by Larry Austin
Opposition to a proposal to rezone a parcel in the neighborhood of East River and Whitehaven roads is gaining momentum, residents said Monday.
About 40 residents attended a town Planning Board meeting that included a presentation on the LightHouse Pointe project, which proposes 264 townhouse units, 150 apartment units and a commercial area on a 60-acre site owned by Frank Grebenc.
The usually sparsely attended Planning Board meeting was moved from the Town Hall conference room upstairs to the main court room to accommodate the crowd on hand to listen to a presentation by attorney Sean Hopkins of Hopkins & Sorgi, representing developers. The development would require passage of Local Law Intro No. 4 of 2014, to rezone 30 of 60 acres from R-2 to R-3. The R-3 zoning would allow development of multifamily housing.
Joe LaLonde of East River Road, who spoke on behalf of East River Road and Timberlink Drive residents, said a petition drive received 400 signatures in opposition to the rezoning in only two days. He said he preferred a development "consistent with the rest of the neighborhood" of single-family homes rather than the rental units as proposed.
Hopkins reported that a public hearing before the Grand Island Town Board on the LightHouse Pointe rezoning request has been pushed back from March 17 to April 21 "at the request of the developer."
Hopkins briefed the Planning Board on recent modifications to the plan made in consideration of resident input received at a Feb. 27 meeting held at Grand Island Memorial Library. Changes include an increase in the buffer area between the project and neighboring properties that "basically gave up three four-unit multifamily buildings," Hopkins said.
The property is a portion of the River Oaks Planned Unit Development. Access to the property would come off Whitehaven and East River roads.
Hopkins summarized one of the sentiments heard at the Feb. 27 meeting as, "Why can't we develop this site as single-family homes?"
He responded, "The R-2 zoning would allow single-family homes, and also would allow duplexes. And the answer is, quite simply, No. 1, we don't think there's demand for single-family homes in this immediate vicinity. There's a lot of single-family lots that are currently available."
"In terms of why would we propose this project instead of duplexes, we think it's much nicer."
He added, "We do certainly understand that adjoining property owners would prefer to see either nothing or single-family homes. We don't think that's realistic with respect to this site, but nonetheless when we receive more specific feedback relative to the project, we'll consider that," Hopkins said.
Planning Board Chairman Frank Sturniolo asked Jim Sharpe, former member of the Town Board and town's Comprehensive Plan Committee, to speak on the history of the parcel. Sharpe said that in the 1970s he was one of the first residents to move into the River Oaks Planned Unit Development that "went belly-up."
The town's 1990 master plan consideration for the area "wasn't rental, it was ownership," he said.
"It was always the intention of the PUD from Day 1 that it would be homeowner managed," Sharpe said. "It was never an interpretation of 'Well, we may take residential and turn it into apartments.'"
From the 1970s to date, "There was never a confusion on the Master Plan Committee, and while I served on the Town Board, interpretation was it was never intended to be apartments," Sharpe said.