Residency of NT / Wheatfield County Legislator Candidate Herbert Questioned

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By: Staff Reporter

Erik Herbert is running for Niagara County Legislator in the 7th District, which includes portions of Wheatfield and North Tonawanda.

He is also a North Tonawanda School Board Member.

Recently, questions have been raised as to whether Herbert is in violation of required residency in North Tonawanda as a school board member.

Others have raised concerns that he just recently moved into the 7th Legislative District in order to run for office.

Herbert is presently living in a rented apartment in Alder Creek, in Wheatfield – which is within the 7th Legislative District – but outside the North Tonawanda School District.

“I moved in a few months ago,” Herbert says. “The apartment is temporary.”

Herbert said he plans, regardless of whether he wins election to the county legislature, to live in the 7th Legislative District and move back to North Tonawanda.

Herbert said he is building a new home and will move from his rented apartment to his new home before the election.

When Herbert was elected last May to the School Board he lived in North Tonawanda, at 1049 Thomas Fox Drive East. Herbert sold his North Tonawanda home and bought a vacant lot at 619 Witmer Rd. also in North Tonawanda.

Public records show Herbert purchased the almost 3-acre lot in Feb. 2018 for $31,500.

According to Zillow.com, Herbert sold his home on Thomas Fox Drive East in January 2019.

After moving out of his home on Thomas Fox Drive East, he rented his Alder Creek apartment in Wheatfield.

There are some who told the Reporter they believe that Herbert is not really intending to build a home for himself and merely purchased the lot in order to appear to be moving into the legislative district where he is running.

The lot on Witmer – known on the street as the “old vacant lot” – is one of the few remaining parcels that has not been developed.

Some think the lot is undevelopable. It has a large sink-hole in in the middle of the land. It’s been an eyesore for years, strewn with litter and debris.

Others in the neighborhood think Herbert plans to move in only if he wins election.

“[T]here is always an agenda. I think that he bought the property and is just telling people that he is going to revitalize the area and then if he does not get elected, he will probably sell it,” said Bonnie Eschborne, who lives in the area.

 

Residents question whether Niagara County Legislative candidate Erik Herbert will actually build a home on this vacant lot in North Tonawanda. Photo taken 3/17/19.

 

But Herbert said he filed building permits and will complete the home and move in before the election.

This weekend, a crane was on the property. According to North Tonawanda City Building Inspector Cosimo Capozzi, Razanni Construction of Niagara Falls is working to provide drainage to the site. Herbert says his builder started excavating the basement.

If Herbert fulfills his stated plans, Bethany Brochious will be one of Herbert’s new neighbors.

“I met him and I think it will be really nice to have a cop in the neighborhood,” said Brochious.

While Herbert is living currently in Alder Creek, which is not part of the North Tonawanda School District he represents, he is still listed as living at 1049 Thomas Fox Drive East in North Tonawanda on the North Tonawanda School Board website.

Herbert says he only sold his former residence in order to build his new home.  He added that he bought the lot not for political reasons but for personal, family reasons.

“It is a 3-acre lot in NT… We love the school district and it is just a great lot to build on,” said Herbert.

Herbert informed the North Tonawanda School District that he is living temporarily outside the district and will be moving back once his new home is complete.

In New York State, there is no legal prohibition against an elected school board member to reside outside the district provided it is temporary residence and with full disclosure to the board.

Herbert said he first tried to find an apartment in North Tonawanda to live in while he was planning on building his new home, but said it was challenging to find a place that accepted pets.

“I was not finding any apartments that would take our Great Dane,” Herbert said. “I looked at several in NT. It was not just about finding an apartment, but it was about finding an apartment that was big enough for our dog and big enough to fit things, as the house is being built.”

The School Superintendent’s office told the Reporter that they are aware of the fact that Herbert is living outside the district, in an apartment in Wheatfield.

North Tonawanda School Superintendent Gregory Woytila said Herbert advised the School District that as soon as the house is built at 619 Witmer Road, he will be move back to North Tonawanda.

“We looked into his specific case because he has a [home building] contract and he is building a new house and it’s just not ready,” Woytila said. “The [law] allow[s] for temporary, outside of district placement while your residence is being built. Now if the house is finished and he does not move, that that is when something would happen.”

Herbert says if he is elected to the Niagara County legislature, he will resign as a school board member.

Although numerous residents told the Reporter they were concerned that he only recently moved into the 7th District, and therefore is not the most competent to represent the area, Herbert says his commitment to building a home in the 7th District is ample evidence of his plans to be part of the community.

“I plan to live there for the next 30 years,” Herbert said. “And it will be built before the election.

Herbert is running against incumbent 7th District Legislator Jessie Gooch.

Herbert is a former MMA fighter and North Tonawanda Police Office. He also serves on the North Tonawanda School board.

The Reporter will follow up and give a progress report prior to the election on the status of Herbert’s new home.

 

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