An Amherst lawmaker has added another twist to the controversy over a proposed apartment complex in northwest Amherst.
Amherst Council Member Daniel J. Ward on Tuesday asked the Town Board to change the zoning of 17 acres off Sunset Court to prevent the Brandon Woods apartment buildings from being built.
Ward's proposal calls for rezoning the parcel from multifamily residential, which allows for the apartment buildings, to residential, which allows for single-family homes.
That would suit neighbors, who fear the apartments would cause increased traffic, a loss in their property values and other problems.
"We are absolutely, 100 percent in support of (Ward's) resolution," said Michele Perry, a Sunset Court resident. "Down-zoning this to single-family residential would at least be a step in the right direction."
The situation, however, posed too many questions for the rest of the Town Board, which held off making any decision on Ward's suggestion.
The Town Board, in fact, does have the power to "down-zone" property.
But in this case, the project already is in the pipeline. The property is zoned appropriately for apartments. After an environmental review is completed, the project simply needs site plan approval from the town's Planning Board.
The Town Board, at Tuesday night's meeting, ordered Town Attorney Phillip A. Thielman to research the matter and provide a recommendation next week.
Council Member Jane S. Woodward said she sympathizes with residents but couldn't justify the Town Board down-zoning the property because of the Brandon Woods apartments. The land has been zoned for apartments for more than 20 years, Mrs. Woodward said.
"I think you're trying too hard to make residents believe we can do something for them," Mrs. Woodward told Ward. "I think you're giving residents very false expectations."
"I think you're the one giving false expectations," Ward snapped back, "because you have a very pro-development voting record and don't plan to vote for this no matter what."
Attorney Jeffery D. Palumbo is part-owner of the parcel and plans to sell it to the development group BWD of Amherst to build the apartments.
The project calls for 21 apartment buildings, 168 apartments, on 17 acres off Sunset Court, which runs off Sunridge Drive. Apartment rents would be between $625 and $780 a month.
Plans show 371 parking spaces, about a quarter of which are garage slots. Access would be from Sunset Court or the extension of an existing Wegmans Market access road that connects with East Robinson Road.
Ward's proposal is just political, Palumbo said Tuesday outside council chambers.
"I have never seen a Town Board attempt to rezone a piece of property in the middle of a pending site plan," Palumbo said. "They only reason (Ward) put it on the agenda is to gain the support of the voters who oppose the project."