By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Suspicious that a new solar farm will be developed in their neighborhood, several Islanders criticized plans to rezone two pieces of property near the intersection of Alvin and Whitehaven roads up the road from the WNY Welcome Center.
Seven residents spoke in opposition at Monday’s Grand Island Town Board meeting during public hearings for two local laws: Local Law Intro No. 11 of 2019 would rezone SBL #36.00-2-8.1 on Alvin Road from B-1/R-1A to B-1; Local Law Intro No. 12 of 2019 would rezone SBL#36.00-2-7, 2356 Whitehaven Road, from R-1/B-1 to R-1A.
During the public hearing on the laws, Nicole Gerber of Whitehaven Road said, “I couldn’t find any documents actually online specifically talking what the purpose is going to be, but I think most people would say they have an understanding there’s going to be a solar farm there.
“There’s 64 acres that are going to be rezoned to residential to put in a solar farm,” Gerber claimed.
Citing the Grand Island master plan of 2018, Gerber said regarding the parcels in question, “When you actually look at what it says in the comprehensive plan, it’s for development, probably lower density, two to three acres. It’s to maintain country character, preserve conservation, larger private lots, provide interconnected greenways and habitat corridor. So when you look at the facts, look at the documents, they just don’t match as far as what’s going to be proposed and potentially placed there.”
She said the property was the old Kaiser farm and a Kaiser farmhouse with wetlands. ”So it’s just disheartening and confusing and obviously disturbing why a solar farm would decide to build on a property that’s predominantly wetlands, has emergent wetlands, has federal wetlands there,” she said.
Kristin Savard of Advanced Design Group, representing the property owners, reminded the board that “By law, you cannot look at a proposed use as part of a rezoning.”
“It’s a business zone and then the rear of it is a residential zone,” Savard said of one parcel. “When you have a business zone adjacent to a residential zone, you have to include a buffer in any site plan that you might do. In addition, with the creek in that area, with the storm water regulations, with the facts that there is no sewer there, when we looked at the viability of a commercial parcel in that location and making it marketable, the lot did not sustain itself. So what the applicant is requesting is to rezone it so that that can be sold in keeping with the plan of development, put in something with a driveway that’s directly opposite of the Welcome Center, and the money that’s generated from that particular project is then intended to go towards the rehabilitation of the existing house on the Whitehaven parcel, so it kind of goes hand in hand.”
To Sandra Nelson of West River, the property’s lack of marketability was solely the developer’s problem, and she was unsympathetic.
“I’m sitting here listening to the fact that somebody owns a piece of property that they bought knowing full well that it may not be able to be developed, so now they’re asking us to change it so they can develop it. That’s what I’m hearing.”
She said, “If you own that piece of property from however long ago, you knew what you were buying when you bought it. Why are we the ones that have to keep giving up green space on this Island for people to come and develop something? It’s supposed to be residential, let it remain residential. And if it’s going to be empty and a vacant piece of property they can’t use, oh, well. They bought it. They knew that when they bought it.”
The board took no action following the hearings, which remain open.
The next regular meeting of the Grand Island Town Board will be at 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, in Grand Island Town Hall, 2255 Baseline Road.
Grand Island Town Board
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