The Amherst planning board voted to recommend that the town board approve the rezoning of 35 parcels in Snyder, the majority of which are currently zoned general business, to mixed-use zoning, specifically, a new zoning district called traditional infill 2.5, or Ti- 2.5.
This Snyder district is the second example of efforts to implement mixed-use rezoning in the Town of Amherst as part of the Imagine Amherst project that began in 2016. The first example was the rezoning of the boulevard central district, which was rezoned last fall.
“Tonight’s project focuses on the Snyder area in the general vicinity of Main Street and Harlem Road,” said Dan Ulatowski, the principal planner for the Town of Amherst. “The area primarily affects parcels that have frontage on Main Street and is bounded on the west by Amherstdale Road and to the east by Roycroft Boulevard.”
The proposed rezoning affects 35 parcels and encompasses 18.9 acres of land. While the majority of the parcels are currently zoned general business, four and a half parcels are zoned residential district three, one parcel is currently zoned motor service and one parcel is currently within the neighborhood service zoning. On the planning board’s project page on the town website there is a list of affected parcels that correspond with the zoning map by address, as well as by ID number.
All the affected parcels, if approved by the town board, will be rezoned to Ti-2.5. The purpose of this zoning designation is to bring new buildings closer to the sidewalk and ensure that buildings are scaled to be consistent with the surrounding neighborhood and frontage.
“The new mixed-use regulations shape building form and a building’s relationship to the street and other buildings,” Ulatowski said. “The regulations provide for ‘build to’ zones rather than a minimum required building setback. This locates buildings closer to the road, creating a more walkable environment and a sense of enclosure.”
The new regulations also reduce allowable building heights from 65 feet to a maximum of 35 feet and two and a half stories.
Planning board chairman Bob Gilmour raised some concerns regarding the building height limitations and the potential issues that could cause down the road in attracting developers to redevelop the sites.
“My concern is that a developer is going to come in, and if they only have two stories to do something, it makes it really hard for them to turn the building,” Gilmour said. “We certainly need either three stories or three and a half if they need that, or something to the effect that they can at least utilize three stories. There is no developer who can make those numbers work.”
Dal Giuliani, a planning board member who was also the chairman of the Imagine Amherst project, countered by saying that the height restrictions were determined following a lengthy debate and were determined to be the best course of action.
“We had a lot of conversation on this. We agreed, the 19 people on the committee, that two and a half stories was the way to go.”
Ulatowski also said the number was determined following feedback from community members who vehemently expressed their desire that buildings not be higher than two and a half stories.
The new zoning, if approved, would permit several new uses, including single-family homes, multi-family homes, assisted group living and senior citizen housing. Some permitted uses will also go away, including outdoor vehicle sales, service stations and uses with drive-thru operations.
“After your property is rezoned, the rezoning will not force change to a building; zoning is not retroactive,” Ulatowski said. “The new regulations apply when a property becomes redeveloped or a site plan change occurs. Uses that are made legal nonconforming after a property is rezoned may continue uninterrupted until abandoned or destroyed.”
The new zoning regulations will apply to newly constructed buildings and existing buildings when redevelopment occurs, which requires a site plan approval. The regulations include two frontage types, village frontage and green frontage. All properties, with the exception of five, will utilize the village frontage type.
In the village frontage type, the buildings must be set back between zero and 10 feet, must occupy 90% of the lot frontage and must have 70% of the ground-floor wall transparent.
The green frontage type differs from the village frontage by allowing for a maximum building setback of 30 feet compared to 10 feet for the village frontage type. The deeper “build-to” zone is meant to encourage lawn or open space between the building front and the pedestrian zone. Additionally, the maximum required lot frontage is 60% versus 90% for the village frontage type and 50% ground-floor transparency versus 70%.
“We already have a village form along portions of Main Street. The new zoning regulations also require that projects go before a new design advisory board,” Ulatowski said. “The new design advisory board will review proposed buildings for overall architectural aesthetics, good building design and exterior building material choices. … This was purposeful because we want to have some authority over the building design so that it’s good building design and that it matches and fits in well with the adjacent uses.”
During the public comment period, several residents located near the proposed rezoning voiced concerns regarding potential traffic issues that may arise.
“We’re a no-outlet street. With Bornhava [school], it already gives us a lot of congestion at certain times of the day. Then when there is any construction near Park School of Buffalo, it overflows over to our neighborhood as well,” said Patricia Simpson, a Chateau Terrace resident. “I would love to see new buildings there up on Main Street in Snyder; however, the traffic flow that’s going to be happening to my neighborhood is very concerning to me.”
While several other residents expressed concerns regarding the effect rezoning would have on traffic, Ulatowski said that there is no way of estimating how traffic will be affected until site plans are created for each individual parcel when they are eventually redeveloped.
“The primary concern that has come up is traffic. What is being proposed, we think, is better for your community. We think it’s better because it allows the town to better regulate the form of the buildings, the height of the buildings and we think that’s very important to this section of Snyder,” Ulatowski said. “As far as traffic, we can’t anticipate what traffic might occur until someone presents a site plan for redevelopment. .. If someone should approach the town after these areas are rezoned and wish to utilize the mixed-use regulations, they will have to go through a site plan approval process, at which time a thorough environmental review would be undertaken for that site, including traffic impacts.”
Concerns were also raised over whether the rezoning would allow for the parking lot near Chateau Terrace and Fruehauf Avenue, which is currently split, to be leveled and used as an interconnection.
“I live on Chateau Terrace, and presently the parking lot for the building on Main Street is split: there’s an upper and lower, which means you can’t cross over from Fruehauf. There’s like 15 parking spaces on the Chateau side and about 25 on the other side,” Robert Drdul, a Chateau Terrace resident of 30 years said. “How would this zoning affect that? Would they be able to level that parking lot so that everyone would exit onto our street? Bornhava gets very heavy traffic at times; if you add in whatever buildings will be there with their traffic, we will have a major problem here.”
Lisa Drdul echoed her husband’s concerns and requested they be granted some reassurances that the parking lot will not be redeveloped in the future to allow for interconnection between Fruehauf Avenue and Chateau Terrace.
“Fruehauf will continue to be a one-outlet street: there is no proposal to interconnect Fruehauf with Chateau Terrace,” Ulatowski said. “We hear your concerns with the potential for interconnection and people cutting through to use Chateau Terrace as an outlet.”
The planning board approved to recommend the rezoning to the town board in a 5:2 vote. Chairman Gilmour and planning board member Joe Raffaele voted no after Gilmour’s request to add a condition that developers be allowed three or three and a half stories if necessary for development was rejected.
The next step is for the town board to schedule a public hearing to allow another opportunity for residents to review and ask questions or raise concerns regarding the proposal, after which time the town board will vote on the proposed rezoning.
“The public and affected landowners are encouraged to contact the planning department with their questions and concerns,” Ulatowski said. “Questions can be submitted using the feedback form on the project webpage or by contacting the planning department by phone. Written comments may also be mailed to the planning department using the address on the contacts page of this presentation.”
Published by The Amherst Bee