By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
A draft local law on amending R-2 zoning district regulations, inspired by the opposition to Lighthouse Pointe project, was lambasted by residents at a public hearing Monday during a Grand Island Town Board meeting.
Opponents of the Lighthouse Pointe project received good news when the Town Board denied the developer's preliminary plat application later in the meeting, but they objected to the local law, which was conceived after an ad hoc committee, the R-2 Zoning Review Committee, studied the R-2 zoning matter during a moratorium on R-2 development and produced a report after weeks of meetings. Residents harshly criticized the Town Board members for rejecting many suggestions made in the committee's final report.
Supervisor Mary Cooke said the earliest action on amending the R-2 code would take place at the Sept. 21 Town Board meeting. The Planning Board needs to consider the law first, she said.
Residents were misinformed about the law's intent, however, Cooke said before the public lined up to speak at the hearing. She specifically mentioned planned development districts, or PDDs.
"And probably the most egregious thing that we are not interested in doing that was stated in many emails today," Cooke said, "is that the object of tonight's public hearing is for the Town Board seeking the ability to rezone R-2 zoned properties into PDD.
"There is absolutely nothing in this law that states that at all."
Developers of the Lighthouse Pointe project, Rane Property Management, sought to develop scores of housing units on an R-2 property at the intersection of Whitehaven Road and East River Road. Some of the plans called for duplexes and apartments. They made several proposals, none of which reached a Town Board vote until Monday.
Dean Santorio of Timberlink Drive said the R-2 topic has been discussed for the Past 13 months, but the R-2 rezoning committee's recommendations "were cut down to a mere few" by the Town Board. He said the proposed law "falls short and should be reconsidered."
Hank Cushing of Timberlink Drive went further, saying, "In my opinion, this moratorium and R-2 committee was just a decoy. I believe you never had any intentions of accepting any of the recommendations unless they were favorable to PDDs." The R-2 report's recommendations were rejected because they would have taken incentives away from developers, Cushing said.
Speaker after speaker, including two candidates for Town Board in the upcoming election, spoke in opposition. After the public hearing, Town Attorney Peter Godfrey said, "The law doesn't do a lot of the things that are suggested here today." He noted planned development districts are in the town zoning code already and are used to develop special types of zoning limitations. He said the only thing the law does regarding PDDs is it takes the town's design and performance standards - regulations and limitations on aesthetics - and applies the standards to PDDs. The amendments do not expand PDDs or encourage R-2 development, but instead create new limitations, he said. The town's ability to modify setbacks, and require different buffers, for instance, would be increased, Godfrey said.
"There's nothing in this that developers would think is a developer-friendly thing," Godfrey said. Though the law may not do all the things the R-2 committee proposed, the law would "increase the town's ability to limit certain types of development in R-2 and limits the availability of R-2 for certain types of uses, like duplex uses."
The Lighthouse Pointe project, the genesis of reconsideration of R-2 zoning, had its preliminary plat denied later in the meeting and referred to the Planning Board. Among the reasons the board cited:
•There is no buffer proposed between existing development and subdivision to crate the proper transition between zones.
•The overall density was too high.
•The layout "clashes significantly with the community character of the area."