Featured News - Current News - Archived News - News Categories

Town of Grand Island moratorium OK'd on big development

Sat, May 11th 2024 07:00 am

By Karen Carr Keefe

Senior Contributing Writer

“No Giant Warehouse” were the words on protesters’ signs prior to the Aug. 28, 2023, Town Board meeting.

Eight months later, “Shame!” was the word on some residents’ lips, as they left Monday’s Town Board meeting in protest of a failed motion to regulate warehouses.

One outspoken resident was escorted out of the meeting, followed by Supervisor Peter Marston’s gaveling the meeting back to order as members of the public left the room.

Residents wanted passage of a law restricting the size of buildings in M-1 zoning districts, but they got a moratorium, instead.

The walkout was fueled by frustration over the Town Board’s failure to enact a law nearly a year in the making. Residents’ objections to big developments have included their fears of heavy truck traffic, adverse impact on safety and environment, and a negative effect on the quality of life on Grand Island.

Council member Dan Kilmer made the motion to adopt Local Law 6 of 2023 amending town zoning law regarding allowable uses in the M-1 district. But his motion failed for lack of a second to the measure, setting off the mass exodus of those gathered to urge passage of the motion.

Marston then made a motion instructing town attorneys to draft a town moratorium of at least six months on projects with commercial structures or site plans that exceed 25,000 square feet in size.

That motion passed on a vote of three to one, with Kilmer voting against the moratorium.

“I don’t particularly adore or love the word ‘moratorium,’ ” Marston said during the board’s earlier workshop meeting. He added that he especially doesn’t like a moratorium applied to one type of zoning.

“We’re seeing problems in pretty much the majority of all the business zoning that we have,” the supervisor said.

During the public comment period at the start of the meeting, resident Cathy Rayhill, addressing council members, said she and many others have protested, petitioned and pushed for passage of the law regulating warehouse size for nearly a year, to no avail. She said she learned of the proposed moratorium at the workshop meeting.

“I am absolutely stunned and sick to my stomach that, after all this time, that you’re yet again going to kick this can down the road. Now there are some who fear lawsuits because of this proposed amendment to our M-1 and M-2 zoning laws. There is no proposed development currently on Grand Island with vested rights to such a claim,” Rayhill said.

Calling it a watershed moment for the board, she had urged them to say “Yes” to passage of the zoning amendment.

“Make the right decision, pass the local law,” resident Tom Igiel said.

More than a dozen other members of the public had joined Rayhill and Igiel in calling for passage of the zoning amendment that would regulate big development on Grand Island.

Marston said in the workshop that the Town Board shares the goal of wanting guidelines on size and location for developers planning big projects.

“I think it’s long overdue for this town to go down the rabbit hole with some of their zoning. This stuff is from the ’70s and ’80s,” he said.

But Kilmer said in the workshop that, after nearly a year of debating the issue, it was time for a vote on the zoning revisions in M-1 districts.

Kilmer’s view was in the minority, with the other three Town Board members instead preferring the moratorium.

Marston said the Long Range Planning Board has called for zoning modifications, “but it didn’t really drill down to what should be modified … and we keep playing whack-a-mole, and it’s just getting old.”

He said he wants to bring in a planner to work with the Long Range Planning Board and overhaul the town’s zoning. His goal is a law whose format is easily applicable and understandable, zone by zone.

Marston also said the town has struggled with a mixed-use component.

“We know we have to apply it in our business-friendly districts,” he said. Marston added that the town’s current zoning code is “antiquated and broken,” and cited, as an example, the fact that car dealerships, gas stations and repair shops aren’t allowed in the town center.

“That’s kind of where I think they belong,” he said.

Acquest Development’s plan for a 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse on a 207-acre parcel at 2780 Long Road has prompted some residents’ concerns over traffic and environmental impact. But residents and the Town Board have both sought to establish a guideline for all such projects.

Marston said the town’s Planning Board and its Long-Range Planning Board didn’t favor what the Town Board had proposed so far. “So it’s not even in the hopper to be changed as a code,” he said.

For different reasons, Erie County also is against Grand Island’s proposed law, saying that prohibiting warehouses and distribution facilities throughout the town would have “the net effect of impeding the economic development and supply chain resiliency of the county and wider region.”

In other business, the board:

•Gave the green light to two measures that advance the progress of a Grand Island Aldi supermarket on Staley Road, approving the site plan and saying that there were no negative environmental impacts to keep the project from going forward.

•Rejected a motion by Kilmer to appoint Republican Jose Garcia to the open Town Board seat that was vacated when Marston was elected supervisor.

Hometown News

View All News