Tensions remain high between Benderson Development Co. and residents of a Snyder neighborhood over a planned project on Main Street, as the Amherst Planning Board prepares to take up the Squire Shop redevelopment proposal – and potentially approve it – Thursday (Apr. 20).
Neighbors of the project site who live on Chateau Terrace and Fruehauf Avenue are angry over what they perceive as the developer’s mistreatment of them and its refusal to compromise on elements of the project that have raised the most concern among residents.
They acknowledge that Benderson has made modifications to the plan design in response to town feedback and direction – most recently by shrinking the building’s length along one street and cutting four apartments – but argue that it is insufficient to address their objections.
They complain about comments made in meetings and in letters to the town by James Boglioli, Benderson’s director of “right-to-build” for the Northeast, about the actions of the neighbors.
In a March 29 letter to the town Planning Board, Boglioli said neighbors have “spread disinformation.” And after residents submitted a pair of landmark designation applications to the town Historic Preservation Commission to protect the Main Street building and a century-old house on Chateau, Boglioli denounced them as “nothing more than a further effort to weaponize the HPC to otherwise stop a code-compliant mixed-use project.”
“It was not pleasant,” said Jessica Black, a leader of the newly formed Fruehauf and Chateau Homeowners For a Clean Environment, referring to a meeting between Boglioli and neighbors on March 30. “He wasn’t really willing to budge or work with neighbors in the slightest. He had no interest to compromise.”
Benderson officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Nevertheless, Black says the neighbors expect the town Planning Board to give final site plan approval, even with the two applications still pending before the commission, and a submitted petition against the project with 670 signatures.
The controversy has been brewing for months after Benderson disclosed its plan for the deteriorating former Squire Shop complex, consisting of four vacant properties on Main, Chateau and Fruehauf that it acquired in March 2018 for $1.36 million.
The developer wants to demolish the buildings – consisting of several linked structures east of Harlem Road – and replace them with a three-story apartment building that would also contain two restaurants. A 950-square-foot Craftsman-style stone-and-stucco house at 22 Chateau that is part of a potential historic district.
Under a previous design, the 65,000-square-foot U-shaped building at 4548-4564 Main would have featured 48 market-rate apartments and 6,624 square feet of ground-floor retail and commercial space, plus 76 parking spaces.
But neighbors on the two side streets said the project is far too big for the site and worry that the influx of new residents and restaurant patrons will worsen an already bad traffic and parking situation.
Benderson made adjustments to the plan to comply with town requests. Most recently, the firm shortened the building’s length along Chateau by 39 feet to 200 feet, reducing the apartment count by four units to 44.
It also shifted the front of the parking garage away from the right-of-way by more than 30 feet, and shifted the proposed driveway on Chateau by 10 feet to the south, away from an adjacent house. It also moved the bicycle racks to the side of the building. That ensures a 30-foot greenspace buffer of grass, landscaping and a storm-water retention area between the driveway and the neighbors – 10 feet more than required.
But the developer notes that the project otherwise complies with the town’s zoning code without needing any variances, and the plan was already unanimously recommended by the town’s Design Review Commission.
Source: The Buffalo News