‘Wetland Woes’ in North Tonawanda

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By: Brendan McDonough

Reporter for North Tonawanda

A wetlands issue could squash Ascension Industries plans to expand in North Tonawanda. The company currently employees more than fifty people and is hoping to add another forty jobs. 

Ascension, who recently developed a new product, want to embark upon a $2.5 million expansion project. The company is headquartered on Erie Avenue and built another facility on Wurlitzer Drive with the intent to expand. However, shortly after purchasing it about 10 years ago the area was designed as a wetlands area.

“They have to find a way to accommodate this customer and this product,” said Mike Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Lumber City Development Corp., “and if they cannot do it there is a very real possibility that they will have to find a different place altogether. Which means not only missing out on these forty new jobs but potentially moving the fifty jobs that are already in the facility.” 

City Engineer Dale Marshall says the company owns 16 acres of land on Wurlitzer Drive. In order to build on the land, Ascension would need to pay to have an equal or larger piece of land converted to wetlands.

“The critical thing is that they wanted to build last year. So, they are ready to go,” said Marshall.

Dave Lemma, Ascension’s Vice President of Engineering and Development, has been meeting with City Officials to try and come up with a solution that works for everyone.

“We have been trying to do this for over a year now. Due to these wetlands, it is getting very expensive. We are expanding this facility for our customers and we have been trying to do this for over a year now,” said Lemma.

The North Tonawanda Common Council wants to work with Ascension to come up with a plan. The problem is funding costly environmental studies and who is going to pay for them.

“Why are we paying for them to do a project?” Said Alderman-At-Large Austin Tylec. ‘Even if the consultant fees are $10,000.00-$20,000.00, why are they not paying us? We could do the consulting and then they could just never follow through with the project. I don’t want to pay for it.”

Lemma says he has to consult with company owners to see if they are willing to pay for those consulting fees but says it may be very good possibility.

In addition to costs another problem, there could be opposition from neighbors who live in the area.

It’s a complex project and members of the Common Council agreed more discussion is needed before any final decisions can be made.

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