By Timothy Chipp
More work is needed, but efforts to build an industrial facility off Military Road in the Town of Niagara got a slight boost Tuesday.
Town Board members held a public hearing regarding the proposal from Uniland Development before the start of their regular meeting Tuesday, moving the project one step closer to a final decision.
The Amherst-based development company has had a planned development for the nearly 26-acre parcel near the intersection of Military Road and Woodside Place before the board since June 2022.
While the project has been modified multiple times since its original iteration, the current ask is to rezone about 17 acres to “light industrial” from its current “R-3 residential” for the purposes of building the facility.
Much of the remaining roughly 9 acres, bordering the residences on JoAnne Circle and Sunnydale Drive, would remain zoned R-3, which is a zoning specifically for apartment complexes, according to the town’s code.
A small buffer of land, Uniland Director of Planning & Design Kevin B. Kirk said, would set off the space directly behind those JoAnne Circle residences and be undevelopable, protecting residents.
Despite the assurances, two residents of the area spoke their minds during the public hearing, requesting the land set to remain R-3 be switched to either light industrial like the planned facility, or converted to R-1, which would most likely require single-family dwellings, should any real estate be developed.
Marvin Henchbarger said the town could be putting itself into a difficult spot if the vacant R-3 portion is developed. She questioned the impact the Uniland development and a potential apartment complex could have on traffic on Military Road, especially if the town’s recent big-ticket development – Amazon’s warehouse approved for Lockport Road – ever comes to fruition.
“This is home,” she said. “I appreciate all the things (Uniland) has done to help the residents, but some of those things coming in make me unhappy.”
In a short follow-up comment, Vicki Orzetti echoed her neighbor and offered support for the idea of forcing the complete rezoning or turning the leftover portion from R-3 to R-1.
For the project to gain approval, the town’s Planning Board must first give the OK. That won’t happen until at least Oct. 3, as concerns over utility hookups in the area persist, town Building Inspector Charles Haseley said during the hearing.
After that, Town Supervisor Lee Wallace said, the board reviews the Planning Board’s recommendations, consults with legal counsel, and decides whether to approve the rezoning and the project.
Among considerations, Wallace said, is the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process. If it’s determined the project will have an impact on the environment, a positive declaration could be declared and kick off a process Uniland must complete before the project can be given the green light.
“It’s rare, but it happens,” Wallace said, directing his comments to the two speakers during the public hearing.
In other Town Board news, a public hearing regarding the proposed change to the zoning laws was set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, at Town Hall, 7105 Lockport Road.
Town officials wish to remove self-storage facilities and similar structures from approval in business districts, instead relegating future buildings of this type to industrial-zoned areas.
It’s a return to a previous zoning law the Town Board established at its Sept. 13 work session, fixing an oversight a previous board made to grant a single exception.