Residents supportive of developers’ overall plan
By Terry Duffy
Following last week’s information session on the future of the Radisson Hotel on the East River, the Grand Island Town Board held a public hearing as the leadoff of its regular meeting Monday to further discuss the project.
Developers Mike Conroe of Elev8 Architecture of Orchard Park and Justin Earl of J.P. Earl and Co. of Springville, Utah, were in attendance, as a small number of residents spoke. The matter wound up being moved to the Town Board for further review. No comments came from the developers during the short hearing.
One matter that arose almost immediately was that of incentive zoning, where the developers had proposed gifting to the town a parcel of riverfront land known as the Ferry Landing area.
“We’ve talked about giving the town some land on the south side of the property,” Earl told visitors at last week’s information session at the hotel. “There’s other ways to do incentive zoning, so we’ve applied for that. We still have to negotiate with the Town Board.”
However, at the board meeting, that idea was struck down by Councilman Mike Madigan.
“At this point, I’m not convinced,” he said. “We’ll probably agree that we’re probably not interested. Just to take that off the table.”
During the session that followed, three residents who spoke expressed favor for the project, particularly since they learned the board’s thoughts on incentive zoning.
“There’s not much you can do with it,” said Joe Lamont of the East River neighborhood. “So, there’s no plan?”
“We have not gotten to that yet,” Madigan replied.
Lamont said he thought the Ferry Landing proposal “would seem like a large undertaking.”
Next to speak was June Crawford of West River, who serves as chair of the Grand Island Preservation Board. She had questions on the historical structure nearby.
“It’s the oldest of Grand Island, and I’m hoping in dealing with the company that we are going to have some (input) on the matter of what happens to that,” she said. “The Preservation Board has not been in discussion. I wanted to point that out, and wanted to be sure.”
The board stated it doesn’t have any site plans yet. That detail would have to be addressed.
Cathy Rayhill told the board she favors the project overall, but has concerns over the incentive zoning proposal.
“I went to the information meeting regarding the Radisson Inn redevelopment/reuse and, in general, I say I’m very much in favor of the development as proposed as a mixed-use property. I think it beats having either a vacant building there, or a half-used building there. I do like a lot of the ideas that the developers have,” Rayhill said. “However, in keeping in line with what Mr. Madigan said, I do not feel the allocation of lands adjacent to it is an appropriate compensation for incentive zoning, and definitely would encourage the town to seek more appropriate offset for a rezoning request for a PDD.
“I also noticed that at the very end of that land strip (Ferry Landing) that there was the idea of deeding that property to a private owner on East River, that was actually three or four houses down from the current property owners there. And I would encourage, if there is any deeding of property to private owners there, that it be equally divided amongst those owners that live across the road there, so that they can sure that nothing is getting developed in front of their homes.”
Catherine Hastings told board members she liked the idea of greater public access.
“I want to echo everything that Cathy Rayhill said, and I want to add one thing: I did attend the presentation and I was pretty impressed with the plans that they’re putting forth,” she said. “When they mentioned that would create a walkway on the riverside of hotel for the public to use, I just want to really emphasize that this would tip me to a strong yes (for it). Because right now, there is just nowhere on the East River for people to stroll safely. And I hope that they would create a really nice walking path with some benches, so that the public can enjoy that area.”
She also expressed hope for “a really nice espresso counter” at the complex, which drew some laughs from the audience.
At this point, Supervisor John Whitney declared the hearing closed, and said the Radisson proposal would return to the Town Board for further review.
On motions from councilmen Thomas Digati and Madigan, the motion was approved and the matter was tabled for the evening.