By Karen Carr Keefe
Senior Contributing Writer
Fear of overdevelopment was the hot topic as Grand Islanders took to the microphone at Monday’s Town Board meeting.
A proposed large-scale warehouse on Long Road took the brunt of criticism in the public comment portion of the meeting as residents expressed concern over possible loss of the quality of life they treasure in their hometown.
They spoke out about the potential for traffic tie-ups that could prevent emergency responders from getting to residents in a crisis and they worried about the impact of truck traffic on the town’s infrastructure.
Acquest Development wants to build a 1-million-square-foot facility on a site originally intended for Amazon, which walked away from its project in 2020.
Speakers also were irate about the lack of disclosure of public documents pertaining to the warehouse proposal. Council members agreed with the need for transparency and said they have been pressing to get timely reports out to the public from the developer’s consultants.
Deputy Supervisor Peter Marston, running the meeting in Supervisor John Whitney’s absence, said, “We as a board have discussed the Long Road warehouse situation. We have agreed to get the stuff out as soon as possible and call for a meeting, I believe July 31, with us and the consultants to get things coming forth and see exactly what’s going on.”
Marston said there will be a public hearing scheduled on the Long Road project.
Another project, Rivertown Center, also took a hit from a Baseline Road resident who worries that a three- or four-story building could be 30 feet from his yard if the proposal gets the green light.
Earlier, at the board’s workshop meeting, Rivertown President Frank Chinnici presented an updated plan for the development along Grand Island Boulevard and Baseline Road. He highlighted aspects of the mixed-use, planned development district that have been retooled to fit in with zoning regulations and the town’s master plan. Rivertown is envisioned as a walkable town center with residential buildings, an athletic center and a senior center.
Cathy Rayhill spoke about the warehouse project on behalf of the group Coalition for Responsible Economic Development for Grand Island (CRED4GI). She was the first in a long line of speakers who addressed the council for nearly an hour.
Rayhill said she was glad the town would pursue a meeting to update consultant reports, but was uncertain as to why it had taken two months for the town to take such action.
“There’s a volume of information that needs to be digested by the public,” she said.
Rayhill noted that council members Thomas Digati and Michael Madigan had been asking for weeks to have updates on the warehouse project published. She said she finally had to submit a Freedom of Information request for the reports.
She also commented about planned development districts (PDDs) in general, and specifically about the Golfview Properties project targeted to go in across from the former Radisson hotel. Rayhill contrasted the Golfview project with the proposed Rivertown PDD, saying that the Rivertown is “very consistent with the comprehensive plan. They worked with the surrounding neighborhood. It’s in concert with the town center concept that the comprehensive plan has and that we have as a goal. But the plot across from the Radisson has nothing to do with that.
“The original comprehensive plan talked about a hamlet there (across from the Radisson). It specifically zoned that area as an R-2 (single-family residential neighborhood) and a B-1 (general business district) to be supportive of that hamlet concept. Quite frankly, if that zoning request (for a PDD) goes forward, that’s spot zoning, and that’s against the law in New York state.”
Nancy LaChiusa said she wanted to voice her disappointment on all of the development happening on Grand Island.
“We moved here 20 years ago because it was a rural area. It was pretty. Now, it’s looking like Amherst. That’s what we moved away from,” LaChiusa said. “We’re building so many apartment buildings. That’s transient housing as far as I’m concerned, and that is a ton of traffic. The more development we have, especially this high-density development, the worse traffic is going to be.”
Mike Rayhill registered his frustration over the lack of reports to the public for the past several months from Acquest Development, its consultants, and the Town Board on the warehouse project.
“This is, by far, the biggest project Grand Island has ever undertaken,” he said. “And for it to go this long without posting the results of not only the developer’s results, but the consultant’s results – that the developer is supposed to pay for – is just mind-boggling.”
Betsy Tranter, a 53-year resident of Grand Island, said, “I just can’t imagine what it’s going to be like living on Grand Island anymore if that project goes through.”
Jim Daigler’s concern was noise studies for the proposed Long Road warehouse. He said he has been involved in dozens and dozens of noise studies throughout 40 years of his career.
“In July 2020, my crew and I completed an ambient noise survey in the neighborhood surrounding the warehouse project site,” Daigler said. “Some folks here from the northwest side of the Island know that’s one of the quiet spots on the Island. We submitted that study to the board and took exception to the consultant’s assumptions and conclusions. I received no responses to my comments.”
He said he submitted comments on the warehouse project again in December on the revised study. Daigler said, to date, the comments have not been addressed: “That noise study is flawed. That place will be loud. It will be heard.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Council member Christian Bahleda addressed those residents who spoke out about the Long Road warehouse project: “We are working – it’s frustrating and nobody is angry at you guys. I would agree that we are all frustrated on this scenario and we’re going to rectify it as best as we can and as quickly as we can.”