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NF Boulevard proposed zoning changes topic of public hearing

Fri, Jun 23rd 2017 03:15 pm
Drew Reilly, engineer at Wendel representing the town's Comprehensive Planning Task Force, explains maps showing proposed zoning changes for property along Niagara Falls Boulevard in Wheatfield.
Drew Reilly, engineer at Wendel representing the town's Comprehensive Planning Task Force, explains maps showing proposed zoning changes for property along Niagara Falls Boulevard in Wheatfield.
By Lauren Zaepfel
Tribune Editor
Wheatfield residents and town officials met last week to discuss proposed changes to the zoning along Niagara Falls Boulevard, a project spearheaded by the town's Comprehensive Planning Task Force.
Some of the major suggested changes include zoning area along the Boulevard commercial, as well as extending commercial zoning over the entire depth of properties that are currently only partially zoned commercial.
Currently, there is a 200-foot-wide commercial zoning area along the boulevard and then beyond that is "almost anything," said Town of Wheatfield supervisor Robert B. Cliffe.
Some business owners, who own property along the boulevard, have requested their entire property by zoned commercial, so that they could use or develop more of their property.
"If you touch on the boulevard, if your property touches the boulevard, your whole property should be commercial," Cliffe said.
He added, "Envision a 600-foot-deep piece of property where you can only use the first 200 feet. The other 400 feet is dead to you."
In response to the zoning change, some homeowners along the boulevard have expressed concerns about their properties being zoned commercial.
But residential homes along the boulevard would be grandfathered and become an allowed use, said Drew Reilly, engineer at Wendel representing the town task force.
"Even though we're taking away the right to have residential use in that district, we say that all existing homes in the passage of this law are considered conforming uses. ...They are an allowed use and they will continue to be an allowed use as long as that property's there," Reilly explained.
He added, "Even if it burns down, you could rebuild that house and it would still be an allowable use there."
Also, along the boulevard are areas with hierarchical zoning, meaning developers could build commercial buildings, as well as others allowed in lower levels of zoning.
Another change would ensure that only commercial and mixed-use structures (for example, a building with a business on the first floor and residential apartments on the second floor) would be allowed in the area along the boulevard.
Another main update would include expanding the overlay district, which was established approximately 10 years ago by the town and includes the area 300 feet back from the boulevard.
Reilly said, "This doesn't change the underlying zoning. The zoning is still there, which tells you what you're allowed to have and what the setbacks are. But the overlay says there's more things to deal with along in this area. It's a special area of the town that has additional requirements."
Some of these additional requirements would include buffers and landscaping.
For instance, if a commercial business decides to develop land that abuts residential properties, a 50-to-100-foot buffer (which could include trees or other landscaping features) would be required to be installed, Reilly said.
"We institute a lot more landscaping standards and buffer requirements in the overlay because we know that's a problem that the Planning Board has," he said.
He added, "We're saying that the overlay needs to be updated. So along with changing the zoning along the boulevard, we're also changing the overlay district."
If the changes are adopted, "We're going to say that all parcels fronting the boulevard are in the overlay, except if it's a huge piece of property. Then we're going to cut it off at a certain point," Reilly said.
Currently, "If you had a larger piece of property ... that abuts residents, and the overlay only goes back 300 feet and I have all these rules about what to do, if I build beyond the 300 feet, I don't have to follow those rules, because I'm outside of the overlay district," Reilly said. "So we want to make sure the whole property is included in that overlay district."
Another update would include developing an online geographic information system to serve as the town's official computer-based zoning map.
"So you have one place to go," Reilly said. "You can go on the website and look at your property and know what zone it is, and you don't have to go and look at the 50-some maps that are in the Building Department."
Questions on the proposed changes can be directed to the town clerk's office at 694-6441 or to Cliffe's office at 716-417-3188.

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