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Grand Island Town Board: Project Olive at top of workshop meeting agenda Monday

Sat, Jul 18th 2020 07:00 am

Project Olive representatives are expected to meet with the Grand Island Town Board on Monday after an apparent setback before the town’s Planning Board.

The Town Board’s agenda for Monday’s 6 p.m. workshop says in regard to Project Olive that the board will: “Address some misinformation that has been circulating with respect to the project. Discuss status of review of the town’s consultants. ... Scope of review in response to the Conservation Advisory Board’s request. Updates to the economic impact analysis for the project.”

The agenda item is at the request of representatives of the applicant, TC Buffalo. On July 13, the Town of Grand Island’s Planning Board voted against developer TC Buffalo’s request for a planned development district designation for a 3.8-million-square foot warehouse. The vote was 3-2 against with one abstention.

Councilman Peter Marston, Town Board liaison to the Planning Board, said the vote taken this week is being reviewed by Town Attorney Chuck Malcomb because of the possibility a quorum of the seven Planning Board members is needed to make the vote official. Thus, it would need four votes. There are seven Planning Board members and one alternate. Five members attended the meeting, thus the alternate was allowed to vote giving them six members.

“We do not know if that vote was binding,” Marston said. “Our attorney is looking into it. The Planning Board is strictly an advisory board and has no official authority on the project. They are strictly advisory to the Town Board, who will have the final vote on this project.”

“The Town Board has modified Planning Board approvals or denials in the past. We have the authority to make changes for the greater good of the town and its residents.”

In regard to the Planning Board’s vote on this project, Marston added: “This was a huge submission from TC Buffalo. There is a lot to chew on by almost every one of our advisory boards. We are all trying to do the proper due diligence on this project.”

Marston said the Planning Board had “a little of everything” in terms of concerns of the project. “There is a lot of square footage and this project is definitely outside the box of anything we have ever done on Grand Island.”

He said the COVID-19 pandemic that closed down Town Hall for months “could have hurt the Planning Board in its ability to go into the town and go through the volumes of papers and reports we have on file.”

The 3-2 vote, with one abstention, followed a statement by Planning Board member Dave Duchscherer, who cited a variety of objections to the project, including the application process itself.

Duchscherer said the process “adopted by the applicant while not in violation of any town ordinances are nevertheless not in concert with the way we typically do business here on the Island and in my experience on this Planning Board.

“This process includes a pre-application process, followed by a concept plan and then detailed plan. This conversation is designed to solicit ideas and support from the town’s professional, engineering and zoning boards, while minimizing the financial investment of the applicant. In this case, the applicant elected to jump directly into the detail plan submission and skip, for whatever reason, the give-and-take conversation between the town and the applicant.”

The Planning Board vote was hailed by CRED4GI, a recently formed grassroots coalition of Grand Island residents opposed to Project Olive.

“We realize the fight to protect our community is far from over, but we appreciate the leadership and careful consideration shown by Dave Duchscherer and the other Planning Board members who voted to recommend the rejection of this zoning request by TC Buffalo,” said CRED4GI co-founder Cathy Rayhill.

In a press release following the Planning Board meeting, CRED4GI said it “believes last night’s decision is a potentially fatal blow to the developer’s plans to build what would be one of the world’s largest warehouses on Grand Island.

“This vote makes it clear: Amazon’s so-called Project Olive is not a ‘done deal,’ ” Rayhill said. “Our coalition is confident that citizen awareness and opposition to this proposal will only continue to grow now that the Planning Board has signaled that Amazon may be stopped.”

Kim Nason, attorney for Phillips Lytle, representing TC Buffalo, said in a meeting with the Town Board March 2 that the site of the project has been targeted for development under the comprehensive plan. Nason said, “The underlying zoning district M-1 does allow for storage and distribution facilities, so this proposed use is a permitted use under the existing zoning for this site.”

Nason that the application for a planned development district, a provision under the town’s code, is meant to “allow for flexibility within the zoning code to provide for unique development and to make sure that there’s no rigidity of the code that would prevent ideal development that is based on specific sites taking an individual plan to approach, and we submit that that’s exactly what is needed here, that this provision in the code contemplates unique projects like this, that have to do with a unique and involving industry.”

The proposed facility has an overall footprint of 823,522 square feet, a total of 3,783,200 square feet in five stories. Within that square footage, there is 52,000, square feet of office space. The site plan calls for 1,855 parking spaces and 219 trailer spaces.

One example of the changes in the plan under the PDD is the number of parking spaces, Nason said in March. “If you look at the specific code requirements now for storage and distribution facilities with office space such as this, under the code the required parking for this facility would be over 4,000 spaces. And we submit that that’s absolutely not necessary for a facility such as this.”

Project Olive

TC Buffalo Development Associates LLC proposes to develop approximately 145.4 acres of land located at 2780 Long Road for use as an e-commerce storage and distribution facility for consumer products by a single confidential prospective entity rumored to be online retailer Amazon.

The next regular meeting of the Grand Island Town Board will be at 8 p.m. Monday, July 20, in Grand Island Town Hall, 2255 Baseline Road. A workshop meeting will precede the regular meeting at 6 p.m. in the first floor conference room of Town Hall.

Both the workshop meeting and Town Board regular meeting will be streamed live on the town’s website: www.grandislandny.us.

Grand Island Town Board

  • Supervisor: John Whitney
  • Council members: Jennifer Baney, Pete Marston, Tom Digati, Mike Madigan

Send comments to the board at [email protected].

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