Density in R-2 is at issue
By Alice E. Gerard
Special to the Dispatch
The Town of Grand Island is under assault by developers, said Paul Koppmann, speaking at a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the Grand Island Town Code on R-2 zoning at the Dec. 7 Town Board meeting.
Buffalo's recent growth in areas such as the medical campus is turning into a nightmare for the suburbs, Koppmann said. "Developers are looking at a golden cash cow in the suburbs of a resurgent Buffalo." He pointed out that Grand Island is a 20-minute car ride from the Buffalo Medical Campus and that the developers are "relentless. The developers are trying to get a higher density. The more (people) you can jam in, the more money you make."
R-2 zoning allows for attached single-family dwellings, duplexes, townhouses, and patio homes configurations. It permits higher density housing than R-1 zoning, which allows only detached single-family houses.
The amendment to the town code makes changes in the types of new housing that a developer can build in an area that is zoned R-2. Developers will no longer be permitted to build duplexes and units with six to eight attached units.
Another change is that that buffers may be required between the R-2 district and adjoining districts that could be more extensive than the minimum buffers required under the town code governing R-2 zones. According to Town Board Member Ray Billica, "The amendment changes some of the things that the Planning Board is to look at when a proposed development in an R-2 zone is presented." This amendment does not affect existing structures.
Koppmann urged the Town Board to approve the proposed amendment, as soon as possible. "This sends a message to developers that we need to have responsible development."
Diane Evans, who represented the Conservation Advisory Board on the R-2 zoning review committee that disbanded after making its recommendations on the issue of development on R-2 zoned land, pointed out that there was no opportunity for the public to speak at committee meetings. "It was a mistake to shut off any public comment."
The committee could have been more responsive to the community, Evans said. "I felt that the process could have been improved by getting information from current owners of R-2 zoned property. We, as a committee, could have opened up a limited amount of time for interested parties to make comments."
According to Koppmann, the amendment was not perfect and many of the recommendations of the R-2 zoning review committee were not incorporated into the amendment. Evans agreed and said, "I am disappointed that the Town Board did not adopt more of our recommendations for amending the law." Despite that, Koppmann said, "It is important to pass the law. If we delay it, it's not in the best interest of Grand Island. We support lower density development. We want developers to understand what the Town Board, Planning Board, and Conservation Board want. We want them to take into consideration the preservation of environmentally sensitive areas. Passing this law sends the message to developers about responsible development."
The Town Board delayed action on approving the amendment until after the Erie County Planning Board has reviewed it. According to Town Attorney Peter Godfrey, the deadline for a response from the county is in early January.
"Often, they respond earlier," said Town Supervisor Mary Cooke, responding to Koppmann, who pointed out, "There is a sense of urgency. Our community is expecting action. Our planning board is under siege (by developers)."
In other news, the board:
•Tabled the rezoning of property from B-2 to R1A at 2339 West River Road after a public hearing. Tom Burke, who spoke in favor of the rezoning, said that he has a purchase agreement to buy the property and that he will build a single-family house. The property has "been an anomaly on West River Road," Burke said. He said that it was once the site of Reggie Long's store and that there had been restaurants on the site. "The B-2 zoning is out of character with the neighborhood. There have been various attempts at businesses, which were rather obtrusive at times." Of the proposed rezoning, "the neighbors seem to be relieved," Burke said.
•Adopted an amendment to the local plumbing code, establishing a board of plumbing examiners, after a public hearing. The only speaker was Dan Drexelius, who said that there was not enough interest among the plumbers in joining the board. "If other people want to be on the board, I want them to join me. I hope that you can figure this out." Godfrey said that, since only one person applied to be part of the board, there was no need to send out a ballot to the island plumbers. "You can't send out a ballot for one person. You'd be the king of plumbing."
•Approved setting sewer rents in the Consolidated Sanitary Sewer District of the Town of Grand Island for 2016 at $5.20 per 1,000 gallons of water usage, after a public hearing. No one spoke.
Approved the Parks Department's rehiring Jake Lawley and Joshua Ungaro as seasonal workers at $9.25 per hour.
•Accepted with regret the retirement of Deborah Mondoux, as recreation attendant at the Golden Age Center, after 17 years of employment. Mondoux is to receive a certificate of appreciation.
•Approved the Department of Engineering and Water Resources' request to change the status of Stephen Hinkle and David Whitney from laborers to water maintenance workers.
Town Supervisor Mary Cooke and Town Board Members Ray Billica, left, and Chris Aronica, right, present Town Board Member Gary Roesch a certificate of appreciation for his service to the town. Billica said, "Six years ago, as a new member of the Town Board, I needed guidance, and I got it from Gary Roesch, Mary Cooke and Dick Crawford." Aronica said, "Thank you for everything that you've done for me. You're probably the hardest working councilperson on this board."