Bridgewater Estates will boast a view of Port-O-Potties and junker trucks stored as scrap.
This week, in our continuing series on the Bridgewater Estates, in some parts being better known as the "Scam at Reiterville," we will further explore this alleged "Luxury Senior Housing" project, approved under cloudy circumstances by the former supervisor of Lewiston, Steven L. Reiter, and to be built on land owned by his mother.
As we have previously reported, Reiter, while supervisor, was able to sell his mother's newly rezoned property for four times its previously marketed value.
The Reiter property was marketed the year prior to sale for $350,000. After rezoning, Reiter sold his mother property for $1.4 million.
To get that price, Reiter had to orchestrate a change in the town's master plan that allowed his mother's property to be rezoned from R-2, to "General Business," and secure a special variance later that would allow whoever bought his mother's property to build four-story apartment buildings on her farmland.
The land lies behind the Los Nino De Las Casa Cardenas tavern and the Hill Vu restaurant, near the corner of Ridge and Model City roads. The area is dominated by low-
density, single and two-family residential homes, small scale commercial structures and industrially-zoned properties.
The town's Comprehensive Plans, updated in 2011, stress that residential development "in that area should be low-density" and "compatible with the character of existing nearby developments."
But Reiter changed that, at least for he and his mother.
Nobody knew at the time there was anyone remotely interested in buying the property.
But less than two weeks after the all-Republican, Reiter-controlled town board approved the zoning changes on Reiter's mother's land, a man named Anthony Cutaia, from Amherst, came to town and made an application on behalf of a brand new company to be known as Bridgewater Estates LLC, to develop the Reiter property.
Bridgewater would build 138 apartments with 240 parking spaces.
The owners claimed it would be a senior housing project for people older than 55.
It was not disclosed that Reiter was a silent partner.
Once the project was submitted, Reiter, as supervisor, evaluated, on behalf of the town, whether the project would create any adverse environmental impacts. He decided it would not and he, as supervisor, signed the Environmental Assessment Form for the Town, stating there were "no adverse environmental impacts."
He waived a traffic study despite the fact that there was a planned driveway to be used by some 200 seniors coming out on a 55-mph speedway against Rt. 104 truck traffic.
In doing this he ignored the town's engineering consultants.
On April 17, 2013, Ryan K Smith, of Nussbaumer & Clark, Inc., warned the town in an official letter: "This parcel is on a well-traversed truck route. The project will impose 'senior' drivers onto Ridge Road, near an intersection, with heavy truck traffic."
Reiter ignored the letter. Trucks aren't going to be a problem, he said.
"These apartments are set back 300 feet from the road and there is 200 feet between Model City Rd and our property lines. After 5 p. m. you can fire a cannon down Model City Rd.," he told the Reporter.
Yet, the extension of Indian Hill Rd. which leads to Route 104 and is directly across the street from the proposed Bridgewater driveway, was closed and barricaded because the town board felt it was unsafe. The Town of Lewiston - without a traffic study - closed this lightly traveled access road because of the high number of accidents.
One person lost a leg.
But, when it came to his own project, Reiter said he knew, without a traffic study, that despite a couple of hundred seniors coming in and out, facing the same high speed challenges that drivers on the access road across the street did, before they closed it, that the Bridgewater driveway was safe.
As chief executive of the town, he ignored other provisions of the New York Environmental Conservation Law which requires that the town, as the lead agency,
"thoroughly analyze the identified relevant areas of environmental concern to determine if the action may have a significant adverse impact on the environment" and "set forth its determination of significance in a written form containing a reasoned elaboration and providing reference to any supporting documentation."
Reiter and his town board offered only four words as their reasoned elaboration: "no adverse environmental impact," without a single study to back it up.
The day after Reiter signed the Environmental Assessment Form, the Zoning Board of Appeals granted the variances necessary for the project.
In all of this, there are some things that simply aren't right and should not be allowed to stand.
A town, even as unconcerned and quaintly forgiving as Lewiston, that allows their supervisors to snatch town sewer pipes and picnic tables and police officers to steal gasoline, should not permit their supervisor to oversee the approval of the rezoning of his mother's land, then approve a project to built on it - based on that rezoning - that he secretly owns himself.
The sole Democrat on the town board, Reiter's replacement, new supervisor Dennis Brochey, said he thinks the whole project should be reviewed.
"I did find out there was no traffic study. That definitely was not done and it should have been done," Brochey says.
He also expressed concern about health issues that should have been addressed by Reiter and the town board but were not considered.
"With the amount of trucks, with their diesel fumes, that come and go down that road, and the elderly people who will be living there, it might be a health issue,"
Brochey said. "The older people get, the harder it is to breathe. It's possible that, once they open the place up the seniors will have a tough time breathing. With all those trucks there on Model City Rd. and Ridge Rd, it may very well be a health hazard."
While Brochey is operating under the illusion that this project was intended to be a senior complex, he did admit that there was no way the town could force
Bridgewater to operate as a senior complex.
He pointed out that the Woods at Blairville was supposed to be a senior complex. The developers gave their word. But it turned into an affordable housing project that
have given police cause to focus their attention there on many a night.
Speaking of Bridgewater, Brochey said "I don't see how we could stop it. We can't legally prevent somebody from renting to low income people, if the alternative is boarding it up. If they can't get seniors, they will have to rent it. I personally don't think seniors will want to live there. The seniors I know want to stay in their homes."
There is reason to believe Reiter and his partners planned the project to be a low income project.
A letter from the town's engineering consultants indicate that, while Bridgewater's plans used lower costs for plumbing based on lower water flow calculations (seniors use less water than families), the consultant, not knowing that Reiter was a silent partner, questioned what the developers true intentions were.
Smith, of Nussbaumer & Clark, wrote to the town, "If these are 'truly' senior apartments, we suggest occupancy will not exceed two people, whether 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom units. lf these are to be regular apartments, then average occupancy would be 3 people per unit for 2 bedroom and 1.5 people per unit for 1 bedroom."
In other words, the plumbing and drainage would have to be modified - at additional expense, if this was not "truly" going to be a senior housing project.
But what an engineer (much like a town) doesn't know won't hurt him.
While a developer who promises a senior housing project not only gets support from the community, for who could be against senior housing, he also gets to save on drainage and plumbing and, if, afterwards, you happen to rent to families, you won't have to redo the plumbing and drainage.
May I refer you again to the Woods at Blairville and hundreds of others across America that did the same switcheroo, intentionally or not..
Finally, when Reiter and his partners argued for building four-story apartment buildings in a town that has no other four-story residential buildings they said theywanted to take advantage of the view.
As for the view, it will be one of toilets, 1,000 portable toilets lined up in a row, stored for Modern Disposal's Port- o-potty business. Also, broken down trucks and trailers, scrap, and of course a view of the landfill itself. And then there is Smokin Joe's smoke shops and gas stations. The view from the back will be of Modern Disposal's parking lot.
This is a view of luxury senior housing that needed four stories? Sounds like low-income housing to me.
As of this week, Bridgewater is seeking to renew two variances granted by the Zoning Board which expired during the ruckus created by the publication of these stories and a lawsuit filed by Sonia Washuta, owner of Modern Disposal, and a neighbor of the Reiter project.
The town board could halt the zoning variance renewals or table them pending the resolution of the lawsuit.
The Washuta lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court, asks Justice Mark A. Montour to issue an injunction stopping the town from granting a building permit for the project until it is re-evaluated. Montour is scheduled to hear the case on May 14 in Niagara Falls.
The town might be wise to hold up the zoning renewals until the judge hears some of the mounting evidence.