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Warehouses: Public input is key in 2 hearings next week

Sat, Sep 16th 2023 07:00 am

By Karen Carr Keefe

Senior Contributing Writer

Deputy Supervisor Pete Marston is emphasizing the importance of public input as two significant public hearings loom next week for the Town of Grand Island.

•The first hearing is to gather views on proposed town zoning revisions. That hearing takes place at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18, at the regular Town Board meeting.

The essence of the proposed revisions would be to remove warehouses and distribution centers from a permitted use designation in M-1/M-2 zoning and to reduce to 100,000 square feet the gross floor area of all buildings on a lot.

The draft of a revised zoning law can be found on the town website, www.grand-island.ny.gov. Click on “government,” then “public notices,” then “DRAFT- Local Law Intro #6 of 2023.”

•The second is on a draft Environmental Impact Statement that opens the approval process for a mega-warehouse proposal on Long Road. That public hearing is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20, at the Grand Island High School auditorium.

For the link to information on the EIS public hearing, go to https://www.grand-island.ny.us/266/Current-Projects.

“That is the step that we are in, in the process right now. That’s why we’ve called the public hearing. There is no black or white, yes or no here. It’s still very much in the air,” Marston said of the warehouse project issues that have raised hackles and, on Aug. 28, protest signs before the Town Board meeting.

Members of the environmental advocacy group Coalition for Responsible Economic Development for Grand Island (CRED4GI) have expressed fears of negative traffic and environmental impact from the 1.2 million-square-foot warehouse project proposed by Acquest Development. It’s the same parcel that was sought by Amazon, until it dropped the project in 2020.

Marston said people who are for or against the warehouse proposal are equally welcome to step up to the microphone to give their 3-minute opinion on building the project.

“I have heard people (say,) ‘Absolutely, why wouldn’t you!’ and I’ve heard people say, ‘Absolutely not – why would you?’

“That’s why you have a public hearing.”

Marston said his biggest concern, personally, is the potential effect on the community – “to make sure we don’t negatively affect the community.”

“It’s very difficult,” he said. “This proposal is seven times bigger than our biggest building on Grand Island. That’s pretty substantial.

“I won’t speak for the rest of the Town Board, but I’ll speak for myself that I’m very, very apprehensive and very much diligent in doing all my homework and doing all my research, because this can’t pass or fail based on an opinion. We have to do all our homework. If we don’t, we are derelict.”

Some residents have asked whether a developer such as Acquest would be permitted to erect multiple buildings, of 100,000 square feet each, on the same parcel, to add up to a higher total floor space.

Marston had an answer to that question; “That would be a different proposal and we’d have to approach that if it came. But we don’t have that, so we can’t really say.”

Marston said the town’s approach has to be a very open process: “It has to remain that way. So, we’ll go through the public hearing stage of it, and we’ll close the public hearing, but the Town Board will still continue to accept written comment.”

He added, “Whenever you do a law change, you have to refer it to Erie County Planning, and there’s a comment period that we must abide by, by their standards.”

Marston also talked about the concept of “vested interest,” and how that could prevent an attempt by a municipality to revise zoning law relating to proposal that a developer had put sufficient investment into under the old zoning law. Under that scenario, Marston said, a developer “probably would be grandfathered in under the previous” zoning.

“The Long Road warehouse public hearing completely stands on its own; it’s completely separate,” Marston said. “These law changes are not specific to the Long Road project. There are multiple, multiple other areas on the Island that this encompasses.

“We do need a lot of zoning work. We indicated that in our master plan. We know that we need to upgrade our zonings, and we talked about several different options and several different types of zoning on what changes to make.”

Referring to the Long Road warehouse proposal, Marston said, “This one’s obviously front and center, so you’ve got to start somewhere. We have talked about these things and other zonings before – potential uses and not-so-good uses, so to speak. We’ve talked about size limitations because, we’re Grand Island, you know.”

He said, speaking for himself, that the town needs to be cautious that it doesn’t overdo it: “We just have to be careful – that’s all.”

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