Amherst approves rezone of Maple parcel

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The Amherst Town Board approved the negative State Environmental Quality Review determination and the rezoning for the 5-acre parcel at 1720, 1740 and 1760 Maple Road at its meeting Feb. 13.

The vote was 4-1 with Deputy Supervisor Deborah Bruch Bucki voted in the negative.

The proposed project was amended by the developer to include two four-story mixed use buildings, one at 20,300 square feet and the second at 7,000 square feet, totaling 128,000 square feet with 7,000 square feet of commercial space and 102 apartment units. The proposed project also calls for two two-story town homes with attached garages.

The town board approved an amendment to its Bicentennial Comprehensive Plan to define land use for the parcel at 1720, 1740 and 1760 Maple Road back in July.

Sean Hopkins, the attorney for the developer, Paul Bliss of PB Investors LLC, petitioned the board to amend the zoning from OB-Office Building and R3-Residential 3 to DC-5 or Deep Corridor-5 allowing for mixed use.

Residents in the area have come out against the project for what they believe is a lack of setback and density.

“I know the neighborhood is certainly impassioned about this project,” Amherst Supervisor Brian Kulpa said. “I understand that and respect that. From a town board perspective, the town board doesn’t take these matters lightly.”

Kulpa said that he is an architect and planner by trade and that there’s a lot that goes into the calculus of a project.

“First, this isn’t site plan approval,” Kulpa said. “This process is strictly rezoning to one of our mixed-use zonings from what I consider very rigid, older zoning. The reality is there’s trade offs and benefits to everything.”

He said that the zoning that existed on the site of Office Building and R3 could allow for higher height and more obstructed parking that what is being proposed.

“The current zoning allows for a mixture of uses,” Kulpa said. “It doesn’t allow for setbacks, lighting, etc. This rezoning now allows for a more sophisticated zoning. The question is do you want it developed in this antiquated zoning package that doesn’t deal with form.”

Kulpa said that with an amendment added to the rezoning, it would require a project to go before the Design Advisory Board and makes it take into account parking and traffic flow.

“This is a less intrusive project than one that could already exist,” Trustee Jacqualine Berger said. “There’s a transition from four-story buildings that are near the houses.We have a good project that will fit in with the neighborhood.”

Bucki voted against the SEQR and rezoning because of traffic and drainage concerns.

“When you think about what would be allowed, it would still be dense,” Bucki said. “I’m concerned about traffic on Ayer Road and Maple is already intense and I do think this would exacerbate the traffic.”

Bucki said that the 5-acre parcel isn’t deep and the that “96% of the land is poorly drained.

“There are some site constraints that can be worked out through the site plan approval process,” Kulpa said.

The site has been vacant for over a decade and was previously owned by McGuire Acquisitions to be developed into medical office buildings at the time.

Source: Amherst Bee

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