Parlato, one of the environmentalist leaders.
    "Our forces have increased tenfold since yesterday," Parlato said Thursday, one day after the county auction of the property.
    Two city Democrats, Albert DeBenedetti and Gregory B. Olma, said the time is coming for opponents of development to put up or shut up.
    "This is one of the most duplicitous and shallow maneuverings by a large number of parties I've ever seen," said Olma, who described the area as "just scrubland" and "a cliff."
    Parlato defended his move to save the property from private development.
    "I would not feel bad if that cliff was preserved forever," he said.
    "It adds to the character of the marina to see this gorgeous cliff vista.
Tell the people 150 years from now, 'This is what Lake Erie used to look like.' And some of that land he calls scrub could be used for parking. The marina needs more parking."
    Brian D. Rusk, R-Williamsville, said he has read that real estate developer Peter Hunt might be interested in buying the Sturgeon Point land. Hunt owns a nearby 53-acre site where he plans to build nine homes.
    Rusk suggested that county officials and Hunt "go out there together."
    Villarini said he plans to talk to the Evans Town Board, which is
considering a new master plan, about what to do with the property.
    Olma said any gift of the property to Evans should include a reversion clause so that the town cannot sell it for condominiums.

Public Access Proposed for Sturgeon Pt.

Buffalo News

By MARGARET HAMMERSLEY
News Staff Reporter

July 27, 1994

Public access recreation and the expanded marina suggested in the Horizons Waterfront Plan are among the possibilities for public use that an ad hoc committee will offer Thursday for 53 acres of county-owned waterfront at Sturgeon Point.
Environmental developer Frank Parlato Jr., a member of the ad hoc group that campaigned against auctioning the property, will outline one possible approach, involving expansion of the marina owned by the Town of Evans and nature trails to observe wildlife in the remaining acreage extending east of Sturgeon Point Road. Residents say the acreage is home to a herd of white-tailed deer.
The environmentalists who want to keep the land for future generations of county residents will conduct a tour of the area, including several hundred feet of lake bluff north of the Sturgeon Point Road, starting at 7 p.m. Thursday.
"There is no hurry to develop this land," said County Legislator Joan Bozer, D-Buffalo, who will join the tour. "The whole thing about Horizons was public access to the waterfront."
She and Legislator Bert Villarini, D-Hamburg, sponsored a resolution, approved 17 to 0 by the Legislature last week, rejecting a $ 26,000 bid for the parcel, a price $ 640,000 less than the minimum than county had suggested the auction might bring.
The town marina has 209 slips, costing from $ 520 to $ 870 a year. All are rented, and the town Recreation Department is suggesting to persons who are not already tenants that the chances of renting larger slips are almost non-existent.
Maureen Andrews, senior clerk, said Tuesday that present tenants of smaller slips are offered the larger slips as they open up.
It is unlikely that larger slips will open for non-tenants at any time in the foreseeable future, she said.

 

Bozer surveys Sturgeon Point, airs support for its preservation

Buffalo News

By ANTHONY CARDINALE
News Staff Reporter

July 29 , 1994

The cliffs north of Sturgeon Point should be kept wild for future generations to enjoy, not sold for private development, County Legislator Joan K. Bozer said Thursday.
    Mrs. Bozer toured the county-owned property in the Town of Evans with about 40 concerned citizens led by developer Frank Parlato Jr.
    "I'd never actually walked on this land," Mrs. Bozer, D-Buffalo, said.
"It's just beautiful here. I'm basically in favor of land banking, and I'd be interested in how this land will be preserved. I don't know where the recent pressure is coming from to develop it."
    County officials, who have appraised the lakeside land at $ 660,000, recently rejected a $ 26,000 bid by Gail Smith Walter, a former Realtor who owns a fitness business and buys and sells properties.
    Parlato urged Mrs. Bozer to introduce a resolution in the Legislature to change the property's designation from surplus to public recreation land.
Mrs. Bozer said she would bring this up at a meeting at 10 a.m. today in the legislative chambers.
    County Legislator Albert DeBenedetti, D-Buffalo, said he would hold the informal meeting of interested legislators in County Hall to try to find a compromise plan for the land. One possibility he raised involved public access above Sturgeon Point Road and development with housing below.
    Thursday's tour drew lovers of the land, many of whom had various ideas for enhancing it but who all agreed it mustn't be used for private residential development.
    "Public ownership is the only way to go," said Donald "Duke" Spittler, chairman of the Conservation Board of the Town of Hamburg. "In Hamburg, we're striving desperately for open space so that we can save it. This is a county issue."
    Residential development would be incompatible with Sturgeon Point Marina, just south of the county land, said Dick Smith, Hamburg highway superintendent and past president of the South Towns Walleye Association.
    "You've got to separate residential from marina land," he said. "If you don't, those residents will complain to the police every time a boater revs up his engine outside the marina."
    "Residential development just doesn't pay for itself in property taxes," said Robert M. Catalano, chairman of the Sturgeon Point Preservation Committee. "For every new dollar in taxes, it drains from $ 1.15 to $ 1.25 in services."
    Catalano added that the marina has a long waiting list, and if it were expanded on the beach below the county property, the new boat slips would be filled immediately and another waiting list would be created.
    Lucrative fishing tournaments could be drawn to Evans if the marina were expanded in that direction, said Don Cook, a member of the marina advisory board. The local economic impact could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, he added.
    Artist Mike Kelly showed the group some fossils he found on the shore and explained the story they told.
    "This is a page from Lake Erie's history," he said. "Take a nature walk and let Lake Erie speak to you and let the cliffs speak to you. If you want to see 'progress,' it's written in these rocks."
    "This is not a concrete jungle," said a music production coordinator from the East Side, who identified himself only as Omego-1. "It's peaceful. It's non-violent. It's something I'd want to take my family to -- something we don't have a chance to do in my neighborhood."
    Saving the land for wildlife or using it for marina expansion are two extremes, said Mike Niman, a teacher of American studies. He suggested a hiking and cross-country ski trail along the cliffs.
    "I had to drive 45 minutes just to stand here -- legal -- without being on somebody's property," said Daniel Pusateri of Clark Street. "How long would I have to drive to see the lake like this, if this land is used for houses?"
    "I live down the street from here and go away to college," said Julie Matson, 19. "Every time I come home, there's less open land."

 

Sturgeon Point Compromise Urged

Officials would sell half of area for private use and retain other half

Buffalo News

By MARGARET HAMMERSLEY

August 17, 1994

Town of Evans officials have proposed a compromise to preserve the waterside half of the last undeveloped Erie County-owned lakefront property, a parcel that has drawn increasing attention recently.
    The town has called for dividing the 53-acre section near Sturgeon Point.
The half north of Sturgeon Point Road would be saved for future parkland or possible expansion of the Sturgeon Point Marina.
    The half away from the high bluff lakefront, south of Sturgeon Point Road, would be offered at county public auction for private development.
    "It gives us the best of both worlds," County Legislator Bert Villarini, R-Hamburg, said Tuesday. "We are preserving a beautiful portion of county property along our waterfront while at the same time offering part of the 53 acres for private development."
    Villarini said, however, that he is not pushing for development of the south portion and that any proposals should be drawn very carefully, taking
into consideration the needs and desires of the area.
    Evans Supervisor Albert Chase said the five-member Town Board backs the plan that he believes will be acceptable to town residents.
    Chase said he has not been able to understand the reasoning of some county officials who in recent months have pushed to sell the land for private development.
    "The whole thing is puzzling, why a handful decided there was such urgency to do anything originally," said Chase.
    Villarini opposed the latest proposal by Gorski administration officials to reserve only a 100-foot strip along a bluff, while converting the remainder to public parking and to a large-scale subsidized low-income housing tract.
    An earlier Gorski administration proposal to raise an estimated $ 660,000 by auctioning the entire tract failed when the high bid was $ 26,000.
    Legislator Joan Bozer, D-Buffalo, questions any need to push ahead with development.
    "Where is all the pressure coming from?" asked Mrs. Bozer, who said that the land belongs to all the county's residents, not just those making proposals. "What we have here is spectacular bluff, one of the outstanding scenic sites in the county. I'm trying to get all these things together so we can have a thorough look at this."
    Frank Parlato, a developer who emphasizes retaining a natural environment, noted that the  53 county acres, acquired at foreclosure 60 years ago, are surrounded by hundreds of undeveloped non-waterfront acres that are privately owned.
    "It would be unconscionable to sell the county's waterfront parcel north of Sturgeon Point Road," said Parlato. "If the county is hell-bent on doing something with it now, at least we will be getting half a loaf."
    Parlato said that consideration of the limited development proposed by the town board and Villarini still would require thoughtful study. "I don't think there should be any rush to develop," he added.
    Villarini noted that diverse groups favor preserving the waterfront including members of the Sturgeon Point Marina Advisory Board, Southtowns Walleyes Association and area fishing and environmental organizations.
    Chase said that the town this year will make the final $ 90,000 payment on its Sturgeon Point Marina which has been breaking even, with revenues approximately equaling the cost of development and operation.
    While the 216-slip marina is rented to capacity, and the parking lot on a nice Sunday is crowded with boat trailers, the town has not at this time discussed expanding the marina, he said.
    "I think there are more people in Western New York with boats than with places to put them," he said.

 

County Waterfront Land is Developing Controversy Sturgeon Point is Popular Haven

Buffalo News

By ROSE CIOTTA

August 25, 1994, Thursday, City Edition

A SWIRLING controversy over how to use 53 acres of waterfront land owned by Erie County has put the spotlight on the Sturgeon Point Marina.
The marina, which is west of the county land in the Town of Evans, is celebrating its fifth anniversary as the only publicly owned boating facility in the Southtowns.
By all measures, the marina is not only a successful operation but
demonstrates that there is a continuing need in the area for boating facilities.
All 217 of the marina's slips are filled. Most of the slips are 22 feet and smaller, generally serving fishing boats. There's a waiting list of 150 boaters, many of whom own larger recreational boats.
"If we had 26- or 28-foot slips, there are 30 to 40 boats we could pull right in," observed Dennis Borowczyk, a marina staffer.
Bruno Niedzwiecki of Angola is one of the lucky seven along the marina's"Rodeo Drive," the dock for larger boats. "This is a great spot right here," said Niedzwiecki, standing in the cabin of his 25-foot Larson. "We get nothing here as far as weather."
Anyone familiar with the Evans stretch of the lake knows that Sturgeon Point primarily offers boaters a safe harbor thanks to the breakwall that was built as part of the $ 4.5 million state, federal and town funded project.
Any expansion of the marina would be equally expensive and so far, no one has put any real plan on the table.
"There is still a need in the Southtowns (for boating facilities) but
Sturgeon Point is not going to fill that purpose," said Richard Tobe,
county commissioner for environment and planning.
Tobe points to the area's geographical limitations including the fact that the county's property is a bluff with no water access and that expanding the marina would require the building of an expensive breakwall to increase the protected area.
But, a county legislator and town officials want to preserve a marina option.
"We saw the value for future boaters to use this area as a natural bay, possibly a safe harbor," said Erie County Legislator Bert Villarini, a Hamburg Republican who has come up with a compromise proposal to reserve half of the property for public use, including the possibility of a marina and the other half for possible future development.
Evans Supervisor Albert Chase agrees a marina faces hurdles but he wants to make sure the county doesn't sell any property that would prevent a future marina.
Tobe has the job of making recommendations to County Executive Gorski on uses for the 53 acres of waterside land that the county owns near the marina. The County Legislature asked Tobe's office to get involved after it rejected a $ 26,000 bid to purchase the land. The county originally planned to auction the property for development but has since pulled back on that plan in the face of stiff opposition, especially from those who want the lakeside portion to remain open to the public.
Tobe said his proposal would reserve a small portion along the water's edge for a passive park with the rest freed for development. "The rest we would try and sell," he said.
Frank Parlato, who has led the citizen fight to keep the land from the auction block, insists the area can become a future marina. "I can envision a world class marina if we take the bay and expand the marina as funds become available," said Parlato. "We can keep the green space for the public to visit and have a magnificent view."
At the marina, managers and slip-holders go by what they see every day -- a busy marina.
"It's for future use," said Joe Kremblas, marina foreman. "Right now there isn't any money available anywhere but you never know in 10 years, five years, money could become available to expand it."
To slipholders, the marina offers a pristine refuge. On a warm summer night, the area draws not only boaters but children and families who walk the sandy stretch or linger by the refreshment stand for an ice cream cone.
"I'm really happy here," said Paul Michalek of West Seneca, who recalls the "mom and pop" operation of the old marina. He recalls the silting every fall that forced boaters to wade across the entrance channel. Even now, the marina isn't perfect. Boaters complain of weeds, silt that has to be continually dredged and no dock power, but they know times are clearly better.
"This is a dramatic improvement and worth the wait," said Michalek.
Local J-27 skippers will compete this weekend in match racing for the James H. Righter Trophy. The Buffalo Yacht Club is sponsoring the annual Great Race series Friday through Sunday. The racing will pit a BYC team against teams from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the Buffalo Canoe Club and the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club.
The event, which will be held in the Buffalo Harbor, will test the sailing skills of some of the area's best. The racers will compete in rounds leading to a final series. The final will be sailed Sunday starting at 9:30 a.m. Spectator boats are encouraged to attend. The trophy presentation will be Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Buffalo Yacht Club on Porter Avenue.

 

County urged to deed land to Evans

Buffalo News

February 24, 1998

A Gorski administration official is urging the Erie County Legislature to deed half of the county's Sturgeon Point land -- 25 acres with a spectacular lakefront view -- to the Town of Evans for $1.
Richard M. Tobe, commissioner of environment and planning, said a condition  of the transaction is that the town, which is interested in expanding its marina, create a park accessible to all residents of the county on an equal basis.
  "We're not giving it away," Tobe said. "We're making it available for public use. It must be developed as a park and used as a park. If not, it will revert to the county."
The lakefront site is a wild bluff that looks down on a 1,000-foot stretch of pebbly Lake Erie beach adjoining the crowded marina. Former Legislator Joan K. Bozer, D-Buffalo, was among the environmentalists who went into action four years ago when a former county official insisted that the land go on the auction block for real estate development.
The county withdrew the land when, despite an appraisal of $660,000, it brought a high bid of just $26,000.
Tobe said he began discussions last fall with Evans Supervisor Robert R. Catalino II and County Legislator Jeanne Z. Chase, R-Evans/Hamburg.
Ms. Chase, a real estate agent for Hunt Real Estate Corp., said her interest in Sturgeon Point is to keep the lakefront park for the public.
"Obviously, this is a costly project," she said. "The plan is to leave the beach.
Part of the bluff is parking. They want to do a sort of a grove area for people to sit and eat."
Ms. Chase added, "Different times of year you can see different things. Last year, when ice was moving off the lake, there was a mink swimming along. He was just beautiful. There was also a beaver."
Tobe said the town may rezone the county's remaining 25 acres without lakefront south of Sturgeon Point Road. And, the site could again be put up for auction in the future.
"All we're trying to do now is preserve the part that has waterfront for the public in the future," he said. "The Finance Department will be involved in the decision to sell or not to sell and what the minimum purchase price will be."
Frank R. Parlato Jr., a real estate developer who organized a group of 40 to oppose the sale in 1994, sees the proposal for extending the Evans Marina as a positive step.
"There's a way it could be developed that would give people an opportunity to walk that whole waterfront area," Parlato said. "The pivotal thing is to preserve some of the trees along the bluff and to have a natural walkway along the water."
Parlato said the remaining county land may bring a much better price because of its proximity to the planned new park.
He said he recently sold two-acre lots in an area that he developed, keeping a 118-acre nature preserve, for $30,000 to $55,000 a lot. The development, Tri-Park Acres, is in Hamburg near the Evans line. If the Legislature goes along with Tobe's request, he or his successor would have direct control over the future development of the Sturgeon Point waterfront land.
"The Town of Evans is given some time to develop a plan and present it to   us," Tobe said. "It is subject to Department of Planning approval. It is my responsibility."