By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Planners for the Southpointe project presented yet another proposal Monday for the development that is decades in the making.
The Grand Island Town Board heard a new concept plan for the Associated Grand Island LLC Adult Lifestyle Planned Unit Development at Southpointe during an information session held online during Monday’s regular meeting in Town Hall.
Southpointe representatives Doug Scheid of Scheid Architectural and attorney Jeff Palumbo briefed the board via an online meeting app about Southpointe 2020, which differs from the project they presented in August 2019, which differed from a 2013 plan, which differed from the 1997 project that was approved by the Town Board, which was adjusted repeatedly in the 1990s in the face of objections from residents.
About the only thing that hasn’t changed is the location, bounded by Baseline, Love and Staley roads.
Among the new elements, the 2020 concept plan includes six-story apartment buildings.
Scheid said the latest plan has “more independent living units, mostly because of the apartments.”
Town Supervisor John Whitney said apartments “are not receiving any approval tonight. It’s a concept only.” Scheid responded that “the Planning Board did raise that as a concern. And we said we would absolutely take into consideration.”
Regarding 47-foot height of proposed apartments, Palumbo said, “We are not proposing anything that the ordinance does not allow. The planned development district is a different district that allows flexibility.”
“And keep in mind that this is a concept plan. And ultimately, a development plan pursuant to the requirements of the planned development district will be submitted with full engineering and ultimately it will be up to the Town Board to approve or disapprove.”
Southpointe’s approval or disapproval has been a matter of debate that dates back to the 1990s. Southpointe has been debated so long that the original prospective residents of the 55-plus “Adult Lifestyle” community are now in their 80s.
Scheid, said a concept plan was approved by the Town Board in 1997. “It consisted of single-family homes, retail, commercial, patio homes,” he said. In 2004, the Town of Grand Island adopted a comprehensive plan, he said, and a zoning ordinance and a master plan that included a planned development district and a small area of residential units.
Mother Nature has changed significantly since Southpointe was first envisioned. Scheid said in 2008 a new wetland delineation was done of the property that revealed the wetland was much larger than at the time the 1997 plan was adopted. Scheid said the 1997 plan “would be impossible to build” today.
Scheid said new developers acquired the property with eyes on “a plan that’s a little more in keeping with what Grand Island development is, which is typically single-family homes” as well as “patio homes, much like Spicer Creek” and then “an assisted living facility in the center area of the parcel.”
Scheid reminded the board that a public information meeting held at Town Hall in August of 2019 presented a 2013 plan to the public. “And we explained that the build-up population was less than 1997 plan. There was less single-family homes, there was more assisted living at the time, less independent living and a lower average daily sewer flow from 1997. It took up about the same area of land, it just was located in different parts, because the wetland was not as it was originally conceived.”
Wetlands over time changed the plans, Scheid explained. “The problem is, though, is it grew right where we wanted the road to come in. And right where we wanted to develop these patio homes here and right where we want to develop apartments on the south area. So given that, and given all of the comments from the public information meeting of ‘19 to try and reduce impacts, the developer went back to the drawing board and asked us to look at a plan that would not impact any wetlands and that would be less of an impact of even the 2013 plan. So we did that.”
The 2020 revised concept plan before the board would have, Scheid said, “a build-up population that’s even less than 2019, certainly less than ‘97; less traditional single-family, less assisted living, more independent living units, mostly because of the apartments, average daily sewer flows that are even less.”
Scheid said the new plan has zero impact on the wetland, a 35% reduction in planned public road, and no outlet from Glen Avon Road, the last change coming at the request of residents on that road.
Southpointe 2020 will have 254 total acres of open space (defined as anything except roads, buildings and parking lots), according to Scheid, who pointed out “only 11% of the parcel will be road structures and parking. I think that’s important.”
Days before the board meeting, residents submitted Southpointe questions through the town clerk’s office. “We received several questions that were received until Thursday at noon,” said Whitney. “Many of the questions were directed to myself or town engineer and the Town Board. They were very similar in nature.”
Whitney responded to several, among them:
“Why do you continue to treat the project as having a PDD zone designation when according to our zoning law ... this designation should have reverted back to its previous status after five years when the developer had not started construction of the project by the end of 2018.”
Whitney responded, “In New York state, zoning does not revert back unless you enact a local law to change it. In doing so would have given the developer much more rights than if we had left it as a PDD. That’s the long and short of it.”
With respect to the water and sewer issues in the area, backup sewers and water backing up in the basements were reported by many residents.
Whitney said, “The project will take the existing sewage pump station No. 7, which is located on Carl Road, and it will direct it to the Southpointe project itself. ... And the sewage will then run through the new Southpointe pump station, be directed to pump station 17. That will eliminate flows that come from the Carl Road, Ward Park, West Park, Blackman, Love Road area from flowing down through Hennepin and Red Jacket and ultimately into pump station No. 8, which is a point of known sanitary sewer overflows. It will ultimately help us in that respect.”
With respect to a water pressure question, Whitney said: “We do have sufficient water pressure in our mains, and individual homes that are experiencing issues should probably have a check of their own plumbing.”
The board approved three procedural motions regarding Southpointe. The board voted 5-0 to issue a State Environmental Quality Review Act negative declaration for the second revised plan; voted 4-1 for a resolution to approve the revised development concept plan for Southpointe, and 5-0 to establish the Southpointe extension to the consolidated sewer district.