By Joshua Maloni
The Village of Lewiston Zoning Board of Appeals approved six variances for Orchard Park developer James Jerge's 765 Fairchild Place development proposal. ZBA members offered little commentary on the plan, which they've seen in various incarnations this year.
Variances were granted for front yard principal building setback, side yard principal building setback, number of parking spaces, number of principal buildings per lot, building lot coverage and number of residential units.
Jerge intends to tear down the former Fairchild Manor nursing home bordering Fairchild Place and Onondaga Street. He has proposed the construction of a three-story, 24-unit, high-end residential building on Onondaga Street, and a one-story building on Fairchild Place with six attached patio homes.
The ZBA unanimously approved all variance requests, except for the number of units in the larger building. Chairman John Ritter voted "No" on that item.
The board modified the first variance request, asking for a 15-yard setback instead of the proposed 10-foot setback. Speaking on Jerge's behalf, attorney Sean Hopkins of Hopkins, Sorgi & Romanowski, and engineer Chris Wood, of Carmina Wood Morris, agreed to make the change. The distance between the three-story and one-story buildings will decrease from 43.95 feet to 38.95 feet.
In his application to the ZBA, Hopkins wrote, "NYS Village Law § 7-712-b (3)(b) sets forth a statutorily mandated balancing test to be considered by a zoning board of appeals in connection with its review of a request for area variances. The statutorily mandated balancing test requires a zoning board to balance the benefits that will be realized if the requested area variances are granted against any resulting detriments to the health, safety and welfare of the community. The granting of the three requested area variances ... will result in substantial benefits to Applicant without resulting in detriments to the health, safety and welfare of the community."
Hopkins reiterated that in person.
"We think, if you take a look at the site conditions today, if you take a look at the fact that, obviously, that vacant nursing home really isn't suitable for redevelopment, when you take a look at the project that we're presenting this evening - based on the input that we received over the course of many meetings - we think, quite clearly ... it will be positive impact, in terms of neighborhood character," he said.
About a dozen Village of Lewiston residents were in attendance Tuesday, and only a handful spoke. It was a far cry from past meetings, where both the Red Brick Municipal Building gymnasium and the Morgan Lewis Village Boardroom were filled with residents eager to analyze Jerge's plan.
One ZBA member suggested the smaller turnout signified neighboring residents now approve of the project, which has been modified many times since it was first pitched in 2014.
Fairchild Place resident Holly Coty said, "I think this is a lovely plan."
Coty asked if the shuttered nursing home could be secured more than it is presently. She said, "There's hardly a week that goes by that somebody hasn't broken in there."
Hopkins and Wood said they would speak with Jerge and follow-up on Coty's request.
Colleen Giordano, who owns property on both streets, expressed concern that overflow traffic would spill out into the neighborhoods.
Hopkins said he didn't expect any overflow, and stated the site has sufficient parking spaces.
Jerge applied for eight variances in May, but the ZBA hinted it would not approve those requests. Hopkins asked to have the application tabled, and the ZBA consented. At that time, the applicant sought additional variances for side yard accessory building setback, accessory building height, accessory building in front yard, front yard accessory building setback and fence height. The previous plan also called for two detached garage units on the northeast (Fairchild Place) corner.
The Fairchild plan will next go to the Planning Commission, as Jerge seeks second submission approval.
The proposed Fairchild Place patio homes.