|While Reiter got this access road, leading to Rt. 104, closed, because of clear and present danger, he got the driveway for the use of 200 seniors, leading out to the same Rt. 104, approved without a traffic study.
Something is rotten in Lewiston.
And that is the proposed plan to build 139 units, called Bridgewater Estates, on Route 104.
The land is owned by Marjorie Reiter, mother of the former supervisor of the town, Steve Reiter.
The three-acre site sits in front of the Modern Disposal landfill.
Three things smell far beyond the usual malodor that often emanates from the corruption known as local, small town Lewiston politics;
1 - The amazing, but unchecked, conflict of interest of the former supervisor, Reiter, who is also part owner of the Bridgewater project, and his rubber stamp town board.
2 - -The fact that, as part of a conflicted approval process whereby Reiter signed off as supervisor, a traffic study would be normally required. Reiter, however, as supervisor waived the need for that study. A dangerous traffic environment is, or will be put into play, something that is certain to lead to traffic accidents, perhaps fatalities, based on the simple, clear and evident danger of creating a new driveway with ingress and egress on a speeding truck route, for 200 senior citizens.
3 - Finally, that the Reiter-approving-Reiter project - now the subject of a lawsuit - has no provision in it - if it is built - to be what it has been promised to be: a luxury senior housing project. It could become- and there is nothing in writing to stop it - an affordable housing project.
The first is a matter of illegality.
The second is a matter of safety.
The third is a matter of plain being tricked.
It will take nothing less than the kind of investigative series this newspaper undertook when uncovering the hidden details in the Maid of the Mist lease, that led to the revocation of the lease of longtime owner James Glynn of Lewiston in Canada and the doubling of his rent in America, something that earned for the people of both sides of the border some $340 million extra dollars in boat lease rents.
This Reiter deal is every bit as worthy of solid investigative reporting as the Glynn deal.
The difference is that while Glynn, the businessman, got government officials to secretly do his bidding, in this case Reiter was both the businessman and the government official.
How his town board, three of whom are still sitting, can remain silent and not reopen this process is a wonder. But 11 members of the Niagara Parks Commission did the same thing, too. They denied everything - or ignored it - as we continued to print what we learned about the Maid of the Mist lease and the back door dealings of Glynn, until, ultimately, the lease was canceled and every one of them was either fired or asked to resign.
This is the Waterloo, be assured, of the town board, if they follow the path that the NPC commissioners took.
This deal with Reiter, approved by Reiter, and his town board, on Reiter land, is far more serious than the other matters we reported on concerning Reiter: his pilfering of gasoline, or stealing sewer pipe or picnic tables from the town.
This is the granddaddy of his self-serving gambits.
You will see it unravel in the coming weeks: Either the town board will reopen this - rescind the approvals - vet it; treat this project like any other one - honestly - that comes to the town - or the town board will, perforce, go down with the Reiter ship.
In the coming weeks- we can't cover it all in one article - it took us 80,000 words and 80 articles to sink the illegal Maid of the Mist lease - we will discuss the inflation of the value of the Reiter property, a matter of deep concern. The Reiter property was marketed in the past year, prior to Bridgewater buying it, for $350,000. Bridgewater bought the property from Reiter and his mother for $1.4 million. It was inflated four times the value.
Why? We will explain this, as we set out to prove how the project was financed.
After getting his mother more than four times the listed price for the property, Reiter also became 19 percent owner of the project, according to the Niagara County IDA application that led to the project being approved for tax free status, something Reiter - and his ally Henry Sloma - got done.
Sloma even resigned from the IDA board just long enough to get the project approved, collect a handsome fee - and then return to the board as its chairman.
But what did Reiter do to get his 19 percent ownership interest?
We will be answering that question as well: Was it to arrange for town approvals that should not have been approved? Did he earn his 19 percent already?
Did Reiter invest any of his own money in the project or help the developers to build or manage the construction? Or is his 19 percent merely effectually a bribe to get him to sign off on the project and get obstacle after obstacle waived for the developers of which he was one?
When we first published our report on Mayor Vince Anello getting some $40,000 from Smokin' Joe Anderson, nobody believed it. Soon after we published it, Anderson admitted his guilt and accepted a felony plea and Anello, (who, in this writer’s opinion, is basically a good man, caught up in a morass, with a man who admitted to trying to bribe him) who also took a plea deal-- that led to him spending time in prison.
In Lewiston, Reiter got paid 19 percent of a deal and he got it done through shortcuts.
What we will serve up, complicated though it may be, will prove that, at worst, this Bridgewater deal is a scam. At best, it must be re-vetted, taken back to the drawing board.
One of our coming stories will show, step by step, how Reiter oversaw his mother's property being rezoned from R-2, low density residential, requiring an adequate buffer zone between residential and industrial properties, to a general business zoning - and in order to make the general business zoning work for the project he had in mind, he led the town to amend the general business zoning, town wide.
As the lawsuit alleges, the general business zoning amendment appears tailor made for the project. It was.
And we will show how, when the property was formerly marketed at $350,000, when the property was zoned R-2, once Reiter got the rezoning changed to general business, its value went up to $1.4 million. By changing the zoning to general business, Reiter made his mother's property worth $1 million more.
This is not the petty rascal that stole pop cans from the guys in the highway department or stole coins out the penny cup at the Outlet Mall.
On top of the extra million he got for his elderly mother, Reiter took 19 percent of the housing project. In short, the supervisor of the Town of Lewiston offered his services as supervisor for 19 percent of the project for himself and four times the value of the land for his mother.
In another upcoming story, we will detail how Reiter avoided doing the needed traffic study.
By eliminating the long form environmental impact study, which saved the developers hundreds of thousands, and by waiving the traffic study, which might have cost the developers a million dollars (counting costs associated with constructing the recommendations made in the study), Reiter earned his 19 percent interest in the property and then some.
The project should have gone through a complete scoping session.
There should have been a complete environmental impact study, including a traffic study.
Consider this: Modern Disposal was required by the Town of Lewiston to conduct four different traffic studies over the years simply to increase traffic by a few trucks per hour.
But Reiter can get a project--which will add as many as 200 cars driven by senior citizens onto the road--without one.
A traffic study might have required a widening of the road, installing a turning lane, or a traffic signal at the entrance of the Bridgewater Estates.
But the DOT never did a field review. Why?
The short answer is because there was no traffic study.
It requires a full, detailed story to demonstrate how this occurred and how the town board was literally asleep at the wheel.
Another story will detail how egregious this conduct was when you consider that the extension of Indian Hill Rd. leads to Route 104 and is directly across the street from the proposed Bridgewater driveway.
This little-used extension has been closed and barricaded because the town board felt this access road is unsafe.
The Town of Lewiston - without a traffic study - shut the access road down because of the high number of accidents there. One person lost a leg.
Now, without a traffic study, the town has approved a senior citizens project that their former supervisor owns, where seniors will be facing the same high speed challenges.
As one neighbor told the Reporter, "I don't have the reaction time I did when I was 20 and the cars pulling in there against traffic, making a left hand turn, going against the west bound lane, will run the gauntlet."
Will there be accidents? Will this be the most dangerous driveway in Lewiston?
We won't know since there is no traffic study.
It is a credit, although a dubious credit, to Reiter that he could get this driveway approved - across the street from one which was closed - without a traffic study.
And these are brave men - or foolhardy - the men of the council- knowing the likelihood of death and maiming that may come by their decision to waive the traffic study and knowing the town will inevitably be sued for their decision not to require a traffic study - and still have gone forward to approve this project and to this date have not considered reopening this project and vetting it properly. And of course requiring a traffic study before someone is killed.
In helping their supervisor get more than a million dollars more for his mother's property and 19 percent ownership - which should account for another $2.4 million for Reiter himself - his share of the $12 million plus project, the town board has shown the kind of loyalty to their friend that should not be overlooked.
And it needs to be investigated.
As for other aspects of the environmental impact statement, another story will show how it is unconscionable how little was considered. It was a short form not the long form. The town is the lead agency. As such it is not time barred. They can reconsider it. But will they?
Reiter earned his ownership interest in the project alone, when, as supervisor, he waived for the town the need for an informed environmental application which could have cost the developers $50,000.
Plus any work required by the impact study.
These items plus information the Reporter has learned about the financing of the deal, Reiter’s stake in the deal, how it can shift to an affordable housing project and more will be forthcoming in future editions.
We do not ask our readers to believe one word of it until and unless we can prove it.
We did that with Glynn. We did that with the old Local 91, and with Anderson and Anello.
This one will unravel before the readers’ eyes.
But don't believe us. We have laid out the road map.
Refer to points one, two and three above.
Something is rotten in Lewiston.
And we are going to show you where and how. And then show how to remove the stench.
|Steve Reiter had a dual role.
|Bridgewater Estates, owned in part by Steve Reiter, promises to be luxury senior housing, but may end up as a low income housing project.