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Warehouse rezoning stalls again

Sat, Nov 25th 2023 07:00 am

By Karen Carr Keefe

Senior Contributing Writer

It’s back to the drawing board for the Town Board’s ongoing effort redraw its zoning law on large-scale warehouses and distribution centers.

Council member Michael Madigan, attending the meeting via Zoom, withdrew his motion to set a public hearing on a proposal to amend the town zoning code to limit building size to 300,000 square feet within M-1 and M-2 zoning.

Madigan put the brakes on the agenda item because the Town Board is studying a further size reduction.

Madigan said, “I will withdraw this motion with the clear understanding that we’ve all agreed that we’re going to work on something that’s an improvement over what’s currently been proposed by me on this one.”

The effort to downsize permissible projects, thereby limiting mega warehouses, comes in light of a proposal by Acquest Development for a 1.1-million-square-foot warehouse for 2780 Long Road. Residents have voiced concerns of potential increase in traffic and decrease in quality of life ever since Amazon proposed, then in 2020, scrapped a plan to build a 3.8 million-square foot warehouse on the same parcel.

Later in the meeting, the board decided that proposed local law No. 6 regarding the allowable uses in the M-1 district remains tabled for now.

Erie County recently disapproved of a retooled version of the rezoning law sent to them for review. The Town Board discussed some possible next steps during a workshop executive session prior to the regular meeting.

 “I’ll say we have some common ground on where we would like to go. How do we want to get there?” Marston asked his fellow board members.

Council member Tom Digati replied, “The reality is, I think, yes, the county Department of Environmental Planning came back and recommended disapproval of the law as written, but I think we can fairly easily make some modifications to the draft law to get something that satisfies what we’re trying to do, makes the law consistent with our comprehensive plan, and doesn’t irritate the county, too.”

Marston said, “I think there’s a lot of things the county doesn’t actually understand why we’re trying to do what we’re trying to do. And I think some explanation to them is going to – I won’t say completely change their way of thinking – but I think they’ll understand a bit more where we’re coming from. And I think we can get there.”

The draft law remained tabled and the board decided to schedule a discussion on the issue at its Dec. 4 workshop.

Digati said the draft zoning revision, first introduced on Aug. 28, did have to be resubmitted to the county after major changes had been made, such as reducing the allowable square footage for a building in the M-1 zone to 100,000 from the previous 300,000 square-foot limit. He basically said it was the Town Board’s due diligence, not dysfunction, that has contributed to a relatively slow timeline for the draft law.

Digati said there were errors that complicated the issue.

"The revised (draft) law reducing the building size limit from 300,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet and removing warehouses, as discussed at our Sept. 6 workshop was inadvertently not sent (to Erie County) until much later – and the old version was sent again."

Other News

In other business, the Town Board:

•Agreed to set a public hearing for 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18, on a proposed law to amend the Grand Island town zoning code to eliminate the use of planned development districts in the town. The board also will refer the issue to the Planning Board for review and comment.

Supervisor-Elect Peter Marston said, “This has been a long process of many players involved.”

He had kudos for those who worked through an ad hoc committee to research the proposed law, including Town Attorney Charles Malcomb of Hodgson Russ; and Jenn Pusatier, a member of the Comprehensive Plan Review Board.

“Excited to see this go forward,” Marston said.

•Approved an upgrade of the current alarm system at Town Hall to include a panic alert system. The cost is not to exceed $4,400. The increase was approved in order to put a water alarm in the basement to allow early detection and avoid flooding.

•OK’d a special events permit sought by Rabbi Mendel Gurary of Chabad of Buffalo to hold a small Chanukah celebration in Town Commons for the third consecutive year, including menorah lighting, with approximately 30 people in attendance at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12.

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