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Chestnut Lane residents speak out about turnaround in Boston

BOSTON — A parcel of land on Hillside Drive was the focus of several Boston Board meeting attendees, on June 5.

The land was purchased by Boston Highway Superintendent Robert Telaak at an auction. Several Boston residents, led by Brian Burns, who lives on nearby Chestnut Lane, voiced their opinions, regarding recent developments, that resulted in Telaak’s purchase.

Several residents challenged the plan to develop a turnaround, at the end of the narrow road. This addition is being created, primarily for snow plows.

Burns said that Telaak’s stated intention, upon purchasing the land, was “to develop the property and subdivide it into three lots.” Burns said, “[Telaak] took down most of the trees [and] the house on the property was demolished, by Bob Telaak. I requested any and all permits that were issued for the property. No permits were issued. No permits were applied for or granted since 1967.”

Burns asked if any state or local laws were broken for the demolishment of the house on site, “with no permits,” and with no hazardous material study done.

“Bob Telaak used town of Boston trucks to bring in many loads of fill, to the lower part of his property,” Burns said. “The dirt was moved across town, up the hill (again with no permits), changing the elevation of the property. The property at the lower level, Hillside, now has a completely different elevation.”

The local resident, who said that he has been a mechanic for more than 30 years, said that he is aware that there is “a substantial cost, in the maintenance of heavy-duty vehicles’ going up and down hills. There is also a cost in man hours and fuel, to move dirt up a hill, a large hill, with big trucks.”

Burns said that Telaak has proposed building a road, at the end of Chestnut Lane. “The supervisor informed me that the purpose was to make a plow turnaround and also for the safety of the plow and safety of the equipment, at that area,” he said, adding that he believed the purpose of the turnaround is “to gain access to the property from Chestnut Lane for Bob, so this would give him the ability to fill the land at the end of the road, from that road. The access from Hillside is currently inaccessible, with a dump truck. You would have to drive over soft dirt, to fill in that property.”

The speaker asked that the board be “cautious” with its spending and ethics and with the projects it considers. “The road has a sufficient turnaround now, which was constructed shortly ago. I’ve been there for 22 years and never noticed any safety concerns or inability to maneuver equipment, at the end of Chestnut Lane.”

Linda Janish, a Chestnut Lane resident, said, “The town decided to extend the road to its current length. When that was done, it was done in such a fashion to accommodate the largest plows you had, at the time, and I don’t believe they’re any bigger, now. And I can assure you, spending 49 out of 51 winters there, plows turned around with no difficulty and I will swear on a stack of Bibles for that. If somebody has an issue with turning around any equipment that they drive, as a town employee, then I would have to question their driving ability. There’s certainly no reason why anybody who has that type of vehicle and is trained properly cannot turn around, at the end.”

Janish also said she believed adding the larger turnaround will exhibit “mere unethical behavior by Mr. Telaak, because we all would not be here even debating this issue, if any one of us, beside Mr. Telaak, bought that piece of property and wanted access to it. It’s that simple.”

When asked by Telaak if the local garbage truck “turns down the road or . . . [has] to back in,” Janish responded, “He chooses to back down. And that should not be your concern, Mr. Telaak. It’s simply unethical. It’s very, very simply unethical.”

Robert Stevenson, who also lives on the street in question, said, “Everybody wants their job to be easier. I had a large addition put on my house; pretty much built a new house. All the proper permits were granted, by the town of Boston. Engineering surveys were done; everything by the books. A number of large equipment came down my street. Not one driver ever complained. They knew the road was narrow; it’s a lane. It’s a narrow street.”

He added, “Times are tough. There are better ways to spend money, nowadays, than to extend a road. There are lots of other places that need money, that are more important than this. Money should be going places where it needs to go, not for frivolous things like this.”

Several individuals expressed their favor of the turnaround. Russ Goldberg of Boston’s Hillcrest Avenue said the road extension would allow him easier access to gas and water.

“I discovered, in my pursuit of putting in utility services, that the natural gas service is more restrictive than the water service, because the natural gas service has to walk their lines every three years, so that they want the grade where the lines are installed to be level enough for people to safely walk it,” he said.

“It is my desire to put fill in to make a level walking surface between ... where the services terminate on Hillside Drive to my property. I, for one, would appreciate the fact that a level grade could be made from the end of Hillside, so extending the road. As far as actually becoming a paved road, I have no reason to ever expect that to happen.”

Several town employees spoke up, saying that the turnaround would allow them to do their jobs more efficiently.

Bill Forness, a 24-year employee, said, “There’s not a decent turnaround on any of those subdivisions. You go up there on with a truck and a trailer and try to turn around, without using your driveway or anything else, you’re going to spend 20 minutes. We got little trucks up there plowing. That’s great, but you go up there with the big [truck] and try to turn around, when you’re not sure where the shoulders are; it’s a real pain. I say we definitely need a turnaround. We need more room for these trucks, for safety.”

Jerry Krencik, a 25-year employee, said, “All the turnarounds are terrible up there. I chip brush, most of the time. We don’t even go down Chestnut Lane anymore, because, with the chipper, you can’t turn around. You take a big plow truck up there, you can’t get turned around. We got to have big turnarounds. We have to do it.”

Telaak spoke about the ethical claims. “I did have a demolition permit, to knock the house down. As far as the fill, I filled out a sheet last year, for fill. As far as knocking the house down, it was totally legal to knock the house down. I owned it. It’s my property. I did it myself. It was totally legal. As far as burying a house, you can bury a single-family house on your own property, if it’s a single-family house or an agricultural building, so it was totally legal. I checked it all out.”

Supervisor Martin Ballowe thanked those who had attended the meeting, to discuss the turnaround. “I have walked the property with the attorney,” he said. “I have been up there with the highway superintendent. Our engineer will now look at it. We don’t take it lightly. The whole board, all five people, agreed for the turnaround. Not one of us said it was a bad idea.”

In other board matters:
– The Erie County Department of Public Works will not lower the speed limit on the section of Boston State Road, from the Route 219 exit to Herman Hill Road. “This is in response to a resolution passed in March of this year, requesting a speed limit reduction, along Boston State Road and Keller Road,” Board Member Larry Murtha said.

The letter from the ECDPW said, “The need for a reduced speed limit is based on a thorough evaluation of many factors, including roadway characteristics, roadside development and a statistical analysis of prevailing speeds, as determined by radar checks. Experience has shown that if there is no apparent reason for driving at a reduced speed, the posting signs with an arbitrarily lower speed limit does not result in voluntary compliance, by the majority of drivers. Thus, the lower speed limit results in larger speed differentials, which can make the road less safe.”

The study showed that 87 percent of drivers on the road in question go between 38 and 47 mph. The ECDPW announced plans to establish a 45 mph speed limit on Keller Road, which previously had no speed limit, leaving Boston to post the signage.

– A public hearing was held, regarding Donald Rachwal’s request for a franchise at 8555 Boston State Road. “This is the vacant [lot] that is just adjacent and south of the trooper barracks, down there,” said Board Member Jay Boardway. “As you are aware, this is a right-to-farm community. We love our farmers and we got a big piece of vacant land that is otherwise undevelopable for anything else. This gentleman farms it. He obviously is able to make some profit doing that. Again, it fits with our community; it fits with our master plan. We have to do a franchise agreement with him, once per year, to allow him to do that. Obviously, that’s open to everybody else too.”

Resolution 2013-07 was passed, authorizing Rachwal “to mow, trim and/or cultivate the vacant land,” under the stipulation that he “provide all machinery, labor and costs for this franchise with no cost to the town.”

– Resolution 2013-08 was passed by constraint from state. Town Attorney Michael Kobiolka explained the resolution: “This is a new law that was passed by the state of New York, which allows anybody who wants to file a claim, against the town of Boston or any town in the state, to now file a claim, as opposed to just a supervisor or the town clerk or the town attorney. They can now file with the secretary of state in Albany and pay a fee of $250. Once they pay that fee, then Albany sends $125 back to the town of Boston, and that’s the way the town’s being notified. The town has no choice in this. The state has passed the law.”

Boardway, who voted in favor of the resolution, said, “I just want the public to know exactly what is going on here. This is a money grab, from Albany. This is an unfunded mandate. This is what they keep jamming down our throats. We have to comply with it. We have to appoint [Town Clerk] Jennifer Mule’ as the person in town who can accept the service of process, and that action is going to cost us $125 now, every time it happens. I’m vigorously opposed to the legislation itself, but we do have to do it.”

– An agreement was made for the town to occasionally lease the Boston Library’s community room, between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, as an additional depository for documents filed for public inspection, “subject to the further terms and conditions of this agreement.”

– The board approved Resolution 2013-09, authorizing the town to charge taxes on land through which a Verizon fiber optic cable runs. “The town essentially has the property that that fiber optic cable is utilizing, assessed at $650,000, so it was a tax benefit, to the town of Boston,” Ballowe said. “New York state has changed some of the wording in the tax codes, unfortunately, to benefit some large corporations, and they are trying to remove essentially the ability to tax the fiber optic cable that is buried within our town boundaries. The Erie County Assessors Association has put forth a resolution essentially requesting that the state not change that law, that they still allow us to tax that real property, underground as it may be, but still allow a tax benefit to the county and to the town, so the town is supporting that resolution.”

– New York Sen. Chris Collins was in Boston on June 1 and met with the board members. “It was impressive to have a congressman in our town,” Councilman Jeff Genzel said. “He discussed real topics affecting our whole country.”

Boardway said that he was happy about the turnout, for the meeting. “He’s kind of a riveting speaker,” he said. “He touched on a lot of issues that can be considered local issues [and] touched on a lot of national issues, also, but they do affect us all. Impressive, again, that the congressman would take the time to come to our town, on a Saturday morning, and meet with us and he didn’t rush us out. It was very nice, getting some one-on-one time with him.”

– Several appointments were made for the summer recreation program, which is “one of the best summer recreation programs in the county,” according to Boardway. “In that process, we hired quite a few staff members, based on [Recreation Director Tony Zeniuk]’s recommendation,” the supervisor added.

Taylor Janak was appointed as the director of the summer program, with Neil Byrne as the site supervisor. Megan Hopkins, Lauren McCarthy, Victoria James and James Maxwell were hired as counselors, while the substitute counselors are Emily Mule’, Claire Solak, Shawn Geary, Jack Gorrell, Max Maxwell and Madison Darling.

– The board rescheduled the bid opening for the cleanup on Eighteenmile Creek for July 2 at 10 a.m. The original date had been June 18. “The walkthrough is on June 24 at 8 a.m., for the cleaning out of about a third of the creek; the south end of Eighteenmile Creek,” Murtha said. “This is a flood-abatement type of thing. We try to take out trees that are listing 30 degrees or more or trees that have fallen into the creek and cut them up ... that has to be done to about a third of the creek, each year. Every three years ,we’re getting that done.”

– Nicholas Kreuder was hired, part time, for the parks department, upon Telaak’s recommendation.

The next Boston Board meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the Boston Town Hall, located at 8500 Boston State Road in Boston.
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