CLARENCE CENTER, N.Y. (WIVB) – Colombina Surianello just happened to be checking on her property on Martin Road in Clarence–an 11-acre lot that has been in the family for more than 50 years. The elderly widow was with her 16 year old grandson, and could not believe what she was seeing.
A Town of Clarence highway crew had cut down many of her trees and shrubs, and Surianello said she had no idea why.
“I was in shock,” the Clarence grandmother said.
Colombina and her two daughters were stunned when they looked over the property and saw dozens of trees and shrubs cut and chopped down on their heavily wooded, undeveloped property. Then they contacted Call 4 Action.
The vegetation was removed from the western edge of Surianello’s lot, which extends from County Road to the south, to its frontage on Martin Road, “When I saw my side of the land turned upside down, trees cut down, beautiful trees they were blocking the view of the stream a little bit. I was in shock.”
Turns out, the town highway crew removed the trees and shrubbery to open up a drainage ditch running along the property line.
Town officials plan to clear the ditch, which is part of a series of drains, so that storm water can flow from County Road, along the family’s property, northward to Black Creek, and into Tonawanda Creek.
But Colombina’s daughter Sandra Jonas said the incursion has damaged the property, “There’s probably 30 to 50 trees that have been cut down and when I found out, the town actually stopped.” But Jonas said the crew came back later, “trying to remove the stumps and the trees that were already cut.”
Jonas said it is a matter of respecting private property rights, and town officials did not ask for her mother’s consent before going on the property and cutting the trees down.
There was no notification what this project was all about, and Clarence Highway Superintendent James Dussing admitted the error, “The town did do some work on their property, and we are very apologetic for those actions.”
Dussing said it was a mistake to proceed without the property owner’s consent, but the town does have a severe flooding problem, especially in the northern sector, and Dussing specifically pointed out a corner of the property next door that floods because storm water cannot drain as it would once the ditch is opened up.
“This ditch,” Dussing said, “is a big piece of the drainage pie in this area, and we certainly would like to work with the homeowners, and apologize for our actions, and try to get these ditches opened up.”
Town work crews have stopped work on the ditch until the consent issue is cleared up with the Surianello’s, “We don’t know what is happening with the water. We don’t know what is happening with this bridge. It all affects an 84-year-old person and her property–not right,” said daughter Elline Surianello.
The Surianello’s have contacted an attorney, and plan to file a notice of claim with the Town of Clarence that could lead to a lawsuit, or an out-of-court settlement to cover their losses.